Silence is a Relationship Killer

silent

Silence is a Relationship Killer

Sometimes when something is wrong in a relationship one or both people will practice bouts of prolonged silence. This isn’t a moment of reflection or a collecting of thoughts. This is a wall put up. It speaks to an absence of emotional and verbal intimacy. The truth is, prolonged silences propagated by a strong emotion is a relationship killer. It speaks to an intense feeling just below the surface. Bottling feelings up inside does not relieve them. They tend to build like steam building inside a furnace. Sooner or later it’s going to explode. And the results will be ugly.

It’s better to communicate directly. Take some time to sort out your thoughts. Ask your partner for a particular time when you are calmer to discuss the issue. Talking about the issue with your partner will actually make you feel better, not cause you to act out. Another problem with silence is that it is a form of control or coercion. We usually think about loud, yelling people as controlling and coercive. But silence does the job just as thoroughly. It can even be seen as a form of bullying. Even though they aren’t being physically hurt you are controlling them through your silence. Instead of talking to them, explaining to them and persuading them of your point of view, in a respectful manner, you are asking for obedience and apologies merely by clamming up.

Sometimes silence is used for a particular offense. The aggrieved party then plays a film out in their head with them as the lead role and their lover doing and saying everything they want to make it right. They wait for their beloved to say and do these very things. And when the lover has no idea what they want, they get very agitated. This isn’t fair. No one is a mind reader. And if you respect the person you are going out with, you need to open up and talk about what is troubling you. At other times silence can be a punishment. But the problem is that instead of making the relationship stronger it actually starts to tear it down. There is no avenue of communication. Anger, sadness and depression can set in in one or both parties.

The relationship can’t move forward until the silence is broken, either by one party opening up or the other apologizing, or kowtowing and promising to make it up. The first situation is desirable as it will get the problem solved, though it may have hurt the relationship, showing one person that the other is very high maintenance and doesn’t have good communication skills. In the second one, one party is dominating the other. Sooner or later the dominated party will feel that they are being abused and seek greener pastures. Neither speaks well to the relationship. So speak up. Communicate. And if you are with someone that uses silence against you, evaluate if you want to stay with them at all. For more advice read, Why Can’t You Read My Mind?-Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns that Get In the Way of a Loving Relationship by Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D. and Susan Magee.

4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

trouble

4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

Most of the time people enter relationships with a feeling that everything has excellent potential.  They’re not anticipating an end to their love.  The truth is, that’s often the case.  Relationships do end.  Often, warning signs are missed, but they do exist.  John Gottman, Ph.D., is a leading psychologist in the area of marriage and relationships.  He has four warning signs and adjustments that can be made:

  1. Criticism - It’s not the same as complaining, when you’re attacking one particular problem or the behavior of your partner.  You’re actually attacking their character.  A criticism might include, “You are such a slob”.  A complaint, on the other hand, would sound more like, “I’m tired of picking up after you”.   You can’t say anything constructive when a person is criticizing, or, it would be more difficult.  If someone complains, it’s easier to address the concern.  To fix this, make it a point to complain and not criticize.  And, if your partner is guilty of the latter, have a discussion about it and see if they’ll commit to not criticizing.
  2. Contempt - This is really criticism, magnified.  When you’re attacking your partner as a person, it’s demeaning and insulting.  You’re looking down on them, possibly calling them names, mocking them and being sarcastic.  To fix this, increase your tolerance.  Learn to communicate with your partner and appreciate each other.  Couples therapy is often necessary for relationships involving contempt.
  3. Defensiveness - This is when you’re attacked and then attack in defense.  This typically involves playing the victim, ignoring your partner, making excuses and disagreeing.  To fix this, listen to the complaint and try to empathize.  Then, take responsibility, or some of it.  After truly listening and showing compassion, tell your side of the story.
  4. Stonewalling - Checking out of a conversation to protect oneself from being hurt is stonewalling.  A person will stop following the conversation or actually leave.  They may seem apathetic, but are actually overwhelmed.  To fix this, try to discuss the issue together and find out when the person stonewalling is becoming overwhelmed. Make plans to give space if needed and eventually come back to discussing the problem.  Identify these issues early on.  The longer they last, the more it hurts your relationship.  If you’re trying your best to fix things and there’s no cooperation, and situations are repeated, you might try counseling together. Also try reading the book, The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Ways Women Manipulate that Men can see from a Mile Away

Young couple talking

Ways Women Manipulate that Men can see from a Mile Away

The battle of the sexes has been raging since the beginning of humanity, though of course it’s gotten much more sophisticated as time has gone on. Men and women are both guilty of manipulating one another in overt and covert ways. Here are some ways women manipulate that men can see from a mile away. Men can see right through the cold shoulder. They are all too familiar with the “nothing is wrong” game. When you suddenly don’t want to talk, don’t want to be near him or be touched by him. But what is the point of acting this way? You are only going to drive a wedge between the two of you. Instead, ask for some space. Wait to calm down. Find the words to say what you are feeling.

