The best relationships are the best not because they have always been the happiest, but because they have stayed strong through the mightiest of storms.
Over the years, through our coaching practice and premium course, Marc and I have worked with thousands of individuals and couples looking to fix their failing relationships, and we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to make this happen.
Whether you’re working to fix your marriage, a dating relationship, or a friendship, there are lots of little things you can do to keep your relationship on track. And since we’ve recently covered many of these healthy relationship strategies here and here, today I want to take a quick look at the flipside – the most common toxic behaviors that tear relationships apart.
To start, I can honestly say that Marc and I can listen to a couple talk for 30 minutes and determine, with close to 90% accuracy, whether they’re relationship will last in the long run (without major changes being made). The reason we can do this is simple: Most failing/failed relationships suffer from the same four basic behavioral issues…
- Condemnation of a person’s character – Complaints are fine. Disagreements are fine too. These are natural, focused reactions to a person’s decisions or behavior. But when complaints and disagreements snowball into global attacks on the person, and not on their decisions or behavior, this spells trouble. For example: “They didn’t call me when they said they would because they forgot, but because they’re a horrible, wretched human being.”
- Hateful gestures – Frequent name-calling, threats, eye-rolling, belittling, mockery, hostile teasing, etc… In whatever form, gestures like these are poisonous to a relationship because they convey hate. And it’s virtually impossible to resolve a relationship problem when the other person is constantly getting the message that you hate them.
- Denying responsibility – When you deny responsibility in every relationship dispute, all you’re really doing is blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, “The problem is never me, it’s always you.” This denial of responsibility just escalates the argument, because there’s a complete breakdown of communication. (Read Emotional Blackmail.)
- The silent treatment – Tuning out, ignoring, disengaging, refusing to acknowledge, etc… All variations of the silent treatment don’t just remove the other person from the argument you’re having with them, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship you have with them.
The key thing to remember is…
Differences of opinion (even major ones) don’t destroy relationships – it’s how a couple deals with their inevitable differences that counts.
Couples waste years trying to change each other’s mind, but this can’t always be done, because many of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of opinion, personality, or values. By fighting over these deep seeded differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and running their relationship into the ground.
So how do people in healthy relationships deal with issues that can’t be resolved?
They accept one another as is. These couples understand that problems are an inevitable part of any long-term relationship, in the same way chronic physical difficulties are inevitable as we grow older and wiser. These problems are like a weak knee or a bad back – we may not want these problems, but we’re able to cope with them, to avoid situations that irritate them, and to develop strategies that help us deal with them. Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next 10, 20 or 50 years.”
Bottom line: Acceptance of one another is of vital importance to every couple.
What else makes a relationship flourish in the long run?
Again, Marc and I have written a lot about this already. But I want to give you a slightly different perspective by eliminating the details and narrowing it down to four key fundamentals:
- Truly knowing each other is vital. – Healthy couples are intimately familiar with each other’s evolving stories. These couples make plenty of emotional room for their relationship, which means they sincerely listen to each other, they remember the major events each other have been through, and they keep up-to-date as the facts and feelings of their partner’s reality changes. The key thing to remember is that nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention – your full presence. Being with your partner, listening without a clock and without anticipation of the next event is the ultimate compliment. It is indeed the most valued gesture you can make to them, and it arms you with the information you need to truly know them and support them in the long run.
- Relationship issues must be worked out with each other, not others. – This may seem obvious, but these days it’s worth mentioning: NEVER post negatively about a loved one on social media. Fourteen-year-old school kids post negatively about their boyfriends, girlfriends and friends on social media. It’s a catty way to get attention and vent, when the emotionally healthy response is to talk your grievances over with them directly when the time is right. Don’t fall into the trap of getting others on your side, because healthy relationships only have one side. Furthermore, relationships don’t always make sense, especially from the outside. So don’t let outsiders run your relationship for you. If you’re having a relationship issue with your partner, work it out with THEM and no one else. (Marc and I discuss this in detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Using positive language in arguments saves lots of grief. – Relationships flourish when both people are able to share their innermost feelings and thoughts in a positive way. One effective method of doing this during an argument is to do your best to avoid using the word “you” and try to use the word “I” instead. This makes it much easier to express feelings and much harder to inadvertently attack the other person. So… Instead of saying, “You are wrong,” try saying, “I don’t understand.” Instead of telling them, “You always…” try saying “I often feel…” It’s a subtle shift that can make a dig difference.
