On one of my many trips to Disneyworld when my kids were younger, we sat behind an older couple of about sixty-five or seventy years old on a ride. For the entirety of the ride around Animal Kingdom, the woman berated her husband. He did not say one word while she, without raising her voice, spoke of his many faults. I think because of his lack of response it triggered her to fill in those spaces with more negativity. It was painful to ride behind them. My kids didn’t seem to notice what was happening–with the woman “dumping” on him and the man shrinking in his masculinity and self-esteem. I’m glad they didn’t. To this day, I still remember this experience.
This couple is going to help me demonstrate the first two of what I call “relationship killers.”
They say that when a couple meets, that first year when they are talking with one another there is a ratio of four positive statements to one negative statement. By the time three years go by, this ratio has flipped: A majority of the statements you make to your mate are negative. This is one way you may be sabotaging your relationship:
Speaking unkindly or disrespectfully to your partner.
Negativity is a huge relationship killer. Your partnership is sacred–yet oftentimes it becomes the last thing in a long list of things to do that you attend to. It isn’t hard to switch negative statements to positive ones, but most people aren’t conscious this is even happening. I want to add too, that negative statements about your partner to others is not honoring of your relationship or of your partner.
The Disneyworld couple also demonstrated another common pattern found with couples–that of the distancer in the relationship. The woman would like to engage her husband–and it’s not an effective way of engaging him–and instead of responding, he withdraws. For many couples, the pattern would go like this:
One person pursues their partner in an ineffective way–say nagging for example, or blaming. The other partner distances or withdraws themselves.
The distancer can’t for whatever reason, show up and be present to the issues and their partner in the relationship. This isn’t a right/wrong kind of thing–just what’s effective for the health of the relationship. If you shut yourself down you can’t work out the issues. Granted, sometimes it’s better to take a time out and let yourself cool off for a period of time, but this isn’t what I’m writing about here. The pursuer is also playing an ineffective role. Chasing someone when they only move farther away is a losing battle.
Another pattern I see in couples is a lack of appreciation or a feeling of gratitude for their partner–for who they are and what they do.
“He leaves his socks and underwear everywhere!” It used to be okay until a year or two goes by and these little things become annoyances. When the criticism becomes more than the compliments (see above), you aren’t appreciating your partner. Choose your battles. When you feel annoyed, take a moment to stop and reflect on the things you appreciate about them. When you feel annoyed with your partner for these “little” things, check in with yourself and ask yourself if you feel appreciated.
People need appreciation–they need to know they matter and what they do matters.
Another way you may be sabotaging your relationship is if you have unmet needs. You can grow resentful if you have needs that aren’t being met (see above re: appreciation). You may also expect your partner to read your mind and provide them for you. You also may not even be aware of what the heck your needs even are (I could relate to this one 10 years ago). Marshall Rosenberg has a wonderful book called Nonviolent Communication. In it, he has written a comprehensive list of people’s needs. My husband and I included this list in our book, Secrets of Loving Relationships.
Not being committed to your relationship is another big way you can sabotage your relationship.
Many people have thought or have said to their partners they want a divorce and then took it back. That isn’t being committed. I feel you’re either committed or you’re not. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out and declare you’re committed. Commitment is a pact to work together toward a common goal–a healthy, happy, loving, and conscious relationship.
If you’re wishy-washy about commitment, then it shows in the quality of your relationship.
Relationship killers — 5 ways you may be sabotaging your relationship:
1. Negative communication
2. Hidden patterns that are destructive
3. A lack of feeling gratitude and appreciation for your partner
4. Unmet needs
5. Not being committed
There are so many more ways you could be sabotaging your relationship. One big issue that I’ll write about in the future is not healing your childhood wounds.
What relationship killers can you think of? Do you recognize some of these things in your own relationship? They say that good relationships take work, but I think it’s really about focus and intention. What do you think?