Here’s the real truth about human relationships: MOST OF US HAVE BEEN PROGRAMMED TO FAIL IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS, no matter how much we want to succeed.
To make matters worse, much of what we’ve learned about relationships, from romance novels, t.v., movies, or talking with friends–is just plain wrong!
The idea that two people meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after is one of the biggest myths ever perpetrated on Western civilization.
The real truth is two people meet, fall in love, begin living together, and then do just about everything they can to diminish and destroy their love for each other.
Let’s face it. You’ve got a better chance of surviving cancer today than you do of having a successful long-term relationship. This includes marriage, living with someone, business partnerships, and many other social unions.
Most people go through life without ever understanding the key elements that make their relationships succeed or fail. Today I will share 10 of the Top Ways people help their relationships to fail.
TEN WAYS TO DESTROY ANY RELATIONSHIP THAT MATTERS TO YOU
1. BE ABUSIVE
It’s truly amazing how many people think it’s o.k. to abuse other people, especially those they care about most. Husbands and wives frequently abuse each other. Parents and children easily fall into abusive patterns. Employers abuse their employees, and visa versa. Even pet owners sometimes take out their frustrations on their pets.
I’m not just talking about extreme physical or emotional abuse. I’m also including milder forms of abuse, such as daily put-downs, sarcastic remarks, other negative comments, withholding affection, refusing to talk, threatening to leave, etc.
Many people repeatedly engage in these subtle forms of abuse. Married couples especially tend to act as if their marriage license gives them the absolute right to verbally or otherwise abuse each other.
As harmless you might think such negative interactions are, they are much more damaging to our relationships than most people appreciate.
If you want your long-term relationships to succeed, you must learn to resist these common abusive tendencies. You should resist them at all times, even if you feel justified in responding this way.
In his book What Makes Marriages Succeed And Fail (Simon & Schuster, 1994), family therapist John Gottman, Ph.D. summarizes more than twenty years of clinical research which clearly shows, among other things, that married people who repeatedly become defensive when challenged or criticized by their partner have much higher rates of unhappiness and divorce.
Being defensive is not only destructive–it shuts you off from an extremely valuable source of feedback. In order to succeed in our interpersonal relationships, we’ve got to be willing to admit when we are wrong. The only problem is we are not usually in good position to recognize when we are wrong.
Our partners, however, are usually in excellent position to recognize when we are wrong. They are also usually more than happy to point this out to us, in the hope that we will make corrections.
If you routinely shut out this valuable source of feedback, by always seeking to defend your actions or point of view, you will damage your relationships by not letting others contribute to you. You will continue to commit the same mistakes, over and over again, until the other person gets tired of this…and you as well.
The secret to dealing with criticism from others is not to reject it or act defensively. The secret is to listen intently to everything the other person is saying about you, and then try to find one or more things you can agree with! Don’t automatically try to defend yourself or prove you are right. Instead, work very hard to validate, rather than reject, at least some of what the other person is saying.
Ben Franklin said, “The sting of another’s criticism usually comes from the truth in it.” If you want to have happy, healthy, long-lasting relationships, look for these “truths” and be willing to admit them.
3. BE CRITICAL
While occasional criticism and constructive feedback is healthy in our relationships, too much of either can be very damaging. If you are constantly complaining or pointing out flaws in your partner’s behavior, this can become annoying and unattractive.
Often, people will persist in being critical of their partners because they truly believe they are just trying to help them. However, there are usually deeper, more sinister, motives at work. Many people simply want to fix, change, or control other people. They want to make them over to fit their own image or change their behavior to comply with their own standards. While this is a very common and understandable human tendency, it is another key pattern that is destructive in our relationships.
Another common mistake people make is to store up their critical judgments, instead of voicing them openly. They keep finding fault with people they are related to, yet they don’t let the other person know this directly. Then, they either “explode” with criticism over some minor event, or they turn off their affection and the relationship slowly dies.
A woman who recently consulted me for help with marital difficulties told me that her husband had suddenly announced that he wanted a divorce. Even though this couple had been married for twenty years and had raised four children together, the husband wanted out and couldn’t be persuaded to change his mind.
When she tearfully asked him why, after all these years, he suddenly felt this way, he responded by saying, “I’ve never been happy living with you. I felt trapped and miserable right from the start.” When he finally got around to telling her his feelings, too much damage had already been done.
4. BE RIGHT MOST OF THE TIME
Perhaps the single biggest mistake you can make if you want to have good relationships with others is to always try to be right in your dealings with others. Why is this so destructive? Because in order for you to be right, the other person must end up being wrong.
Most people dislike having others make them feel wrong. They will resent you for this, and even if you win the argument or get your way, you’ll pay a price later on.
It’s almost always wiser to let other people be right and have their way as much as possible. Obviously, you may not want to compromise on things that are extremely important to you, but 90% of the time, it will make very little difference, one way or the other.