- A mutual willingness to make sacrifices must be present. – Intimate bonds are tied with true love, and true love involves attention, awareness, discipline, effort, and being able to care about someone and sacrifice for them, continuously, in countless petty little unsexy ways, every day. You put your arms around them and love them regardless, even when they’re not very lovable. And of course they do the same for you. If you want to know what a healthy relationship is, it’s one where two people wake up every morning and say, “This is worth it. You all are worth it. I am happy you are in my life.” It’s about sacrifice. It’s about knowing that some days you will have to do things you dislike to make the one you love smile, and feeling perfectly delighted to do so.
The best relationships are not just about the good times you share, they’re also about the obstacles you go through together, and the fact that you still say “I love you” in the end. And loving someone isn’t just about saying it every day, it’s showing it every day through your actions and behaviors.
What would you add to the list? What toxic relationship behaviors and circumstances do you try to avoid? How do you cope? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the community.
Photo by: Fabio Astone
Excellent article – as usual.
This has really got me thinking about how many of those things happened in my marriage. But it wasn’t just one of us who was toxic. We both contributed to the mess and in the end allowed all the petty toxicity to take the place of communicating, leading to a divorce that I never wanted. It takes two to be in a relationship – good or bad. None of us is perfect. I’ve sure learned that I need to be aware of the toxic stuff I’m giving as well as the stuff I’m getting. Stopping toxic behaviors before they begin is hard, but vital.
I don’t always comment on your posts Marc and Angel, but I do read them all and I own your paperback book, and I’ve given it to friends and family as gifts. What you write is always such a blessing! Thank you.
Jeff Ray says
This is a great reference for anybody in a relationship or for anybody who wants to be in a good one. A couple I know is divorcing because their relationships fits all four of these behaviors for sure. It’s so sad and an example to be aware of these things early on. I’ve been married for 27 years but it’s because of constantly working at having a strong relationship. It’s worth the effort! I think it would be a terrific exercise to sit down with my wife with this article and say, “Let’s talk about these things. Let’s be aware of them.” Thank you guys!
Sandra Pawula says
I find these 4 toxic behaviors bone-chilling. I’m so glad you shared the positives too. I hope that everyone can be free from such distress and despair.
Mary Ann says
I just want to say that if you run from a toxic relationship without first taking an honest look at your own contributions to it and “fixing” yourself, then you will never have the opportunity to grow that relationship into the beautiful place it could be. It took years for me to come out from under a cloud of confusion with my husband. I had never been in a relationship where emotional blackmail and passive-aggressive behavior were being displayed, nor could I identify them, I just fought back. What ensued was years of finger pointing and the unhappiness culminated into an affair, complicated by manipulation from that person to end our marriage. I’m happy to say that by prioritizing my marriage and my own personal growth, that affair is over and we are falling in love all over again. I lead the way but because I love my husband and showed him that wisdom comes from making mistakes and honesty is the basis for any relationship, he realized too that living a lie is not living and that he too found happiness in not living in the past.
I’ve learned so much about life and about myself by reading Marc and Angel’s blog/emails/book and others with marital advice. If you aren’t proud of your own behavior then stop worrying about what your partner is doing wrong and work on improving yourself first.
Rose Costas says
We all have issues but as individuals we also have to learn how to talk to each other instead of at each other. Relationships are requires us to work at keeping our love strong. We often believe that we can work hard on the job and yet our relationships are left to run on auto pilot. Unfortunately, we will get into trouble if we do. Thanks again for another wonderful and insightful post.
Angelo Limon says
I find that being able to:
*set boundaries *respect *listening more than you talk *trying to understand than seek to be understood. *not always trying to prove to other person wrong works miracles in my relationship.
