Navigating relationships gracefully is a skill that doesn’t seem to come naturally to most, but you know there is a reason they say practice makes perfect, and I do believe that over time, we can learn to discipline our emotions– especially if we can figure out the why. Over the years, while helping people unravel their marriages, I’ve identified some common behaviors that have a great tendency to set people off, and if you want things to last, then here’s what you should avoid:
1. Not listening. We all want to be heard and feel like our partners understand us, and if this is not happening it is an incredibly valid source of frustration.
2. Needs not being met. If you are specific with someone about what you need, i.e. 2 date nights a month without kids, and your request is ignored, resentment is seriously going to kick in fast.
3. Repeat Offenders. When you call someone out on something for the first time, it’s only fair to cut them some slack if they had no idea that behavior would piss you off, but if the person continues to repeat the behavior I see no point in giving that person further passes.
4. Broken promises. We all want to know that we can count on someone to do what they say they are going to do; that is precisely how you build trust. If someone isn’t true to his/her word, what is the point in subjecting yourself to ongoing disappointment?
5. Going radio silent. Many of us may need to disconnect when we are upset so that we can think things through carefully, but I wouldn’t recommend going MIA for more than 24 hours. When you are calm and can rationally explain your sentiments, you should clue someone into the reasons why you are so upset. To shut someone out completely without explanation beyond 48 hours is just plain cruel.
6. Not enough quality time. To feel special and loved, you need to spend quality time with your partner, and when that person is continually unavailable, it is inevitable that you will feel abandoned and taken for granted.
7. Name calling. Hopefully by college most people have outgrown this bad habit– how is it helpful to call someone a nasty name or tell them that they are “wrong” for feeling a certain way? The point of language is to communicate our ideas so that we can peacefully co-exist, especially with our loved ones. Treating someone with disrespect is the surest way to alienate someone and/or make them hate you.
8. Being Plan B. No one wants to be the fall-back guy or gal. We all want to be with someone that treats us like we are a priority– this is normal; treating people you supposedly care about like your back-up plan is not.
9. Wobbly stools. What do I mean by this? Well, imagine a person as a 3 legged stool– and when work and home life sucks, s/he keeps leaning on the one stable leg remaining– his/her significant other. Now, on a temporary basis, this may be okay, but you cannot continually act as someone’s emotional crutch. We all fall on hard times, and it is great to be able to lean on the one you love, but not all the time– that is just too unstable, plus being super needy simply isn’t sexy.
10. Possessiveness. This one is a biggie. I know it is human nature to want to hold on tight to something you consider so precious, but people are not acquired objects. We all need to enjoy our freedom, and we are all part of a greater community– no one is here to be someone’s one and only. If someone really loves you and values the relationship, then s/he will come back freely and voluntarily– and if they don’t, just accept that it wasn’t meant to be. Honestly, there should be no need to track someone’s every move if you trust that person, and if you don’t well then what does that tell you?
These are some very common triggers that set people off, and rather than just bury your head in the sand, I would encourage you to try and address these issues with your partner if you want to try and make it last. Couples that are pro-active about addressing threats to the relationship stand a far better chance than passive couples at weathering storms. Now if the storms just keep coming, then things may well be beyond repair, but at least now you may have a better understanding of why things spiraled out of control. It happens, even to the best of us.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.