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4 Ways To Kill Your Relationship Without Trying

You want a good relationship with your partner but chances are that you’re unintentionally working against each other. In actuality you don’t know you’re doing anything wrong while your partner doesn’t grasp how holding onto negative feelings spawns explosive outbursts of frustration. Even then, you’re both more than likely fighting about the wrong thing and missing the way these little slights erode the way you feel about each other. It’s NOT your fault. Most people aren’t taught that these things are damaging and are never shown what to do instead. 

Here’s what you need to know:

    1. Checking out. Walking away while your partner is trying to engage with you is the most obvious form of this. It can also take place when you’re constantly checking your phone for the game stats or when your eyes glaze over while thinking about that new pair of shoes you saw. When you break the cycle of reciprocity suddenly it feels weird to your nervous system and can jolt your relationship. Your partner can feel like they’re unimportant to you.

      Instead, if you can’t focus at that moment, say so and reschedule the talk. If you have to get up to do something say, “Sorry, I just have to get _______ from the next room. Please hold that thought. Or do you mind coming with me? I really want to hear what you have to say.” That’s going to work way better than just getting up and leaving the room, checking out in your mind or giving half-assed attention because you’re waiting for your phone to buzz.

      2. Forgetting your manners. It’s so easy to forget your manners with the people you love. The saying is “familiarity breeds contempt”. You get used to having them around, doing things with them and having them do things for you. Not saying things like: “thank you, you’re welcome, good morning, goodnight, hello and goodbye (and of course “I love you”) may not seem like a big deal (because they should already know these things) but it feels dismissive at best and disrespectful at worst.

      Instead, treat the people you love like you would a stranger or better yet, an honored guest. Why should people you don’t know get all your good stuff while the ones that care about you get the tired leftovers. These little niceties really can make a subtle yet profound difference in the way your partner views the relationship.

      3. ”Making nice” (Avoiding confrontation). It’s easy to want things to go smoothly. After all you don’t want to “rock the boat”. You figure that if you just act like everything is okay and don’t challenge your partner when things rub you the wrong way then you’ll avoid conflict and have an idealized relationship. There’s a big problem with that theory. Research actually shows that couples who don’t fight tend to have shorter and less fulfilling relationships. This makes sense because how do you grow together (which builds deep intimacy) if you don’t challenge each other. The relationship isn’t bad just because you guys don’t agree about everything. In fact, it’s the disagreeing that makes it interesting and helps us rub off our rough edges. The other problem with “making nice” is that no one can “make nice” forever. When the dam finally breaks everything in the waters path is in trouble (usually your partner and any innocent bystanders). You end up looking crazy and everyone else ends up hurt.

      Instead, address things often and early. In order to do this you and your partner have to understand and agree that talking about the little things is not to be nit-picky or annoying but to build the relationship and avoid the big, destructive fights. If you throw a lit match into a tank of gas you will get a big explosion. If you put that same amount of gas into a car – using small explosions over time you can drive to your destination.

      4. Not setting a positive tone. The first few seconds that you spend with your partner after not seeing them for awhile (like coming home from a trip or even from work or waking up) sets the tone for your interactions for several hours after. Grunting (or worse, bitching) at your partner first thing in the morning or totally ignoring them when you (or they) get home from work can set you up for things to be rough between you for the rest of the day. You probably do this all the time without even giving it a second thought but the cumulative effect is that your partner’s experience of you is always negative or grumpy. That’s not fun to be around.

      Instead, be really mindful and deliberate about how you set the “initial conditions” in your relationship. Try to be positive, pleasant and supportive with him/her when you first see them (or talk on the phone) even if you don’t have something burning to ask or to discuss. It only takes a few seconds during that interaction to positively connect which will yield successful relationship results in the long-run. You can influence what you experience by choosing to initiate a comfortable communication. If you want to take it a step further you can even set yourself up for success when you leave for work or go to bed by “bridging”. Show them how much you look forward to reconnecting with them by showing your anticipation for what’s coming. “Have a good day at work. I can’t wait to see you when you get home and hear about your adventures.”

      Of course, all of this works in reverse too.

      If your partner is doing this to you this could explain why you’re irritated and frustrated with him/her and can’t really put your finger on why. If you’re both doing this the tension can build up over time so you end up having the same fight repeatedly until one of you terminates the relationship.

      What’s scarier is that children are extra sensitive to all of this but they’re less likely to know what’s going on or what to do about it. They take it as the truth about themselves and about their value into their self-identity and self-esteem.

      Until the next time, see you soon and feel better. —Dr. Ganz


      Dr. Ganz Ferrance

      Dr. Ganz Ferrance - holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and an M.A. in Developmental and Educational Psychology from Andrews University in Michigan. He is the former Public Education Coordinator as well as the former Vice-President of the Psychologist’s Association of Alberta. Dr. Ganz enjoys sharing how people can get more “mileage” from their lives. For more information about Dr. Ganz click here.

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