How we mess up our relationships (Part 1)

There are many common dysfunctional behaviors representing negative patterns that most couples experience. You may have your own that are not listed here, but identifying and recognizing these may help you stop them from damaging your commitment to each other.

Assigning Blame: It is all too easy to fall into this trap. By the time either partner finally agrees or doesn’t agree as to who is the accountable culprit, the relationship has already suffered. If both partners are willing to look at their own accountability and reactions, then there is the possibility to learn from what has happened and to heal any hurt done. Blame never results in a good outcome.

Threats of exile or abandonment: Often these words are only meant in the moment and are usually retracted later. Even when the negative feelings subside, the wounds often remain and accumulate. If they aren’t taken seriously, they mean nothing. If they are, they may indicate dwindling commitment, especially if they are repeated in subsequent conflicts. If you ever use those
phrases, make sure you mean them. Someday, your partner may take you seriously.

Dominance/Submission: If the relationship is a power hierarchy where one partner consistently is on top, the other, more adaptive partner will eventually lose hope and stop fighting as hard in succeeding conflicts. That leaves one partner holding all the responsibility for the outcome, while the other takes up a position of submission, martyrdom and resentment. If both partners see themselves as members of an effective team neither needs to be right all the time, or automatically get to direct the outcome of any situation. They work for the ultimate best function of the relationship, regardless of who is given the power at the time, and do so with compromise and support.

Grudges: Grudges come from unexplored, unexpressed or powerless complaints that are not responded to with due consideration. Grudges can start small and seem too insignificant to fight about but, once buried, can fester and grow. People who harbor grudges usually do so across
the board. They often feel victimized by others, bitter about unfair losses and resentful of
actual or exaggerated injustices. When confronted by their partners, they usually will not reveal
the depth of their resentment, but act it out in indirect ways or bring up a slew of past affronts in the middle of an argument. Intimate partners who carry grudges don’t ever let go of the past. They feel powerless in the present without using grudges to fortify their position. Underneath, they often see themselves as people who have been repeatedly cheated.

Ownership: Consistently feeling the need to own or control a partner is a danger sign. In functional, mutually supportive relationships, neither partner feels that they own the course of another’s life. They know and accept that couples who truly care want each other’s dreams to come true. Of course, they would rather be part of those dreams and experience grief  when that cannot be. That doesn’t mean that they quit easily or run when things are tough. They are open and authentic with each other from  the beginning and sad endings are not unexpected. Interestingly, those partners who love without control are rarely left behind. When that door is truly open, few partners go through it. They know that they are with someone who is not easy to replace.


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