For years, couples have shared their relationship secrets with me; the good, the bad and the ugly. The following anti-relationship strategies show up most consistently in my practice, and from what I have learned, will leave plenty of room for sadness, disconnection, and loneliness.
1. Blame – This rotten problem loves statements like, “if you would help out more, I’d be nicer.” Or “you always/never do….” Or, “when you finally do what you said you would do, I’ll be happy.” Blame is relationship poison. It virtually eliminates any possibility for intimacy and creates a competitive, hierarchical dynamic that inevitably leaves someone injured.
Anti-dote: Take responsibility for your actions and your feelings. Other people are not in charge of your behaviours, your feelings or your happiness.
2. Keep Score – Score keeping leads to resentment, which generally sneaks in slowly early on in the relationship. It stock piles wrong doings and let downs. Resentment is a silent killer of relationships. It sits in the background of our hearts and waits for our partner to fail us, fail our children, or just do that thing that makes us crazy. In my experience, it is the number one cause of relationship failure.
Anti-dote: Grace, forgiveness, gratitude, understanding. Resentment cannot exist when we let our partners be human and make mistakes. Resentment can’t exist when we sit in a place of grace for the humanness of our loved ones.
3. Embrace Pride – This is a doozy! Pride seeks to punish. Pride says, “I’m better. I know better. You don’t deserve me or my forgiveness. You deserve to be punished.” It seeks to separate. Pride will always separate us from our partner. Never has a couple come in and said, “our pride grows us closer to each other.” Never. Prides sole purpose is to divide and conquer.
Anti-dote: Humility. Its ok to say sorry, to be wrong, to make mistakes. Humility grows us closer to each other, where we can safely bask in the reality of human-ness and imperfection.
4. Set Unrealistic Expectations – We enter into relationships doe-eyed and full of anticipation and excitement. We behave our absolute best, and so does our partner. We always give our best in the first few months of the relationship. Sadly, that can set the relationship up with expectations. Expectations of romance, time spent, enthusiastic engagements, helpfulness. And then normal sets in…. socks on the floor, toilet seats up, toothpaste!
Anti-dote: Flexibility. Do you allow your partner the freedom to fail? Are you realistic with your expectations? Have you communicated (respectfully) your needs, wants, hopes? Consider revamping your expectations and make a decision to focus on when your partner does show up for you. What you focus on, you will see.