“I think we are heading for a split”, he explained, with a sense of disappointment in his voice.
His tone changed, as he tried to project a bright side, as is the wont of many people who are going through difficult relationships. “I think what is happening it’s for the best. Things haven’t been working out between us for the past few years. It seems like we’re just too different.”
“For the best…Too different….” his words triggered some thoughts in my mind as our conversation progressed. I thought about the list of differences my wife and I possess.
Come to think of it, we are SO different in so many ways. A thought crossed my mind, “Could it really be possible that a couple can be “too different” to have a thriving marriage?” Somehow it didn’t sit with me well.
As a Relationship Counselor, I get to talk to people whose relationships are on life-support. But their struggles often have nothing to do with the trauma of affairs, abuse, or addictions. Yet their relationships seem to be dying a slow and painful death.
Statements like, “We’re too different” or “We’ve grown apart are phrases that sound so innocent- yet are extremely lethal in relationships.
There are so many factors that can get in the way of a good relationship, but often, they are the small, unnoticed things that make their way in. In order to make sure our relationships survive and thrive, here are some relationship killers you should be on the lookout for:
If I have to rank relationship killers, this one must rank at the top of the list of relationship stress for most couples. It has little to do with their relationship and much to do with the relationships they are surrounded with. When you are in a relationship the role dynamics change. There will be a shift in your priorities and the role of your parents, in-laws, siblings, and friends all shift when you join together as one large family unit. You choose to put your spouse above all others. Too many marriages and relationships struggle simply due to a lack of priorities. People find themselves being pulled by everyone else in every which way, except toward each other. A healthy relationship means you have learned to prioritize one another above all else.
Lack of Communication
It’s true we invest in quality conversations only a few minutes a day. It’s easy to let life get busy and stop connecting with the one you love or are in a relationship with. The moment you park it thinking that it will not change and remain the same always is when drifting happens. Take the time to connect and communicate with your significant other often.
Most people enter a relationship with a deep fear of rejection, and this fear motivates various forms of controlling behavior. Controlling behavior falls into two major categories: overt control and covert control. Overt control includes many forms of attack, such as blaming anger, rage, violence, judgment, criticism, and ridicule. Covert control includes compliance, enabling, withdrawal, defending, explaining, lying, and denying. Often a person at the other end of the attack will respond with some form of covert control in an attempt to have control over not being attacked. Controlling behavior always results in resentment and emotional distance, bringing about the very rejection that it is meant to avoid.
Many people enter a relationship with a deep fear of losing themselves. The moment they experience their partner wanting control over them, they respond with resistance- withdrawal. When one partner is controlling, and the other is resistant which is really an attempt to have control over not being controlled – the relationship becomes immobilized. Partners in this relationship system feel frustrated, stagnant, and resentful.
Many people enter a relationship believing that it is their partner’s job to fill their emptiness, take away their loneliness, and make them feel good about themselves. When people have not learned how to take responsibility for their own feelings and needs and to define their own self-worth, they may pull on their partner and others to fill them with the love they need. Your partner’s job is not to complete you, but to compliment you.
Substance and Process Addictions
Most people who feel empty inside turn to addictions. While no one plans on becoming an addict (in any realm) it can happen. This usually creates an unhealthy environment. Addictions could range from not just substance abuse but may also include social media, shopping binge, eating, and many more.
Eyes on Partners Plate
Many people are acutely aware of what their partner is doing that is causing relationship problems, but completely unaware of what they are doing. You cannot change anyone. It is not your job to fix your partner. You can only change yourself.
It’s so easy to take our stress out on our partner. We can get into the habit of holding things in until we’re in the safety and comfort of our relationship – and then we explode. The stench from pent-up anger, frustration, accumulated negative thoughts about the other is difficult to carry for long. It has to get trashed one day and that more often than not gets dumped on your partner. Healthy partners often do not allow the garbage in their relationship to accumulate and raise a stink. They share and communicate on a regular basis and trash it out on a daily basis. It keeps the environment clean and tidy.
Social media and technology
I recently heard from a friend of mine who is an attorney at the district court that a couple filed for divorce accusing each other of their obsessive social media use. So many of us carry this dangerous relationship killer right in our hands and pocket. In the world of technology crazed, smartphone carrying, Facebook, Instagram, and Tik-tok posting mania- it’s no joke that we find our time slipping away into the inanimate- instead of investing it into the intimate. Unplug, disconnect, shut down- and invest in your partner.
Clinging to the PAST
The most paralyzing thing we can do for our relationship is to define our partner by their past, rather than by who they are in the present. The past may impact our lives, but it will only control our present if we allow it to. It’s important to be real with one another about our pasts, but more importantly, to respect one another’s pasts by seeing how it is impacting our lives and that of our partner in the ‘here’ and ‘now’. Learn to deal with what is behind…so that you can move toward what is ahead.
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