Q: This is not really related to weddings but it is related to relationships, and APW and its readers tend to give the best advice available on the Internet these days, so here it goes. My fiancé and I recently got into a fight about rape scenes in movies. I have a real problem with rape scenes, they make me physically ill, they make my heart race, they often replay in my mind for days after I see them and they give me nightmares for weeks. I actively avoid movies that I know have a rape scene because I just can’t take it. My fiancé thinks I’m totally over reacting—that it’s just a movie and that I make far too big a deal about it. He gets huffy when I insist that he not watch a rape scene in my presence (six hundred square foot apartment with a sliding glass door on bedroom means I can’t just get up and walk out of the room).
I think that my response is natural given the violent images and that just because he is desensitized to it does not mean I’m the one with the problem. I also think that at the core of the issue lies the very real statistical threat of rape for me (a woman) and the less likely threat of rape for him. But what’s worse is that I know his mother and sister are both survivors of sexual assault! To me this is a man who has seen the physical and mental violence of rape and yet he can’t understand why it would bother me to watch it on a Saturday night? What do I do about this? How do I approach this with him to get him to understand my point of view?
A: Dear Anonymous,
There probably isn’t any way to explain that haunting, persistent, but also immediate and visceral reaction to seeing images of sexual violence. I get what you’re saying. Probably a lot of our readers get it. But if someone doesn’t get it, I mean, I don’t even know how I’d begin to describe it.
The point isn’t helping him to understand. And that’s lucky, but here’s why. He doesn’t need to. It bothers you, so he shouldn’t watch it around you. Period. Whether he gets it or not. Whether the images on the screen are “fake” or you’re “overreacting” just flat doesn’t matter. Only you have to live with the gut-wrenching nausea and nightmares, and in the face of that, his sacrificing this show or that movie is a small compromise.
Of course that “r” word is going to incite a lot of opinions and emotions amongst this here readership. Even if we take that away—pretend that this is about something else, like those Sarah McLaughlin puppy commercials or watching someone vomit or the use of the word “moist.” Even then, when it isn’t something so complex and awful, what should be important to him is that it causes you discomfort. And that should be enough to make him knock it off around you.
It’s easy to chalk this particular issue up to silly or small. It’s movies! Trivial. But these are the sorts of compromises that we make all the freaking time in marriage. If something bothers my husband and is sort of inconsequential to me, then I stop doing it around him, end of story. Sparing your partner pain automatically trumps a little bit of primetime entertainment and getting your friend’s pop culture references on Twitter.
Put another way, one small, teeny-tiny sacrifice for the sake of your partner’s comfort is worth it. Worth it worth it worth it.
So how do you address it? You probably can’t get him to understand your emotional and physical response to rape scenes, so don’t bother. This isn’t even about whether or not this is a valid issue. The point up for discussion, that you should be trying to convince him is, “If this is important to me, it should be important to you.” Even when he doesn’t understand. Even when he thinks it’s silly. Just because you’re important to him. He may not understand the rest, but hopefully that part doesn’t need much explaining.
Team Practical, how do you adjust when things make Your Partner uncomfortable? how do you help them to see your side when things they do bother you?