I am in a relationship for about 15 years already – and that was my first ever girlfriend! – what a love story 🙂
All true if there is a problem in ones relationship. Use this post as a guideline. There is always ups and downs but it is being loyal and going through it all together. And yes, you do come through much stronger. Learn from ones own mistakes rather than pointing the finger. I like the suggestion of using I rather than you. 🙂
Hayley gray says
I’ve been with my boyfriend for a little over 5 years and to make this story short, we’ve been through a lot of things that most couples go through.. From cheating, lying, shadiness, hateful arguments, silence for hours on end while both being in one room, etc you probably get it. It’s been very hard for me to accept the past and allow myself and mind to move forward, more harder for me than my boyfriend, and I think what is so hard for me to overcome is that now when I look back and that question of why was I cheated on, it always resurfaces in my mind. Mainly because that specific girl had popped up more than once during our relationship.. Whether it was through social media, text messages, lying about who a certain name was in my boyfriends contacts.. You get it I’m sure.. I just can’t find the answer to help myself move forward. We are still together and I think what’s held us together for so long after this is because we love each other so much.. But the four things you named, are all four things that exist in my relationship. Mainly because of me. I need help in closing this chapter of thoughts.
Thank you for the beautiful work you do. Your articles have seen me through worse times in my life and now they are ushering me into a new phase, new outlook and the reality I am creating everyday. To present yourself to someone and be treated as a present is one of the most beautiful ways to spend a lifetime. Truly, being present is one of the expressions of love.
Of all the things that I learned in ending my first marriage, it was the realization that I had to stop playing games, and to be kind. Just be kind. When I met my second husband, I vowed never to play games with him, and while at times I’ve caught myself, I am succeeding.
If you ask what playing games looks like, it’s the threatening then backing off, it’s the angry silence where the other person has NO idea why, it’s the lying, including the little white lies that gradually broke down the respect I had for my spouse and for myself. I KNEW I was being manipulative, childish, mean, and most of all, disrespectful, and yet I kept doing it, because I had such resentment.
In this marriage now, I embrace all of my husband’s flaws, I am kind, and if it’s difficult to be kind, I look at him and know that I love him, and say so. I do not let resentment build up. I’m vulnerable, honest, and most of all truthful in what I say to him, because I have learned I can trust him to be vulnerable too. Most of all, I am respectful and kind. That’s what love is-he’s shown me that, and has given me the space to find out.
I don’t play games anymore.
@Hayley Gray –
Please forgive me if I make assumptions that are incorrect. I read your comment and it resonated with me. I had to respond.
I just married my boyfriend of 3 years. I wanted to comment to you that we have absolutely NONE of the behaviors you described. “a lot of things that most couples go through.. From cheating, lying, shadiness, hateful arguments, silence for hours on end while both being in one room, etc you probably get it. ” Umm, no, I don’t get it. Nor would I tolerate it.
Let me clarify… I was previously married (16 yrs) to a man who, while he did not cheat, was passive aggressive and would use the silent treatment to punish me for behaving in ways he did not approve. After a lot of toxic and abusive behaviors on both sides, I left and was never happier. While it was hard and very scary, it was the best thing I ever did. Then I spent 10 years single, dating, but not looking for a serious relationship as I was focused on raising my daughters. I did a lot of introspection, self-analysis, and reflection on my contributions to the negative patterns in that marriage. (During that time is when I found Marc and Angel’s blog!)
Then I started dating my (new) husband and what a difference, like night and day, the contrast in behavior between someone who has no respect for you and someone who respects and values your presence in their life. I can honestly say, he is my best friend. He is the person I can be completely real with, from my reactions to my physical appearance. He loves me for my heart and my mind and lets me know it. He isn’t perfect and we have had issues arise that needed to be patiently worked through, we have a combined total of 9 kids, 3 of whom are still at home. That is a huge amount of stress but they know we are a team and that we tell each other everything.
The difference? Respect. I respect him. I don’t agree with him always. He respects me. He definitely does not agree with me always. But lying? No. Cheating? No. Hateful arguments? Absolutely not. We work at not repeating the behaviors we engaged in within our past relationships. And it is work as I am 45 and he is 49. It is EASY to find ourselves falling back into old behavior patterns.
All of that to say – as I tell my daughters – you have the right and the responsibility to expect and demand to be treated with respect. If your boyfriend does not respect you and you do not respect him, it may be time to examine whether or not his and your behaviors are worthy of respect. If not, why? And further, don’t you deserve not just GOOD but GREAT in your primary relationship? Please do not sell yourself short.
