1. Using complaints and disagreements as an opportunity to condemn each other.
Complaints are OK. Disagreements are OK too. These are natural, honest reactions to a person’s decisions or behavior. But when complaints and disagreements spiral out of control 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 were busy and forgot, but because they are a horrible, wretched, evil person.” Remember, there’s a big difference between who someone IS and what they sometimes DO.
2. Using hateful gestures as a substitute for honest communication.
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 receiving the message that you hate them. Also, keep in mind that if someone you love makes a mistake and you choose to forgive them, your actions must reinforce your words. In other words, let bygones be bygones. Don’t use their past wrongdoings to justify your present righteousness. When you constantly use someone’s past wrongdoings to make yourself seem “better” than them (“I’m better than you because, unlike you, I didn’t do XYZ in the past.”), it’s a lose-lose situation. When communication between two people isn’t open and honest, there’s a lot of important stuff that never gets said.
3. Denying responsibility for your role in the relationship.
When you deny responsibility in every relationship dispute, all you’re really doing is blaming the other person. You’re saying, in effect, “The problem here is never me, and it’s always you.” This denial of accountability just escalates every argument, because there’s a complete and utter breakdown of communication. The key thing to understand is that you have a choice. Either you’re choosing to be in a relationship with another person, or you aren’t. If you’re choosing to be in, then you are responsible for it. Denying this means you’re giving up all your power to the other person – you’re their victim, regardless of circumstances (positive or negative), because you’ve given them 100% of the responsibility for the relationship you have with them. So remember, even when the behavior driving a relationship dispute belongs to the other person, the only way to find common ground, or simply create more healthy space for yourself, is to first own the fact that you are 50% responsible the relationship at all times. Once you do, you have the power to make progress one way or the other.
4. 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. When you’re ignoring someone, you’re really teaching them to live without you. If that’s what you want, be clear about it. And if not, drop it!
5. Using emotional blackmail.
Emotional blackmail happens when you apply an emotional penalty against someone if they don’t do exactly what you want them to do. The key condition here is that they change they’re behavior, against their will as a result of the emotional blackmail. In other words, absent the emotional blackmail they would live differently, but they fear the penalty and so they give in. This is an extremely unhealthy relationship behavior. The solution, again, relies heavily on better communication. There should NOT be a penalty, just an honest conversation. It’s vital for both parties in a relationship to know that negative thoughts and feelings can be communicated safely to one another without there being penalties and harsh repercussions. Otherwise both parties will suppress their true thoughts and feelings, which ultimately leads to a relationship filled with distrust and manipulation.
6. Withholding the truth.
Trust is the bedrock of a healthy relationship, and when trust is broken it takes a long time and commitment on the part of both parties involved to repair it and heal. The key thing to remember here is that secrets can be just as deceitful as openly telling a lie. All too often, I’ll hear a coaching/course student say something like, “I didn’t tell him but I didn’t lie about it, either.” This statement is a contradiction, as omissions are lies. If you’re covering up your tracks or withholding the truth in any way, it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out and trust in the relationship completely breaks down. So speak the truth, always. Being honest is the only way to be at peace with yourself and those you care about.