3 min

A Good Ol' Shit-Talking Session

There’s a universal phenomenon that happens amongst couples. 

At night, in our bedrooms, behind closed doors, in private, we get to do something scandalous: gleefully talk shit about others. 

Whether it’s about family members we love but make us want to pull our hair out, friends who annoy us, co-workers who get under our skin, or anyone who pisses us off, that is our safe space to vent.

I laid in bed next to my husband and said, “I’m still fired up about your Dad.” I could hear Sam smile. “Go on…” 

Of course there must be a better, more mature way to handle these situations. Anger is never the answer. But c’mon, even Sam Harris and Ryan Holiday must vent to their partners every now and then. 

When I’m really worked up and go on a tear to my husband (“And you know what else?!”), I’m more clear-headed afterwards. The ranting is part of my process that allows me to calm down and think straight. Only after I’m finished shit-talking can I ask myself what Glennon Doyle asks in her memoir, Untamed:

“What is my anger telling me about me?” 

Self-reflection and personal growth aren’t possible without a proper explosion first. Privately, of course. 

But shit-talking isn’t only for couples, and it can backfire if your audience isn’t on board. The absolute worst is when you think it’s a safe space to vent because of previous shit-talking sessions but the person on the other side no longer wants to participate. 

That’s why I was fired up about my father-in-law, Hank. 

We all talk shit about my brother-in-law, Dan, because he’s the worst. After a particularly offensive evening, my husband and I couldn’t wait to vent about it in our safe circle with his parents. But after my husband re-told the incident, Hank said, “Oh I didn’t think Dan was bad. He was pleasant.” 

My father-in-law chose not to partake in the shit-talk session and instead sat from his high horse and spoke to us as if we were acting immature (the nerve). It was acceptable to gossip when everyone was an active participant, but as soon as someone wasn’t, there was a little bit of shame attached to it. How immature were we that we needed to talk shit on someone else? Were we really the bigger, better people in this scenario? 

Some people take out their frustrations by screaming and punching a pillow. Others might do an intense workout. I talk shit. Knowing I can air my complaints after the event allows me to bite my tongue and stay calm in the moment. 

But let us not forget the wise words of Ryan Holiday:

“The most serious problems, the ones that are the most aggravating, are the ones that require the most discipline and the least amount of anger.”

Okay, Ryan. Maybe, eventually, I will grow into a person who can skip the shit-talking and move straight to reflection and stoicism. In the meantime, Dan sucks. And Hank is no longer invited to our shit-talking sessions.