I wish you the best – my heart goes out to you because I understand the pain you have expressed. Please look for professional help if at all possible. YOU DESERVE MORE.
It’s cheating that ruins marriages. It’s cheating that ruins everything between a husband and wife.
The thing is I couldn’t talk about these with my husband because he’s the kind who’d get defensive. He doesn’t want to listen nor does he want to find ways for us to deal with our issues.
I’m so frustrated that it makes me get angry too easily and dwell in loss and loneliness. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the brink of giving up and leaving him.
Sounds like your husband is a love avoidant- look it up
Yes, agreed..all of the above are typical problems. But, as the saying goes “you don’t just marry the man/women, but the entire family. THERE, lies a lot of problems. Pressures from the family, friends and associates together with the partners EGO and ideas about pleasing all ends..the marriage strains to levels that have nothing to do with the marriage alone. After alls said and done, years and years later you find out that the most important part of your marriage lacked attention and that was the married couple itself. People interfering with marriages cause a great deal of strain on the stability of a couple. My advise to children would be..DO NOT rush into marriage..it is a the biggest step you take in life. Enjoy life, live life, allow yourself to grow as an individual before taking the sacred step of marriage. When you decide to step into this level off life, understand the changes and priorities required off them. Let it be about the two of you before letting it be about anyone else. Marriage is beautiful and sacred..damned are the ones that choose to interfere.
Hayley gray says
Thanks for your response.. It’s really difficult to explain especially through a social site and not something more personal, but I don’t mind.. I like a response from a complete stranger because oddly as it seems, I feel like I can open up better to a stranger than someone who knows me on a more personal level. I’m only 22 and we’ve been together since 16, he’s 23. If I can make this kinda short (hope they post this comment because it helps to read from others) he cheated within 3 months with an old ex that meant a lot to him at the time, and we split up took some time apart, then got back together. Through out the following year, I found txt msgs from our online carrier between the two, txts that I read saying inappropriate things. Then I figured we got over this whole thing.. Couple years go by, she finds her way back in on social sites and it was all a big shady mess and as I’ve gotten older and have more knowledge I look at the past and realize and wonder wow, she’s always kinda popped in and out whether 3 months or 2 years has past she has figured a way to get ahold of him.. We love each other a lot he is my best friend and he accepts all of my flaws and I’m completely comfortable with him as he is with me, there’s a lot of good but also a lot that I can’t seem to accept from the past.. It doesn’t matter if it were 3 years ago or 5 months, it still happened to me and I can’t find a way to move forward if that makes sense..
Jay jay says
I have to say that I see the four things, in my marriage of 2 years. We have had a baby that is 1 year old. She yells all the time, and slowly it breaks me down. To where I start ignoring, and use the rude eye gestures and so on.
I have asked her if she would like to seek outside help, but she doesn’t want to. There are some wounds that need to be healed, by forgiveness. I keep trying to keep my cool and letting her blow off the steam. It has a deep impact on the little ones.
I like agree to disagree! What to do? I made the commitment, I just have to keep on praying for this to pass.
Naomi D. Tate says
Absolute reality check!
I think everyone can relate to these toxic behaviors.
I also, think that in every undesirable situation as a couple, that both parties are responsible. There is hardly ever a situation where only one party is outright wrong… those type of people don’t read these kinds of blogs anyway.
In attempting to leap forward in my goals, I admit that at times my relationship suffers. Only because I don’t balance it. I am so thankful the Universe saw fit to grant me a Husband who is willing to work on it just as much, if not more, than I am.
I am going to go over them with him tonight. Very insightful. Downright exciting.
@Jay jay: Since I don’t know your situation, I can only offer advice from my life experience. Does she get a break from the kids? If she works outside of the home that doesn’t count as a break; if she is home with the kids, then she really doesn’t get a break. Anyway, it is important for her to get away from the stress of raising little kids. It is also really important for the two of you to go out and talk to each other. Try to remember what you fell in love with about each other. Do simple things for each other that will show your love. It is very hard, and it takes a lot of selflessness and maturity to get through the tough times. Good luck!
