Weaponizing Intimacy: Lessons From a Failed Marriage


“Oh, we never fight or argue! Our relationship is so strong, we don’t have conflict.”

I call liar, liar pants-on-fire.

The people who say they don’t experience conflict are likely ignoring it or trying to sweep it aside rather than dealing with the real problem at hand. My marriage could have been a master class in conflict avoidance. It is not a healthy way to relate but may keep the peace in the short run.

Unfortunately, in the end, running away from challenges in your relationship will come at a high cost to the love, trust, and safety of your connection. The problems with that approach can be found in Communication and the Habit of the Quick Fix: Lessons from a Failed Marriage.

Conflict Happens

It is impossible to have two (or more) humans sharing life in any sort of honest way where everyone is getting all their needs met all of the time.

All relationships have conflict.

We have bad days and crummy moods.

We misunderstand our partner’s intention.

We project the wrong of some past relationship into the current one.

Our needs are not getting met sufficiently.

Our partner, other relationships, work, or life makes demands that we can’t meet and we get overwhelmed.

There are as many reasons and sources of conflicts in relationships as there are stars in the sky.

Our Solutions are the Problem

The real problem is often not the source of the conflict, but rather how we address and deal with that conflict. This is especially true when we resort to unhealthy approaches to deal with the trouble that has arisen.

There’s a vast difference between arguing to be heard or find consensus and arguing to inflict injury.

When we are arguing to be heard or find consensus, we are working together to seek some sort of solution that we can agree upon. These arguments usually arise from a desire to connect to our partner in some way that we currently missing. Though these kinds of conversations are not a lot of fun, they can lead to an increase in understanding and the ability to better work through the issue at hand.

However, arguments can take an ugly turn into space that may lead to the complete destruction of the relationship and leave gaping holes in the heart and soul of our partner. These are the arguments that are intended to inflict injury and pain.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

In intimate relationships, we take risks. In order to be truly known by someone else, we expose our more vulnerable spaces. If we are deeply connected or the relationship last for a long time, we show our partner our scars and the most tender places in our heart. These may be spaces that trigger deep insecurities, shame, or pain. These delicate places usually tie to our core values and sense of self.

Being able to share those spaces often takes time and trust that the person will still love and respect you when these hard spaces are shared. It is the most sacred trust between intimate partners.

When one partner uses this information to attack their partner in an argument, the shared intimacy is turned into the vilest weapon of all.

The words are razor-sharp arrows shot with the sole purpose of damaging the most fragile places in the other person. It is using the vulnerability that has been shared to humiliate and bring them to their knees. The intent is always to destroy.

“Even your body is a disaster. You killed our son!” Bringing up the tragic loss of pregnancy from years earlier with the full knowledge that this is a demon that she dances with during her darkest moments.

“Your boss was right! You are lousy at everything!” Taking the side of an enemy in a fight knowing your partner has been struggling with a poor evaluation and its impact on his sense of self.

“No wonder Susan stopped loving you and left. Look at you! Look how fat you have gotten!” Using that shared past pain to insult and open wounds around self-worth and pick at the fears about body image.

Not only has the information shared in the space of trust been used to cause harm, but it also shatters the foundations that could have been the source of repairs. This is the total annihilation of all that makes relationships possible — love, trust, and safety. Rebuilding is nearly impossible.

The Final Straw

Weaponized intimacy is the cruelest form of emotional abuse. It turns the vulnerability that was shared as a part of a sacred exchange to build trust and connection into a destructive force designed to hit the deepest spaces.

This destroys the current relationship and leaves deep wounds that make trusting anyone harder if not completely impossible. If your most trusted intimate ally is willing to turn on you in these ways, who can you actually trust? And to take it further — why would you ever be willing to open yourself up to another person if the kind of total destruction this brings is even a possibility?

The words that we use have power.

That power can be used for good to build and empower those we love. That power can also detonate the most violent destruction when the things we learn in our intimate connections are turned against us as weapons.

While conflict is unavoidable, it doesn’t have to be damaging to the relationship or the parties involved. There are lots of resources available online to learn about healthy conflict resolution and restoration practices. The Gottman Institute has an entire section of its blog on conflict management in relationships.

No one deserves to have their heart damaged in these ways. No one should have to live with the consequences of their sacred trust being destroyed through weaponized intimacy. Learn to fight and argue fairly. It may just be the most important thing you can do for your relationship.

This post was previously published on medium.com.


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