Infighting in the Cannabis Community: Lessons from Marital Therapy

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Now that we’re in the majority, we might be tempted to descend to infighting. Blogs can grow snarkier and comments on Ladybud columns could lose their healing, supportive tone. We might take a page from the marital therapist’s book to make sure that we all stay on track with our big goals. I’d hate to see us poke at each other while the prohibitionists are still locked and loaded. Here are a few tips from couples counseling that might extend to our community to help us keep our love for each other alive.

The 5 to 1 Ratio. We are all bound to spat sometimes. Research on divorce suggests that disagreements are not fatal to a marriage. We all know those couples who scream when they disagree but scream louder when they make up. The key isn’t to never fight, it’s the ratio of positive to negative interactions. Ideally, this ratio should be five (or more!) positive interactions for any one disagreement.

couple yelling at each otherFor the cannabis community, especially online, it’s easy to forget the praise. We often read a column we love and nod our heads without leaving a comment. But if we find one we don’t like, out come the claws and we’re hitting the keyboard as if it stole our vaporizers. It only takes a few seconds to type “Fine work,” “Great job,” or “You can sleep in my bed.” A loveable column deserves a nice, warm tweet or Facebook share. Imagine what our community would be like if we did five of these gestures before we wrote a single critique. The next time I’m tempted to split hairs about someone’s post, I’ll count how much praise I’ve written first.

The Benefit of the Doubt. Couples tend to stay together when partners assume that they are all doing their best in the current situation. That makes sense. Perhaps this perspective could help us, too. Odds are high that nobody on our side has said anything to infuriate you intentionally. (Even the prohibitionists don’t resort to this one as often as it might seem.) Anyone can get tired or busy or over-medicated and end up spouting off inadvertently. Some people require a lot of explanations; they don’t understand some points unless you make them in multiple ways. Let’s accept the idea that everybody on our side agrees to free the weed. Everything else will be details. No need to get too worked up.

Divine Translation. A dear friend of mine said that everybody with an open mouth is really only saying one of two things: “I love you,” or “Do you love me?” Perhaps it’s an overgeneralization, but what a neat idea to keep in mind.  The implications for couples are probably obvious. “Put the cap back!” translates divinely into “Do you love me?” Ideal responses might include, “The cap is back. I love you. I even put the seat down.”

We can use comparable translations in our community. Writing can be a ton of effort. I get frustrated when I spend three hours trying to figure out the best way to describe a complex experiment with hundreds of participants only to get confused responses. “Hey! Earleywine! Nobody cares about all your statistical mumbo jumbo! I know that cannabis cures Huntington’s disease because it helped my mother’s friend’s sister’s snake milker. That’s why Jesus put it here.” When I get a post like that, I have to translate it. My first translation might be:

“Hi! I’m an idiot who would rather blather than think. I’m going to ignore published data from peer-reviewed journals because an uneducated acquaintance knucklehead told me something I already believed anyway.”

Photo: Lia Ballentine

Photo: Lia Ballentine

But if I let divine translation kick in, I read this post as, “Do you love me?” Then I can respond in an informative, helpful way:

“These data from hundreds of folks suggest that there are better treatments for Huntington’s, but I’m always happy to hear about anyone getting healed. I love you.”

No Name Calling. Duh. Even the most understanding angels with years of practice at divine translation can’t help but stop listening after being called an idiot.

Let’s give these a try. They sound simple, but they’re not always easy. If nothing else, they can keep us from sleeping on the couch.