Three Letter Word

Sometimes it really is the small stuff…

In Old English, the word “but” was not used as a conjunction. Originally it meant “outside” or “without” neither of which are very inviting words. It took modern English speakers to twist it into connecting two disparate truths such as “I love you BUT you make me crazy” or “I would leave her BUT I’m afraid of being alone”. It is an awkward partnership linked by what I like to call a black hole of a word. The word “but” sets the listener up for a fall, it is a precursor to the other shoe dropping.

Try it out – say to yourself “I am a great husband/wife/partner BUT I always leave my dirty dishes in the sink”. What was the first part of that sentence again? Huh? I am a dirty dish leaving lousy spouse?

Now try this…. “I am a great partner AND I leave my dirty dishes in the sink”. Hmmm. I am a great partner. I like the sound of that. I am a great partner who could be an even better partner! I will consider that idea while I bask in the compliment preceding it. Small stuff this three letter word switcheroo but what a difference it makes in how the sentence lands.

Next time you are irritated by something your partner has (or hasn’t) done try switching AND for BUT (as in, “I love your spontaneity AND I get frustrated when you invite people over to dinner without warning” or “You are wonderful AND I wish you would pick your socks up off the floor”). “And” is a true conjunction, a connective word, an invitation to discourse.

A change like this does not solve the problems of the planet (or even our small corner of it) … BUT… words are powerful tools… AND when you want your partner to hear you why not make it a little easier on you both?


“…most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of the people around you.” Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

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