Under Pressure: The Bomb and the Kettle

Credit: Shutterstock

Ever wondered why your partner doesn’t take you seriously when you’re upset? Or on the flip side, seems to blow their gasket for the tiniest of reasons?

Here’s an approach that might help you understand each other.

The Bomb and The Kettle

There are two kinds of people when it comes to reacting to pressure: bombs and kettles.

“Whatever,” you say, “there are a million personality types and infinite ways of dividing humanity into ‘two kinds of people.’”

This one is apt not for any great insights it offers into your psyche, but in how the two types interact with each other.

See, the problem is that bombs think that everyone else is a bomb too. Kettles see everyone as kettles.

A lot of conflicts I’ve had with my spouse and observed between other people boils down to that simple misunderstanding.

Recognizing myself as a bomb and my wife as a kettle did wonders to diffuse arguments before they could escalate or cause undue relationship stress.

The Bomb

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Bombs bottle up pressure. When things are going badly, when stress levels rise, when they get into an argument, bombs take all the negativity the situation generates and store it inside themselves.

The pressure builds. They get terse or despondent, aloof or quick to anger. They simmer.

And then they explode. An explosion for a bomb is a Big Deal, something to be taken seriously. And because they see everyone else as a bomb and, therefore, expect them to take the explosion as the Big Deal it is, they get all the more pissed off and disenchanted when their outburst doesn’t get the attention they feel it deserves.

They think their partner doesn’t understand them. Or doesn’t care about their feelings.

Which may not be the case if their partner is…

A kettle

Image by Ken Boyd from Pixabay

A kettle treats pressure very differently from a bomb. When something pisses them off, they whistle, letting off steam, and as soon as the underlying situation is resolved they’re back to their old selves.

Now, because they see everyone else as a kettle, they think their bomb partner’s explosion is nothing more than some harmless steam-letting.

A bomb, meanwhile, wonders why their partner explodes several times a day. They must really be miserable if they’re under so much stress they aren’t able to keep it in.


Bombs and Kettles

And therein we have the tragedy. Every time a kettle whistles, the bomb gets nervous and upset. Every time a bomb explodes, a kettle dismisses the explosion as no big deal.

So they get pissed at each other, which leads to even more pressure, which leads to bigger explosions and more steam.

You’ve got yourself a vicious circle.

The key is communication

The way to fix this is simple: talk with your partner, and determine which of the two each of you is. Then treat their outbursts accordingly.

If your partner is a bomb and they’re exploding, treat that explosion as the culmination of a whole bunch of stress, let out at once. Make time for it. Talk to your partner about how they are feeling. Show them that you care.

If, on the other hand, your partner is a kettle, know that the explosion doesn’t necessarily signify a major issue in your relationship. Don’t ignore it — nobody wants to be ignored, not even kettles — but don’t assign meaning to it that isn’t there.

Seems like a truism: if you’re not sure why your partner is reacting the way they are, ask them about it!

A word about Kettles

Let me make one thing clear. The fact that a kettle is “just blowing off steam” doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t valid and important to acknowledge. You dismiss your partner’s feelings often enough and you’ll be looking for a new partner.

Empathy goes a long way with any personality type.

All I’m saying is bombs tend to treat their kettles’ frequent “explosions” as an extra source of relationship uncertainty and stress. If your partner has exploded (meaning yelling/crying/throwing cutlery or furniture/storming out) that must mean your relationship is at risk. Right?

A bomb’s explosion is very likely exactly that.

A kettle’s probably isn’t.

That’s all.

Eugene Polonsky is a 24-year veteran in the IT field. When not writing about management, he runs a team at Adobe and works on his Nordic fantasy novel.

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