WHEN IS IT TIME TO SAY “THIS RELATIONSHIP IS OVER”?
Frequently people come into my office unsure about whether their relationship is worth saving or if it is beyond repair. As couples tell me the story of their relationship I hear them describe the ways they each feel hurt, lonely, and discouraged. Sometimes couples come in soon after they recognize they need support in communicating with each other in better ways. They haven’t had much conflict and they feel terrible about the things they recently said to each other in the heat of the moment.
More often, however, couples have been coping with their painful dynamics for years, and their level of discouragement is high, and their hope is low. They have ingrained patterns of fighting – yelling, screaming, name-calling, and/or silence. The Four Horsemen are running rampant. They feel embarrassed and worried about how all of the fighting is affecting their kids. Maybe there has been an emotional or sexual affair. Maybe one or both partners struggle with addiction – gambling, pornography, drugs, and/or alcohol.
I often ask clients “Why do you stay in this relationship?” Or “What is your commitment to working on this relationship?”. These are some of the answers I hear regularly:
THE DEATH OF LOVE ISN’T NATURAL: THE 7 STEPS TO SEPARATION
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, or tarnishings, but never a natural death.” – Anais Nin
Marriages rarely end overnight. They tend to unravel over time, in ways that are now fairly predictable thanks to research by Dr. John Gottman. In 1986 Dr. Gottman and his colleagues built a Love Lab to learn the secrets of lasting love and understand why love dies.
By studying couples for over 40 years, Dr. Gottman could predict with a 90% accuracy which marriage would fail, and which would succeed. These are the factors he found most often contribute to the dissolution of a marriage:
5 reasons that arrogant people (regrettably) often succeed
Raise your hand if you like arrogant people?! … Just as I figured – no hands! Hey, I’m with you!
I work with a lot of people and, over the years, I have come to truly believe that there is at least a splash of good in each and every person. And that we all have a ticket on the same ride. I try to be forgiving and I try to respect others as best I can.
This said, if there is one quality in others that gets my goat, it is arrogance. In an article summarizing a provocative set of studies, Johnson, Silverman, Shyamsunder, Swee, Rodopman, Cho, and Bauer (2010, p. 405) define arrogance as “stable belief of superiority and exaggerated self-importance that are manifested with excessive and presumptuous claims.” Sounds about right. We all know one. He or she might belittle you without warning in any context. This person almost definitely talks behind your back. And you go out of your way to avoid having to have interactions with this person as you fear that such interactions may leave you feeling bad for any number of reasons.
Life experiences, family dynamics, and the influence of society generate many ideas of what a marriage should look like, especially when it comes to wedding planning and handling conflict. What people often forget is that the wedding itself is a symbol of something much greater: a marriage.
Young couples are often thrown off when conflict arises during the wedding-planning process. Isn’t this supposed to be the “honeymoon” phase of the relationship? It certainly can be. But sometimes, people choose to completely deny and avoid any premarital conflict in order to “keep the peace” and convince themselves that they have found the “perfect” partner.
The reality is that tension and stress (hello, wedding planning) will often become the fertile ground for conflict and your differences to emerge. It’s essential to have a grasp on what some of the damaging myths are that our world continues to hold about conflict, and what that means for your relationship.
We have a bad habit of focusing on people’s superficial, negative qualities. Happiness and fulfillment can be gained by giving weight to what should ultimately guide our behavior: people’s profound, positive qualities. Appreciating these aspects of individuals fosters meaningful and mutually beneficial experiences.
Bias has been getting a lot of attention lately due to a growing understanding of the influences it has on our actions and attitudes outside of our awareness (Banaji & Greenwald, 2013). A phenomenon called negativity bias makes us far more sensitive to negative things than to positive ones. If two disparate events are of equivalent strength, the event that is negative will elicit much greater psychological activity and will impact behavior more (Baumeister, et al., 2001). Evolutionarily, this makes sense as it protects us from harm, but if our default is to dwell on the negative and to ignore the positive, then how can we hope to be happy, optimistic people?
10 “NOTES TO SELF” THAT WILL STOP YOU FROM TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY
Let’s start off with a simple question:
Why do we always take things so personally?
There are admittedly quite a few viable and valid answers to consider. But, the one Angel and I have found to be most common through a decade of one-on-one coaching with our course students and live event attendees is the tendency we all have of putting ourselves at the center, and seeing everything—every event, conversation, circumstance, etc.—from the viewpoint of how it relates to us on a personal level. And this can have all kinds of adverse effects, from feeling hurt when other people are rude, to feeling sorry for ourselves when things don’t go exactly as planned, to doubting ourselves when we aren’t perfect.
IN RELATIONSHIPS, NOT ARGUING MEANS YOU’RE NOT COMMUNICATING
Lisa Brookes Kift
Researchers are doing a great job raising awareness about harmful things couples say and do in a relationship. For example, we now know from the work of Dr. John Gottman that there are four communication patterns which predict whether a couple will stay together or break up: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
We know high conflict couples are on a one-way trip to divorce if they don’t learn how to better communicate, take responsibility, and work towards shifting their adversarial paradigm to a more collaborative one.