Sooo on the money…communication. My BF walked out on me 2 years ago because i would not give him the keys to my car for him to use as his own instead of his. It hit me like lightning – i was stunned, standing there preparing our dinner. Obviously i wasn’t getting some message from him that I should have. Still today i wonder what was really going on- the night before he told me we’ll be together for a long, long time. Yeah, he’s still “with” me, cause I’m still baffled and miss him.
Angel Chernoff says
For those who emailed us and asked for additional reading material on the topic of maintaining a healthy marriage, I highly recommend The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. Many of the core principles we help our coaching clients (couples) implement come from Gottman’s research.
And of course, thank you for sharing a small piece of your story with us, and with each other. (It’s also so nice to see our readers reaching out and assisting each other.)
Jay jay says
Thank you so much for your time Lisa. I will use some of your advice. Sometimes it is nice to hear from someone that is looking from the outside in. Blessings.
I’ve been ready a lot of your articles and have to say they hit home like a sledge hammer! I am currently in counseling with my wife and it is not working. I really wish we could sit down and read these together and learn from them. But I do believe that our marriage has reached its limits. So for anyone who still has hope in a troubled relationship, read, learn and listen. And most of all remember why you fell in love and get it back.
Awesome site you guys! Keep at it! I’ll be following you from now on 🙂
My husband have been together for 17yrs now.
We have been through everything that a marriage can be through from,
-a baby at 18 (well I was 18, he was 21)
-deaths of our fathers and many other loved ones
-we have gotten physical
– You name it we have been there
All of these things have gone on with both of us contributing but we also contributed to working on our marriage and the way to do that is with first:
-wanting it to work
-communicating openly and honestly with one another
-remembering why we fell in love to begin with
-and asking ourselves why we are treating each other like crap when we are so in love with one another.
Once we realized that neither of us wanted to be anywhere else we made a conscious choice to make each other happy, and to put each other first above all else.
It doesn’t matter what your relationship has been through,
If you both want it to work and are willing to do what it takes to make it work…then it will work.
I see numbers 3 and 4 in my relationship of over 26 years. I tell my partner what is bothering me, and they respond with ” I am always doing…..” I feel that is not discussing, but reflecting the blame back on me, as if I am just a whiner. I do get silent…. because I have no idea what to do next, and I feel like I failed again. How to break this cycle? I have no idea.
@janet Same thing is said from my partner. “I go to work i come home and cook and love you and.” But it’s not solving our real issues…. Still trying to figure this one out myself.
@ Hayley gray…Your story resonated with me too. I wasted almost 10 years of my life thinking that these things (cheating, lying, angry childish behaviour) were all my fault and were a ‘normal’ part of healthy relationships ‘because we loved one another’. So wrong! Get out now. Make the decision to accept nothing but the best in life and you will attract it….but not from him. He needs to go away and grow up.
Wow thank you so much for your reply and understanding! I am just now finding your comment and reading it but i feel it within me so much.. I feel i’ve been unhappy since 1 year ago when we got back from California. I feel that the person i am and who i wanted to be and seen myself being at 16 (now 23) isn’t who i am now. I feel so stuck and unsure of what to do. Afraid of who’d he’d talk to or date after me but within the relationship i do feel so unhappy. I feel like i could be so much more of the person i am but it’s hard to do so when i feel trapped. Things and places i want to see i want him there with me but we’ve tried moving to California twice and both times he wanted to come back. Our priorities aren’t in the same book. Things i like, he doesn’t and things he talks about, i can’t find interest in listening to it.. Very difficult for me right now i feel so bottled not having anybody to speak to but on here and my mother. My mother has told me exactly what you’ve said, so thank you for that.
I can say from my own experience that my toxic behavior is.. going my own way, doing things for and by myself. I know it’s like protecting me from getting hurt. However, I can’t stop doing it… Closing off I call it… it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life and it’s very hard to change it.. I want to, but I just can’t stop it..