Remember that good communication is the foundation to a healthy relationship. And if you can make him see what he did wrong and ways to make amends, if he’s a good man he will do everything in his power to do so. What about the restaurant choosing situation? He asks you “Where do you want to eat?” You say you don’t care. He proceeds to list every restaurant in the city to which you reject, each and every one until your choice is made. You win the battle but not the war. He sees right through this.

Guys see right through statements that reveal jealousy, such as asking who a female friend or coworker is and if he thinks she’s attractive. He also sees through round about questioning that just happen to incorporate her. Your boyfriend knows that you are just trying to see if evoking her name gives him a hint of excitement. Men can see right through it when it’s supposed to be a casual relationship but you happen to make pancakes one morning and invite him over, soon he’s stopping at the grocery store on the way home, and before you know it you both are walking down the aisle. But if he loves you he is enchanted by the spell you’ve waved over him.

Men can see right through it when women flirt with someone in order to make them jealous, especially after a breakup or when a relationship is on the rocks. When a woman asks “Why do you love me?” he knows that she is trying to poke holes in his case and he’s in trouble. A man knows that when you are asking about his ex offhandedly you are seeing if he has any feelings. Men see through it when women are friends with their ex, saying they’re just friends, when it’s obvious there is more going on there. Lastly, men see right through your little reasons to come see them, just to be around them. And they love it anyway. To learn more about women and their behavior read, The Female Brain by Louanne Brizendine, M.D.

Signs a Divorce is Looming

signs-to-get-divorced

Signs a Divorce is Looming

How can you tell when a marriage is over? Anyone going through a divorce asks themselves this question. A very short definition is see if the bad outweighs the good. Think long and hard about that. A piece of paper with a good-bad column may help. If you think your partner may be ready to leave you there is probably something to that feeling. Investigate further. But if you are curious as to whether you may see the inside of a divorce courtroom sooner rather than later, see if these indicators fit your marriage. Here are some significant signs that a divorce is looming. Think about how you feel about your partner. Are they the number one stressor in your life? If they sometimes take your stress away, and the reason you want to leave or you think your spouse is considering leaving is that the relationship has become dull, look into ways to liven it up. Find places where you can reconnect. If you don’t know where to begin, start with nostalgia. Reminisce about old times. You’ll be surprised how they can renew a relationship. Then see where you want to go to liven things up. If your spouse is your stress, the source of anxiety, torment and frustration, perhaps an exit out is best.

When you dream about the future is your spouse in it? Everyone dreams of a time without their spouse once in a while, usually when we are in a fight with them, or they are just driving us crazy. But if you find yourself taking part in blissful fantasies where your spouse isn’t included, or they are blissful because they aren’t included, maybe it’s time to look for a lawyer. Has communication broken down? This is the only avenue to truly fix a relationship. From time to time we all get involved in a situation where one or both parties aren’t speaking to one another. But has this become the new normal in your relationship? If you are happier when a communication breakdown has taken place then this is a sign that things are rocky and you may be heading toward a split. When you spend time away from your spouse, how do you feel? Do you feel relieved? Overjoyed? Does it feel as though a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders? If so, this is a bad sign. If however you do tend to miss them after some time has gone by you may want to try and work things out. What is the level of negativity in the relationship? If things are ho-hum that’s one thing. If love is still there, things can be fixed. But if you two are trading barbs constantly, using passive-aggressive behavior, are sarcastic toward one another and take part in negative behavior often then divorce may be in your future. The eminent psychologist Dr. John Gottman who has studied happy couples has said that, to stay happy, for every negative comment you make in a relationship, you should say three positive things.

