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Research Based Relationship Advice From Couples Who’ve Been Together For 40+ Years

Research Based Relationship Advice From Couples Who’ve Been Together For 40+ Years

Couples today look for relationship advice from many different sources, from celebrities to, unfortunately, clichés. They often follow conventional wisdom like not going to bed angry or that love means never having to say you’re sorry.

In an age where the divorce rate hovers around 50%, the world is running out of couples who have been together for more than a few years. Instead of seeking wisdom from clichés or quitting under even the slightest pressure, couples today should first look to those who have been working on their relationships for several decades.

Rather than looking for inoffensive and fleeting advice about buying gifts or sending flowers, it is better to get solid, working support from people who have been there. Sometimes, collective wisdom from experienced couples is more valuable than advice from anyone else.

Dr. Karl Pillemer is one advocate of seeking the wisdom of those who are older and wiser than his years. He spent most of his career focusing on the setbacks that people face as they grow older. But then he realized was neglecting the wisdom that only those who have lived life can provide.

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As a result, Dr. Pillemer has dedicated the last few years to writing “30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships and Marriage”.

In his book, Dr. Pillemer compiles all the advice that he gleaned from more than 700 people. These people have been married for an average of 43 years. What he learned after hundreds of interviews is that anyone can end up with someone they love. All you need to do is follow a few simple rules in love and life.

Play Games – The Good Kind

Many of the couples interviewed told Dr. Pillemer that watching a potential partner play board games is a great way to tell whether you would be a good fit. When you can see how a person reacts to winning, losing and high-stakes circumstances, you learn a lot about their personality and how you respond to it.

Knowing how someone responds to these circumstances shows you more than whether or not they are a gracious winner or a sorry loser. It often demonstrates larger patterns in the other person’s personality.

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68-year-old Jessica Cruz told Dr. Pillemer, “Young people today search for people in bars. But if you watch somebody play a game like dominoes, you get a good sense of their personality that way.”

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Getting out of your comfort zone is not just essential for personal growth – it is the key to a great relationship as well. Many of those interviewed for the book suggested that a change of scenery will demonstrate whether you are with a person who you can spend your life with.

Going on traditional dates to dinner and the movies is a pleasant way for two people to talk about mutual interests. But getting out and doing something that scares you both is a great way to learn more about the deeper aspects of each other’s personalities.

Grab A Snickers Bar

Many of us have become aware of the term ‘hangry’, which is that compelling and intense way that you feel when you are so hungry that it begins to affect your emotions. Being hangry is all too real for most of us. According to Dr. Pillemer’s interviews, your hunger may indeed drive fights with your partner.

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Many couples reported that remembering that you may need a snack to help calm down is an important part of containing and resolving fights. Being aware of your hunger makes it much easier to say, ‘Sorry for the things that I said when I was hangry.’

Dr. Pillemer wrote that “many seniors talked about how their worst fights came when somebody was really hungry and let’s just say that I’ve used this in my own 35-year-old marriage and it really works.”

Talk About Your Feelings At The Right Time

Some people say that there is no right time to talk about your feelings; others say that the best time to talk is when you feel like talking.

Many of the people that Dr. Pillemer interviewed said that this was the wrong approach. Instead of talking about difficult issues anytime, you should discuss them at a time when both of you are at your best.

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Talking about the hard stuff is never easy. But if you can find a time of day where you are both relaxed, that can make dealing with difficult topics a little bit easier.

The only thing that seems harder than finding love is making it last. The number of couples today that have seen a lifetime of love is dwindling. But if couples today learn from their elders triumphs and failures, they can find themselves on a path to life-long love.

Featured photo credit: Miltos Gikas via flickr.com

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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