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5 Reasons Your Relationship is Falling Apart

5 Reasons Your Relationship is Falling Apart

I hope you’ll excuse the pointed title, and I sincerely hope your relationship is not falling apart, but if you have ever found yourself in dire straits in a relationship (as we all do), chances are that the trouble can be traced back to one or a few of these issues. If your relationship is all rainbows and sunshine dust, fantastic—this list will just be some good food for thought.

1. You’re not listening

I’m not talking about you being glued to the TV while your partner is pouring his/her heart out. If that’s the case, it should be pretty obvious there is a problem.

Many of us believe we are listening when what we’re actually doing is anxiously and impatiently waiting for our turn to speak. When we “listen” from this perspective, we are not truly listening: we are resisting the anger, despair, anxiety, fear etc. inside of us.

True listening requires awareness of what is going on inside. Only when we are conscious of our inner-workings can we truly hear another person.

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The next time you find yourself listening to your partner, whether in an argument or otherwise, see if you can notice what you’re feeling and thinking in response without having to speak immediately. See if you can allow your significant other to really be heard. Then, accept what’s going on inside you, no matter what the thought or emotion. From there you can speak with rational and relative calm, which brings me to my next point.

2. You’re not speaking up

Many of us carry around little hurts and grudges all our lives. Often, we believe that acknowledging the pain is generally more trouble than it’s worth, and while it may seem like that in the moment, over the years those little indignities pile on top of each other and morph into a mound of resentment. And that is dangerous.

Perhaps there’s something that really bothers you about your partner. Why aren’t you saying anything? Are you afraid they’ll get upset? So what if they do? Maybe they’ll throw a tantrum. Maybe they’ll apologize. Who knows? Would you rather try to deal with it constructively now, or bury it and wait for it to explode out of you in a fit of rage? Let it be a learning process regardless of the outcome. You will thank yourself down the road.

As with listening, look inward. Accept what is there. If there is something that needs to be said, then say it. Understand that this does not mean verbally attack the other person. Calmly state what you’re experiencing in the moment, and don’t let it devolve into accusations, which takes us to number 3.

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3. You’re playing the blame game

We often think, “if only he/she were this way, everything would be fine.” When we think this way, we are imposing an impossible ideal on our partners and we are avoiding the issue at hand: what is going on inside of us, the individual; the one who casts blame.

Remember, your significant other is not you. They are a complex being with their own thoughts, insecurities, dreams, and fears… just like you. Do not be so quick to eschew responsibility.

When you start to blame mentally or verbally, ask yourself if you are avoiding responsibility. Ask yourself if you are being unreasonable. Be honest.  Then, if neither of these gels, don’t be afraid to speak up, and then be prepared to listen. Then, you’re on your way to constructive conversation, unless you fall into the next category.

4. You won’t compromise

This usually occurs in a relationship wherein one or both parties always think they are right. “My way or the highway” won’t fly in a relationship these days (not that it ever really did).

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If you believe you are always right, then you never allow for someone else’s opinion or perspective to enter your mind. You label it preposterous before taking the time to examine it. As such, learning to compromise is a direct result of true listening, speaking, and side-stepping the blame game.

When we learn to listen and speak without fear, then we can develop a real understanding of our own needs as well as the needs of our partner. What follows is mutually beneficial compromise. We learn to live with or without some things for the sake of our relationship, and our partners learn to do the same. In turn, both people feel loved and valued.

Listening, speaking, not blaming, compromising; sounds easy, right? So why don’t we just DO these things? The answer rests with number five.

5. You’re not present

Once again, I do not mean physically. This is the line that ties all of the prior items together. Presence is complete awareness, or consciousness—if you do not find at least some amount of presence, it is impossible to listen, speak, compromise, and avoid the blame game.

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You may have noticed that the suggestions for dealing with each point thus far have been to look inward, see, and accept. THAT is presence: learning how to be with yourself, see the cogs turning, embrace what’s there, and thereby put space around destructive thought and feeling.

The idea is that you must first attend to yourself before you can effectively communicate with or help another person. When we learn to cultivate awareness, we are laying the groundwork to deal with all of the aforementioned issues. Not only that, but difficulties in a relationship can be a gold-mine for this type of work.

One of the best ways to practice being present is meditation. I recommend it to all, however, if you’re not interested in that, or it’s not possible for you, this can be as simple as a few or multiple “breath check-ins” a day. All you need to do is sit quietly for as long as you desire. See if you can put all of your attention on the breath, and see what arises. Don’t judge or resist your inner-workings. Simply accept. Practice this a few times a day, and it will start to become a great habit. This way, when you are in the thick of some painful experience with your significant other, you can access that presence and listen without judgment or impatience, speak with clarity, disperse the urge to blame, and learn to compromise.

Final thoughts

The bottom line is that it all comes down to the individual. Get right with yourself, be present, and you will begin to change the dynamic in the relationship.

Finally, these “reasons” do not necessarily apply to a physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive relationship: If the pain in the relationship has reached that level, I would advise seeking immediate professional help.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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