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7 Things That Might Be Killing Your Relationship

7 Things That Might Be Killing Your Relationship

Relationships don’t go bad overnight. There are subtle and destructive behavior patterns which erode the bond between spouses or partners. These toxic attitudes can turn a fairytale relationship into an MMA Super Fight.

But not all is lost. When particular destructive patterns of behavior are identified and addressed, a relationship on life support can become healthy again.

Know how to identify these 7 things that might be killing your relationship, so you can catch trouble before it starts.

1. Mind reading

The easiest way to set a relationship on a death spiral is to play armchair psychic. Mind reading takes a posture of assumption instead of listening, judgment instead of compassion.

When we try and read the thoughts, motives, and intentions of another person, their voice is taken away. It dehumanizes the partner and does not give them room for explanation. We all struggle with this one because it’s easier to play “mind reader” than listen to your partner.

If you say, I know why you did this… there’s a possibility mind reading has entered the relationship.

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2. Criticism

Relationship expert John Gottman, who wrote The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, is known for determining the success of a marriage within five minutes of meeting the couple. One of the deciding factors is evidence of criticism.

Gottman knows couples will complain in their relationships. But he differentiates complaining from criticism. Criticism is more “global” because it attacks the person and not their behavior.

So, how do we know if criticism has crept in? An example would be, “The reason you didn’t pick up the kids is not because you forgot. It’s because you are a terrible father.”

Know how to spot criticism, because it could be killing your relationship.

3. Unrealistic expectations

When you begin a relationship there are certain underlying expectations. These boundaries get wrapped up in behavior and action. This might be particular chores around the house, how money is spent, or how children are disciplined.

Problems emerge when these expectations become unrealistic and the partner feels crushed under the weight of their failing behavior. Most likely this will lead to an unhealthy relationship.

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As explained in the article “5 Rules for a More Trustworthy Relationship”, setting unrealistic rules on a spouse or partner is guaranteed to build distrust into the relationship. Healthy and agreed-upon rules and boundaries should free the other person, not enslave them. They should allow the partner to flourish, not flounder.

When you constantly criticize and remind the other person about the “rules,” you are not loving them. When you attack their behavior, never leaving room for grace and correction, this relationship killer might rear its ugly head.

4. Control

The desire to control your partner, according to “5 Relationship Killers,” is rooted in fear and insecurity. A controlling attitude has more to do with us, and less with the partner.

When control enters a relationship, an underlying fear is buzzing behind the surface. It may be fear of not knowing the future. Fear of abandonment. Fear of being seen as a terrible spouse.

Until we get a handle on our own insecurities the partner will suffer.

If we constantly say “Don’t do that,” or “Stop doing this,” we might be a control freak.

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5. Comparison

With the ease of staying in touch with past relationships through Facebook, text messages, and other social media, the temptation of comparison is great.

Comparing your current partner with a former relationship is a guaranteed disaster. The comparison is unfair. No one person is the standard for all relationships. If they were so great why did the relationship not work out?

Testing your current relationship, based on a prior one, is a good way to kill your relationship before it begins. Relationships are complex because of timing, maturity of the partner, and emotional stability. These factors change over time.

If you find yourself searching Facebook or daydreaming about past partners you might need to address this relationship killer.

6. Routine

All relationships get stale. When partners get comfortable with one another they stop doing the little things. According to “5 Most Overlooked Relationship Killers”, boredom and disinterest set in.

But this is normal. It just means we need to mix it up. Maybe we need a new routine. A date night every Friday night. A vacation to an exotic locale. Taking up a hobby together. Or finding different ways to communicate with one another.

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Routine doesn’t need to have the last say in a relationship. Identify it. Mix it up. Watch your relationship come back to life.

7. Stonewalling

Gottman says, “Stonewalling is about putting up defenses”, and “emotionally disengaging” from the relationship. Every relationship will have conflict and strife on different levels. But, if we stonewall, we are emotionally removing ourselves from the other person.

When conflict arises in the relationship, do we walk away, try to change the subject, or go to the bar? Or, do we allow ourselves to be present in the disagreement?
The greatest gift we can give our partner is to be present emotionally.

Are these relationship killers present in your life? If so, acknowledge them, and set a time to discuss with your partner. This will ensure long-term health, happiness, and stability in all your relationships.

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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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