Stopping Unwanted Behavior
A recent letter to Dear Abby is from a woman whose husband slaps her on the bottom which he refers to as a "love tap" and she as "degrading and frustrating." Although she has told him repeatedly to stop, he doesn't. What to do? The answer to "Dear Soar" was "It's one in which there is a serious communication problem. " Hardly a satisfactory answer. It might have been helpful to suggest to Soar that she needs to confront the pattern of behavior and not treat this behavior as isolated instances. The cooperative response--telling the husband her feelings, describing the behavior she objects to, and stating a cooperative response both can live with ("I get angry when you slap me; it hurts and I feel degraded. I want you to stop this behavior. When you want to touch me, kiss me; don't slap me.") is likely to be a lot more effective. In fairness to Abby, she does say: What else does he ignore when you speak up?--and, in a way, gets at the idea that this is a pattern. But, other approaches might also work. If the husband finds the wife's objection to the slapping rewarding (rather than the slapping itself), then the wife can probably break the pattern by simply ignoring it--according to conditioning theory, behavior which is ignored will be extinguished. Alternatively, she could make the slapping punishing in a wide variety of ways. Well, all this is just to say that it doesn't help to say a problem is a communication problem--that doesn't solve the problem; specific suggestions might.