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Dating Maze #346: Offensive Words
Dating Advice 346

Dating Maze #346: Offensive Words

How can I stop my date from using foul language?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I recently met a man and we've gone on a few dates that were great. We've spoken frequently on the phone and everything seems to be clicking between us.

Except for one problem: He will occasionally use words that I find derogatory and offensive. It's nothing that you wouldn't hear in a movie these days, but I just don't want it as part of my life.

Last night he used one of those words again. I let him know that I find it inappropriate. Unfortunately, I crossed the line and ended up lecturing him instead. He got off the phone quickly.

I feel like I've messed up something good. How can I best communicate my displeasure with his choice of language? And what can I do now to make amends?


Dear Andrea,

These days it is difficult to avoid coarse language, since it has gradually seeped into our culture. We get daily doses of four-letter words and derogatory phrases from movies, books and casual conversation. In spite of the fact that many people use these words in day-to-day vocabulary, most of us realize they are not quite appropriate. Very few people would actually speak in a coarse, informal way if they were delivering a lecture to an audience, speaking to their boss, addressing a judge in a courtroom, meeting with a prominent person, or attending religious services.

So why, then, do we feel comfortable peppering our everyday speech with profane words that many people find offensive? Is it for the shock value? The humor? Does it make us seem "with it"? Has it become so much a part of our culture that we don't even think about it any more?

We internalize the message that words convey.

First we need to clarify: What is the danger in using coarse language? It gradually desensitizes us. Even if we initially use a word for its shock value or humor, we've made it easier to say it a second time, and it can slowly become part of our daily habits. When we become accustomed to using a derogatory term to describe, for example, people from another race or culture, we begin to internalize the message those words convey.

Is that the kind of person we want to be? And is that the kind of person we want other people to see us as? (And are those the kind of kids we want to raise?)

What about when we're dating, hoping that the person we're with will see us as a potential marriage partner? Don't we want to convey that they're important to us, that we respect them as much as we do a judge, boss or rabbi? If we can contain our coarse language in front of people we're "supposed" to respect, shouldn't we do so with someone we date – someone who may become the most important person in our lives?

Judaism recognizes that speech is extremely powerful. God created the world using speech. (“And God said: ‘Let there be light.’”) And though the Torah never wastes words or letters, when referring to "indelicate" subjects, the Torah will use longer, less direct language rather than more direct, coarser words. This teaches how far out of our way we should go to use refined language.

Testing Ground

Now to your specific situation.

There are ways to convey your feelings to this man without "lecturing." First, we suggest that you phone him to apologize for your outburst, and say that you’d really like to continue seeing him. Mention that the next time you get together, you’d like to speak about the subject you had brought up. (And promise to be calm.)

During that subsequent conversation, you could say:

"I enjoy spending time with you and talking, but it upsets me to hear curses and coarse language. I realize that you may not find it offensive, but it makes me uncomfortable to hear it. I'd like us to continue dating, but this is something that really bothers me. I hope you're willing to try to not use these words."

Many daters experience "bumps" in the road with someone who otherwise has potential – something they feel could become a major problem, or even a deal-breaker, if it isn't resolved. If the other person is willing to work to address the issue, the relationship can become stronger. This is a good testing ground for compromise, and sincere willingness to accommodate the other person – which, after all, is the foundation of a good marriage.

Since this man’s language genuinely upsets you, and may even become a deal-breaker in your relationship, it's important to discuss it with him to see if he's willing to work on changing. You'll have to see how he reacts before you decide to continue dating him. If he's not willing to do so, it’s probably a sign for you to move on, no matter how nice he otherwise is.

We wish you success in navigating the dating maze,

Rosie & Sherry

November 12, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Corin, January 23, 2012 9:08 PM


I don't know if I agree about the respect thing. I use coarse language around people who I am close to in my life because I am comfortable enough to speak my mind, if my mind is telling me that a "naughty" word is in order to explain my feelings or a situation then I want to be able to say that to someone close to me without getting the 3rd degree. Formal language is for formal situations, but in the bedroom or the intimate confines of a spouse you should be able to speak your mind. If she can't handle swear words, who knows what other truths she won't be able to handle about him. There are guys out there who detest curse words as well, or simply never use them, and perhaps someone like that would be a better fit for her. Overall the advice is decent, I mean if for him it isn't a big deal and he can refrain then that is fine. But I think she needs to adjust her attitude, I wouldn't want to know what other kind of things she wouldn't be able to handle.

(6) Sopie, November 21, 2011 1:23 PM

women are tired of "locker room talk"

thanks for subject that comes up to often. i couldn't believe the language my date used in front on me, i said, lightly but seriously, please keep that language in the locker room." he looked at me to see if i was serious and i said "really." he apologized and it was cool,

(5) Stephen, November 17, 2011 7:39 PM

Way Too Sensitive / Stodgy

Girls: This woman sounds far too sensitive, stodgy and even prudish. Her letter doesn't give examples of the language she found offensive. So we don't know which words she's bent outa shape about. it could be the "c-word," s-word, f-word, or even a damn or a hell. However, the "vernacular" is an integral part of English, highly expressive and saves many words by using one to express the desired sentiment or idea. Her balking and rigidity should tell the guy that she is not for him, and will most likely be hyper conservative, uptight, rigid, inflexible, inhibited in the crucial aspects of a relationship. If he was testing her for the aforementioned traits, she flunked. He needs to find a much more liberal, relaxed partner.

(4) Mi, November 16, 2011 6:54 PM

not the best advice in the article [in my opinion]

The guy rounded up the conversation when he got 'lectured', but yet, the advice in the article is to call him and lecture him again. Why don't you try to be less judgmental in the first place and recognize that people can be from different backgrounds and have different vocabularies? Maybe you need to loosen up a little bit as well? You _can_ change the person, but only when they want to be changed; definitely not after a couple of dates. This guy will change his speaking stile when he likes you enough to do this just to make you happy. Work on this -- make him happy; people rarely walk away from those who makes them happy.

(3) ken, November 16, 2011 5:18 PM

Offensive or profane language

If you love the persona and want a relationship, explain that they can save that language for another life. My wife worked at an inner city Cleveland hospital where profane language was commonplace. I told her that my high school gym teacher would call out "hey toilet mouth" knock it off. My wfie wasn't brought up that way but she became her environment. I'd say "talking like sailor again" and things like that in an upbeat tone, not knocking! The net is, in less than 1 year that language was no longer part of her jargon. Good luck

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