The Public Bush-Whack!
I frequently find that clients in marriage therapy ridicule, criticise, or put each other down in social settings. Later, when the offended partner brings the matter up in private a heated argument often ensues.
The dynamics of the public bush-whack are interesting.
1. When the public bush-whack occurs, it may be taken as a form of sarcastic teasing by witnesses and may not harm the social relationships. Or if there is harm it may be hard for the offending individual or couple to detect. Therefore, there may be no consequences to the self-defeating practice of publicly bush-whacking a mate and it may continue unabated.
2. When the mate complains to their partner about the incident, the offender can play it off as, "you're just over sensitive and making mountains out of mole hills". This allows a double insult: one in public and another in private ("you just have a problem with sensitivity").
3. The bush-whack works well for the offender who is basically passive-aggressive. Such an individual does not like a direct fight or argument. They prefer to "get-even" for their quietly accumulated grievances against their partner in more subtle ways. For them the public bush-whack is just the ticket! Of course, it is a very bad practice because it solves nothing, creates more problems, and increases hostility in the relationship.
4. Sometimes the offender actually likes to fight! It may be hard for you to believe, but some folks want and prefer to have great fights in their relationships. With this dynamic, the offender may be paired with a partner who also likes to fight...and so, they are "off to the races"! Sometimes, however, the bushwhacker is paired with a passive partner who avoids conflict whenever he or she can. In this case the offender has found a great tool for suckering their peaceful partner into a fight. Even peaceful people can become righteously indignant when they have been publicly humiliated by the bush-whack. When the victim protests later in private, the bush-whacker can then work the confrontation into a full-blown fight. Mission accomplished!
In relationships, the public bush-whack is both a self-destructive communication style and a devious way to initiate a fight.
If there is a lot of bush-whacking in your relationship, you had better seek professional help before it is too late.
God Bless, Dr. Tom