Anne Gonzales says
This is really true about toxic relationships! I am sure people will benefit if they follow the pointers!
pearl jyoti says
This article is powerful. My relationship suffers the four problems you’ve discussed, but it was usually not like that…..i will try an apply your advice because i still love my him.
thank you for this article. It’s made me think differently about my situation. I’m the breadwinner of our family and my husband has shown over the years that he’s a much bigger spender than his income allows. He has also gone for long periods unemployed. So I’ve been doing#1 on the toxic behaviors…attacking his character and trying to change him. What I should do is set boundaries…. But I guess this would mean a separate bank account?? I’m resentful that he just seems oblivious to this over the years. Only in the past year or so have I let him know that I feel taken advantage of. We’ve been married 21 years. How do I decide whether this is a character trait that is intolerable or if I just need to set boundaries??
I know others in similar situations. Honestly, it sounds like a character issue. This is something that probably has nothing to do with you, unfortunately. Also, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that someone else is earning the money he is freely spending.
It might be beneficial to look at other areas of your life and the past patterns in your relationship. Is he a taker “across the board?” Is he responsible? Are you picking up the slack? If so, Have you always had to pick up the slack?
It could be that he merely likes nice things. It could be that he is immature & selfish (character issue after 21 years). He could be a taker, also a character issue.
This may be irrelevant or totally mind enlightening….you may want to read up on sociopaths, sociopath behaviors,. Dr. Phil’s website may even have some useful info.
I wish you the best. If you do realize this man has been using you all this time, I hope you won’t waste another day. You deserve better…someone who gives as much or more in return.
It is impossible to work on a relationship by yourself. Both parties must see the need & care enough to work at it on a daily basis.
This requires humility & character to recognize your own flaws and the importance of changing. One would think that everyone possess these attributes. Unfortunately, they don’t.
Katja, I do the same thing and I also know it’s toxic. I just don’t feel safe being open to my husband, so I’ve closed off. The thing is, he isn’t physically abusive or anything that terrible, he has just made promises or we have made compromises where I have kept up my end of the compromise but he doesn’t keep his. I feel like nothing he says has meaning anymore, which isn’t fair, I know. Also, he undermines things that I want to do with my life; he says that it has happened unintentionally. I have moved 4 times in the past 5 years for his career and have given up jobs, homes, friends, having a family, etc. I feel like a fool, and like if I leave now, I will never get anything back for what I have sacrificed (a terrible way to view a marriage!). I hate myself for “closing off” and doing other toxic behaviors, but I have so much anger (towards him and myself) I can’t seem to get the loving feelings back. If anyone has advice, I would love to hear it. We went to a counselor and her advice was “isn’t it enough that he wanted to do things for me, even if he didn’t follow through” (?)
I’ve been with my boyfriend almost 6 years and i believe what’s held us together is how deep our love is for one another. I think I’ve endured in this relationship what most other couples have or will endure at some point and our love is what’s kept us together, for such a long time. My problem is we’re both 23-24 and i am constantly picking up dishes after him, doing the dishes, putting his clothes away or hanging his shirts back up, having to go behind him like a shadow and turn the lights off. Repeat to him to turn the light off when he’s done using it, or when he’s doing laundry to check his pockets of his jeans. I feel like i am a mother following her 12 year old child to clean up their mess, put their dishes in the sink, put your clothes away instead of wadding them up in the top of the closet. I have to ask him to do things but it’s only after i ask him to that he does it. If i leave his cup sitting there until he decides to take it to the sink it’ll sit there for a few days.
The best thing about him is he loves me unconditionally, he always has and he’s selfless and generous and polite. But other than those great qualities are the bad qualities that aggravate me to no end. I am not his mother, i have no children, why am i having to ask him to clean up after himself at 24 years old? I feel like i’m bottled up and if i could scream i would. We don’t have the best communication and when we have got in arguments they turn into the whole one argument to tearing each other down for the things we’ve both done in our past. Nothing ever gets resolved. He works and that’s about it. I will work 10 hour days and have to come home and sweep or do the dishes… I feel like he believes all he has to do is work and nothing else at home. If i try to talk about things it turns negative and i get told how he does help me and he loves me. But is it enough? We’re about to get our own house and i am not wanting to move in it repeating the same issues we have now. It’s not so hard to pick up after yourself, be clean and keep your areas clean! I almost always do our laundry. And put them away too. I take the trash out unless he sees me tying the bag up then he says “Here i’ll take it” If it’s full why can’t you just common sense ,and take it out?! I don’t understand why i have to start tying the garbage bag, or get the sponge for dishes, for him to then tell me “Here I’ll do it.”