Here’s a quote from Ogden Nash (reprinted from the June 1994 issue of Readers Digest, p.130) that states this point very well:
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong admit it,
Whenever you’re right, shut up!
5. BE SELFISH
In addition to being right, another good way to destroy your relationships is to always be selfish and try to get your own way. Think only about your own wants, needs, and desires. Put your concerns first and consider others’ needs much less important.
This is an excellent way to destroy any type of relationship. It is especially useful if you want to destroy your marriage.
6. BE DISHONEST
Another great way to destroy your relationships is to be dishonest. Tell little “white lies” from time to time. Pretend everything is just “fine” when you are really feeling angry or upset. Say you’re fully committed to another, when in fact you have some doubts.
Whatever the issue might be, it rarely works to be dishonest in your relationships. Even if your dishonesty is never found out, you will know about it. You will also know that it damages your relationship. When you are dishonest, you know intuitively that your relationship will be less likely to succeed. As a consequence, you won’t fully invest yourself, and this also will help it to fail.
7. BE UNFAITHFUL
Forget the vows and promises you made to each other. Go behind your partner’s back and do something you know they wouldn’t appreciate. Justify your behavior by saying “those promises were made in the past. Things are different now.”
I’m not talking only about sexual infidelity. People often engage in all sorts of major and minor transgressions, even though they aren’t conducive to healthy, enduring relationships. Unfortunately, many let their relationships deteriorate so far, they convince themselves such behavior is justified.
Make no mistake about it. Violating one of the sacred agreements of your relationship, whether or not that agreement was openly stated or just plain understood, is a sure-fire way to kill a troubled union. If your relationship wasn’t dead before you decided to commit such an unfaithful act, it probably will be.
8. BE SUPERIOR
If you want to destroy any type of relationship, be sure to think of yourself as smarter, prettier, cooler, hipper, or more worthwhile than other people. Make it your habit to put other people down in order to feel good about yourself. Always strive to win any competition, and never give anyone an even break.
This an excellent way to get other people to dislike you. It also shows that you aren’t really smart at all. In truth, no human being is more special or superior than anyone else. Sure some people develop superior skills or exceptional talents. But they are no more or less lovable, no more or less worthy, than anyone else. If you’ve somehow convinced yourself that the previous statement isn’t true, you’d better reconsider.
9. BE CONTROLLING
Keep very close tabs on your partner at all times. This way, you can prevent him or her from changing, growing, or maybe even deciding to leave you at a later date.
Always try to get other people to think and feel exactly as you do. Try to intimidate them, dominate them, and keep them from behaving in ways you don’t approve.
Make them fearful of crossing you or offending you by always responding with hostility and rage. This is an excellent way to bring romantic relationships to an end.
It’s also a very good way to end up living alone.
10. BE CERTAIN
Whatever else you do, always remain certain that whatever you think, feel, or believe–about relationships, your partner, life in general, etc.–is true. Never let doubt or contradictory evidence creep in. Never ask for guidance or support from others. And above all else, never admit any shortcomings that might make you appear weak or stupid.
Always appear to know exactly what you are doing, even when you don’t have a clue. This will insure you never learn anything new or useful. It will also guarantee that people who love you will get totally frustrated in their efforts to help you succeed and be happy.
PLEASE APPRECIATE ALL TEN STEPS
Each of us commits these ten mistakes from time to time. This is why you should familiarize yourself with all ten and regularly keep them in mind. As simple and obvious as many of these mistakes appear, we often don’t recognize them when they are controlling our behavior.
These are not the only ways you can destroy your interpersonal relationships. There are other habits which are equally destructive. If you remember these ten patterns, however, you’ll be way ahead of most other people.
NOTE: Additional destructive relationship patterns are discussed in my book “I Cheated: Affair Recovery Advice For the Unfaithful, as well as in other excellent resources listed at the end of this report.
It is important to acknowledge that all of the patterns discussed in this report have positive as well as negative aspects. For example, being right and being in control are often necessary to succeed in our jobs or professions. A doctor, for instance, must try to be right all the time. Doctors must also take control in certain situations and act in ways that reflect their superior knowledge and experience. But if a doctor takes those same patterns home and tries to use them to dominate his or her spouse or kids, serious relationship problems will usually occur.
Also, many patterns that are destructive to our relationships are actually valued and endorsed by our society! Television programs (especially soap operas), movies, advertisements, and other subtle forces encourage us to act in counterproductive ways. Your best friends and family members are also susceptible to these same societal forces, so their “helpful” advice can be questionable as well. So be prepared for lots of bad or misguided information about relationships to come your way. To succeed in your relationships, you’ll need to disregard much of this incorrect input and challenge many of the popular notions that don’t really do people very much good.
Live With Love,