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OPINION: Common adages aren’t always nuggets of wisdom

You should always question often repeated phrases so you don’t miss out on life’s many lessons

There are certain commonly-used phrases, especially when it comes to relationships, that just get my ire up.

While some often-brandished cliches are basically good advice on the surface, if we never look deeper we may be missing important truths that aren’t being talked about nearly enough.

I want to preface my opinion on the following by saying I’m not in any way an expert on relationships and this opinion column should be taken as just that — an opinion.

One particular phrase that sets me on edge is, “If we don’t have trust, we have nothing.”

There is nothing wrong with this basic premise — it means while there are other fundamental foundations of a healthy relationship such as love and compatibility, that if trust is broken, the others won’t matter.

While this may be true for many people it’s not true for everyone.

Different personality types usually value one attribute more highly over others, such as responsibility, justice, generosity, knowledge, et cetera.

While a person who values honesty above all else may need full disclosure of a partner’s past and present in order to build intimacy and feel secure in a relationship, a person who values harmony more may be content to allow a partner to disclose information at their own pace, when they are ready.

The other issue I take with the phrase is that it completely ignores that there are different kinds of trust. I personally believe it’s valuable to consider all the categories of trust. For example, you can trust a family member, friend or partner to varying degrees in different areas such as finances, responsibility, intimacy, fidelity, emotional and their judgement or their memory, to name a few.

If your partner scores lower in your mind in some categories than others that doesn’t mean you “have nothing.” It means you’ve identified areas to work on.

I’ve also never understood the old adage, “never go to bed angry.”

Does this mean make up so you won’t be sleeping on the couch, or that you should make sure to resolve any issues in the same day they come up? I just don’t get it and I don’t find this age-old advice reasonable or very realistic.

You can’t force anyone to process their thoughts or feelings by an arbitrary deadline nor do I think it’s healthy to call a truce for the sake of a peaceful bedtime if it isn’t sincere or genuine.

Insisting to continue a conversation when someone is in fight or flight mode almost always causes more harm than good. Advice I’ve read says to allow for a break but agree on a time to revisit the issue, however, no modern expert I’ve heard of has said that needs to be before bedtime.

A better motto might be “don’t start serious conversations late at night!”

Another slogan I reject with my entire being is various iterations of “your kids don’t need a perfect mom, they need a happy mom.”

No, no, no, and once again, no.

Mom guilt is very real and pervasive, so on the one hand, telling moms they don’t have to be perfect, especially in an era of instant comparison via the internet, is so important and relevant. But there is such a thing as toxic positivity.

This message is basically saying just be happy and you’ll be enough for your kids. That’s supposed to take the pressure off? Because it’s so easy to just be happy? That just creates another area of unrealistic expectations and guilt. We can’t all be “Stepford” moms.

No, what your kids need is an emotionally-responsible adult with a normal range of emotions who models how to self regulate and move through negative emotions in a healthy way. Anger, grief and depression are not dirty words. They are a part of life and kids need to see that and learn how to navigate them through your example.

You can’t always be the happy mom, nor should you be. But you can be the mom who allows space for emotions, for yourself and your kids.

It’s OK to cry in front of your kids. It’s OK to say you’re feeling down right now and need some alone time. It’s OK to say you’re frustrated. All those things are OK as long as you’re owning your emotions and not making anyone else feel responsible for them, you’re working through them in a healthy way, and making repairs if and when you make a mistake.

I think the language we choose to use is important. Words are nuanced and colour our perception of the world we live in — especially when we hear certain phrases over and over again. They can become so ingrained in our psyches that we forget to analyze them or dig deeper.

While a simple, straightforward phrase can be valuable to concisely convey an idea, I believe they can also be limiting and people should challenge themselves to question such basic wisdom to ensure they’re not missing out on other valuable lessons.

Emily Jaycox

About the Author: Emily Jaycox

I'm a reporter for Ponoka News and have lived in Ponoka since 2015.
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