I feel so bottled up with anger and aggravation most of the time. We have good similarities and we know each other so well because we’ve been dating for 6 years but i don’t know how much more i can put up with. Somebody throw some advice my way, please.
I hope this isn’t too late. First – don’t yell and get angry. Secondly, you have power to make this situation different. The key? Communication! This is the person you are going to hopefully live with for the next 80 years. So, you need to start and practice communicating with him.
Marc & Angel posted somewhere three questions to ask when negativity enters your mind. 1) Is it true?, 2) Is it kind?, 2) Is it helpful?. When things start to bother you I suggest you pull out a piece of paper and write your thoughts out. Be honest, but don’t criticize or be hurtful towards the other person. Also acknowledge your own feelings. For instance – “When I ask you to turn off the lights and you don’t, it makes me feel like you don’t respect or care about my concerns.” Ok, now you have it down on a piece of paper. Put that piece of paper away somewhere safe and pull it out in 24 hours. Make sure that you are not frustrated or emotional when you reread what you wrote. If you can objectively look at what you wrote and it still applies, then you need to address the situation with your significant other.
Ok – this is the more difficult part of conflict resolution. Now, if you are like me, I NEVER learned about conflict resolution growing up. It’s one of the most important things we need to know about as a child but rarely is it taught to us. In fact, until I was 43 years old, I had never seen those two words be part of a sentence let alone be next to each other in a sentence.
But here’s the great thing about it. You CAN learn about it and the more you learn about it and apply it, the easier it gets. Instead of banging your head against the wall (which is totally unproductive, and can be painful) you can learn to be mindful to resolve issues. And the best part is that if you learn it now and apply it to the smaller issues (turning off the lights, picking up after him, etc) later when the bigger issues arise – you have a powerful tool to address them. Additionally, you have established a platform for discussing relationship issues. All because of communication! Communication builds trust, it builds a unique bond with just the two of you, and builds a foundation that nothing can tear down. It takes work, sometimes it’s hard and necessary, but the fruits of your labor will be sweet.
So, how to communicate? First, you can’t be emotionally charged. When you are emotionally charged you’ll say something to offend him and make the situation worse. Also he can sense that your emotions are charged and will get defensive or just tune your concerns out as “you are just complaining and nagging again”. And there can’t be any agendas, name calling, belittling, blackmailing, passive-aggressive behavior and in general negativity. And here are some additional tricks, go on a walk when you address this issue. I’ve read time after time, removing yourself from your natural environment and not facing the other person directly allows for a safer and more productive platform for the discussion. It’s not threatening and doesn’t feel like an interrogation.
One more detail you need to have figured out. Why? Why does it matter to you the issue at hand? It’s funny, this morning I was walking and thinking about the same thing you are talking about. I like a clean home. I make my bed every morning. I clean the dishes right after each use. When I get home from work, I hang up my dress pants, shirt and put my dirties in a hamper and not the floor. So I asked myself this morning why I do this. It stems from how I grew up. But more importantly I keep doing it that way because I want my home to be my Zen place. It’s the place I can go to feel good, safe and happy. So when I walk in the door it’s not a challenge to get that feeling by having to pick up the other persons affects, clean up after the other person, and feel like I am taking care of an adult child. It also makes me want to come home. Have you ever not wanted to go home because you knew you have to clean, do laundry, do the dishes, etc etc???? Listen, I can’t and don’t want to control how others live out in the world. So by having my place be warm and inviting it brings happiness to my life. Now I don’t have to have everything in it’s place – but having things clean and uncluttered allows me to find peacefulness.
So, when you have your discussion you also need to help the your boyfriend understand why it is that you need the lights turned off, the dishes put away, clothes in the hamper, the bed made, etc etc.
And this is not to be an all inclusive list. And like Marc & Angel always say – if you are struggling with any of these issues – reach out to them. A life coach is a powerful tool to have to help guide you through life.
Best of luck and I believe by being mindful that you Hayley can make a difference!
This has been a very helpful read for me. Thank you.
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you, everyone, for the positive feedback on this post.