You try getting your partner to do things. You wish your partner would just know what you wanted. You’ve thrown tantrums, shot poison darts, needled, and lobbed anger bombs. You may have even given up altogether. If you’re one of the millions of busy entrepreneurs struggling with their marriages, it might be time to change tactics.
Terrence Real has been helping couples for nearly 30 years developing solidly scientific theories about what makes relationships succeed or fail. He has identified five losing strategies which are guaranteed to sabotage your most intimate relationships.
I’ve seen these lizard-level attempts at intimacy in my own relationships, and those of my clients, so I thought I’d shed some light on them in the hope they’ll scurry away.
Here’s how to sabotage your relationship:
1. Be Right. Also known as “The Lawyer”: you need to start keeping better records, do a better job of writing things down, or you Google the facts to prove your point: you’re acting the part of the Lawyer.
Underneath the Lawyer, there is a usually legitimate request: and the antidote for the Lawyer is to ask for what you want. (ie. Please slow down. Would you mind cleaning the kitchen?)
2. Have Control. You wish you had superpowers and could magically make your partner do what you want. You find yourself reading books with titles like “Get Anyone to Do Anything?”. You think that real life will start when your plan works and your spouse finally changes.
This is controlling your partner. You are controlling your partner when you start thinking that if you chant, pray, wish, meditate enough, your partner will change. You are a magician!
Guess what? You can only create your own character, not your spouse’s. It’s not “How can I get ’em to change?” but “Is there anything I can change so I can be happy now?” Work your magic on yourself, not on your partner.
3. Emotionally Vomit. You write long letters to your spouse about exactly what is wrong with them and the relationship. You deliver a twenty minute lecture about how they’ve hurt you. You vent to your partner, and lay it all out there.
If an argument with your spouse is explosive and dramatic, and afterwards you get a huge feeling of relief, you may have just emotionally vomited all over your marriage.
Constructive self-expression can be very useful in relationships, but we don’t need to express ourselves to the point where we draw a crowd. Express yourself with care.
4. Practice the Art of War. It’s your job to take the trash out, but he worked through dinner, so you just leave it there to stink. Leaving after a fight, you lock him out of the house. Real says the fourth losing strategy is “Retaliation,” taking revenge on our partners, either aggressively or passively.
If you find yourself getting a thrill out of the mean-spirited banter that goes on at your house, you might be engaged in retaliation. As intimate partners, we have access to all the buttons, and we know how to push them.
The way to repair and reconciliation not through petty revenge: Be a lover, not a hater.
5. Give Up. You take your ball and go home. With the help of some choice substances, you go comfortably numb. You go into your cave to hibernate. You’re sleepwalking through your marriage.
If you find yourself spending more and more time at work, just so you can avoid the headaches at home, you might be engaged in what Real calls the fifth losing strategy, “Withdrawal.”
What is ironic is that Withdrawal is actually a close cousin of a winning strategy: Acceptance. Both of these strategies involve taking some distance, but they have very different qualities: resentful and bitter, hurt, angry and self-righteous versus loving and kind, calm, peaceful and centered. In Acceptance, you recognize you cannot change your partner, but you can change the way you relate to your partner. It’s called a relationship reckoning: Acceptance and True Love.
The difficulties involved in maintaining modern intimate relationships can seem overwhelming—especially if all we do is argue over facts, throw rocks, or withhold sex in a vain attempt to change our partners.
After trying for years to maintain a marriage using the above losing strategies, are you ready to flip them on their head and try the antidotes? Do you know other antidotes that we have not described?
Writer Hadley Earabino is a Career, Relationship and Life Coach on Noomii.com
Image by Steve Snodgrass