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