‘My girlfriend always has to have the last word,” the young man complained in my office. “No matter what I say, she needs to be right. She makes me really angry at times, and we get into horrendous fights.”
Last-wording is a habitual, inflammatory conversational style in which members feel the need to prove themselves superior to their mates. It’s similar to other relational power plays, such as namecalling, swearing and demeaning.
Last-wording exacts a heavy toll on relationships. It creates unnecessary conflict and hurt feelings. Spouses feel discounted by their partners. They feel as if they’re continually in the wrong. Last worders often have take-charge personalities. They’re quick to assume the alpha role. They harbor intense passions and are quick to share their viewpoints to everyone within earshot.
They may also have specific rules they like others in the family to follow. For instance, a wife may insist that her husband remove his shoes before he walks in the house so that he doesn’t track dirt on the floors. In spite of his pleas and protests, he’s unable to change her cast-in-concrete thoughts.
Relationships with last-worders fall into two distinct categories, depending on how many last-worders are involved. When there’s only one last-worder in the household, relationships are lop-sided affairs. One partner assumes a dominant stance, which means the other must perennially back down. Although couples in these relationships engage in less conflict, submissive partners feel intimidated and overpowered.
If there are two last-worders, the relationship is more explosive. Neither partner is willing to end the conversation. There’s always more fuel to toss on the flame. Tiny issues gain monumental status as both partners continually raise the ante. Compromise is nearly impossible. Partners feel exhausted and continually at odds.
Last-wording is closely correlated to levels of agitation. The more irritated couples feel, the more likely they are to want the fi nal say.
It’s equally linked to personal power. Folks who experience inner confidence don’t need to wrest control from their loved ones. They’re already satisfied with their lives. Winning an argument doesn’t make them feel any happier. Emotionally bullying someone else feels downright wrong.
Insecure people are just the opposite. They gain status when they degrade others. If they perceive they’re being threatened, they strike back to regain the upper hand, even when the foe is their beloved mate.
Fortunately, last-wording is a habit, and like all habits, it can be changed. When one or both partners choose to communicate differently, the relationship will drastically improve.
TRY THESE TIPS TO BREAK THE LAST-WORDING HABIT
IF YOUR PARTNER IS A LAST-WORDER
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.