One of my particular interests is how to have a happy relationship. So I was fascinated by the actor Dennis Waterman’s masterclass in how not to. He confessed on Piers Morgan’s TV programme Life Stories that he did hit the actress Rula Lenska when the two of them were married. Here are some of the things the 64 year-old star of The Sweeney, Minder, and New Tricks had to say:
‘It’s not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her… The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue well. And if there is a time where you can’t get a word in…and I…lashed out. I couldn’t end the argument… Something must have brought it on. When frustration builds up and you can’t think of a way out…It happened and I’m very, very ashamed of it…If a woman is a bit of a power freak and determined to put you down, and if you’re not bright enough to do it with words, it can happen.’
Rula Lenska says the violence only occurred when he was ‘very, very drunk’. She said she was never sure how he was going to be when he came home because ‘it was like living with two totally different people’.
According to the Daily Mail, a lot of the arguments were over the time he spent in the pub, his three times a week golf sessions, and his golfing holidays with his pals in which drinking was said to be the first aim, eyeing up birds the second and golf third.
I want to focus first on that phrase ‘determined to put you down’. This is something that, unfortunately, you so often see in couples. There’s this tendency to try to undermine a partner’s confidence to make that person more manageable, more malleable. And it’s one of the worst and stupidest crimes anybody can commit in a relationship.
An analogy is buying a beautiful new sports car then deliberately denting it and refusing to put oil in it. It would be crazy. And yet that’s exactly how many people behave in relationships.
If you want a happy relationship, build your partner up, don’t put your partner down.
That might sound as if I’m taking the Dennis Waterman’s part but I’m certainly not because choosing to spend a long time away from your partner, flirting with others and having affairs are also all ways of putting your partner down. Knowing that your husband or boyfriend is choosing to spend yet another evening at the pub with his mates rather than with you is not great for self-esteem. And, of course, I utterly condemn violence, especially by men against women, which is almost always far, far worse than the other way around.
Showing contempt for a partner is one of what relationship experts call The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse (as I explained in my little book Be A Hot Date). Any one of the horsemen is bad. When all four turn up it’s The End.