If you have powerful fantasies about divorcing and you find yourself doing so more often than not, you are really going to do it, sooner or later. This is your psyche testing out the idea on your conscious mind. Is your partner manipulative or controlling? Do they try to keep you away from others and all to themselves? It may feel good to be wanted in the beginning but this type of marriage can become a prison fast. If you feel like an accessory rather than the focus of your spouse’s life and nothing is going to change that, it’s time to fly. You want to be in a relationship of equal partners who care for and dote on one another, not the last thing on a person’s list. If your partner thinks they know better than you about everything, and want you to know it, it may feel fine for a while to have such structure in your life, but after a while you will chafe against such a restricting environment. Try to establish rules and boundaries. But if this doesn’t work and the person forever oversteps their bounds, it may just be time to move on with your life. For more on when it’s time to go versus when it’s time to work it out, read How to Know If It’s Time to Go: A 10-Step Reality Test for Your Marriage by Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman.

Subtle Signs the Relationship is in Trouble

relationship trouble

Subtle Signs the Relationship is in Trouble

Relationship problems usually aren’t like road signs. You don’t normally see them coming from far off, though if you’ve been there before it’s possible. But most times they tend to spring out on you, and then you and your lover are in the thick of it. What do you do then? Sometimes you solve them. At other times you ignore them and the tension builds and can even spread to other places in life such as work or in dealing with the kids. Instead, it would be better if we could see them coming down the pike, like road signs rather than obstacles that dart into our path that we suddenly have to deal with. Psychologist and couple’s researcher John Gottman is famous for many breakthroughs in understanding what behaviors and attitudes the happiest couples exhibit over unhappy ones. Soon he found four distinct behaviors which he labeled, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” specific behaviors that can spell a relationship’s doom. Here are some subtle signs the relationship you are in is in trouble. It may be time to seek out the proper relationship advice, or just have a long heart-to-heart and work things out if you encounter any of these. The first one is criticism. Criticizing your partner chips away at your respect for them. If you are putting them down privately, it’s one thing. But if you start doing it in public or to others it’s another. Criticism is often met with defensiveness. A blow out sometime down the line occurs. Than both parties go retreat to their respective corners to lick their wounds and wonder if the relationship will last. If you find yourself criticizing your partner, stop and think about a better way to communicate with them. If you find your partner is starting to criticize you, sit down with them, talk to them about it and work out a better, clearer and less negative way for the two of you to communicate.

Of course clear, open and honest communication should be one of the most important things in your relationship. Learn to communicate positively. Instead of sayings things like, “You never do your chores” instead tell them directly how it makes you feel and why it’s an issue. “When you don’t clean up like you are supposed to, I come home from work and immediately feel stressed, now that I have to clean, too.” Use “I” statements and tell them how you are feeling. This brings them in and makes them feel closer. You don’t make them feel defensive. Instead, you make them feel as though they should come to your aid. The next one is contempt. This is where you openly mock, ridicule or disrespect your partner. Sarcasm, passive-aggression, belittling, making fun of, ignoring, criticizing and more is the biggest indicator of a breakup or a divorce according to Dr. Gottman. According to his research, the best couples say five positive things for one negative comment in their relationship. These couples appreciate one another and tell and show the other their appreciation. It’s important that when you are with someone you can trust, whom you want to have a healthy long-term relationship, that you feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of this person. If they are and you have issues with commitment and vulnerability you may need to work through those issues. In fact, a loving, supportive relationship can help you do just that. Validate your lover. Empathize with them and the problems that they have and expect and enjoy the same in return in order to build and sustain intimacy.

When you are with the right person, you can relax with them and be yourself. But the third warning sign is becoming automatically defensive in front of your mate. If you notice you are starting to put your guard up, or you feel the need to argue your position, if this doesn’t have anything to do with past baggage from your parents or another relationship, then it probably has to do with your current relationship. You should look to see exactly what is making you defensive. The last indicator is when you are “stonewalling.” This is when you hold back from talking, or deny giving information. It could be giving the other person the cold shoulder because you are mad at them, but it could also be withholding information to avoid a fight or to help save the relationship. For the former situation it’s best to collect your thoughts and discuss the matter in depth with your partner. For the latter problem you need to be able to communicate clearly and openly within your relationship, if nowhere else. If you need a cool off period, where you don’t want to fly off the handle, want to simmer down and sort out your thoughts before coming to the table, that’s fine. In fact, that is a very mature, adult move. But if you just want to avoid the subject altogether, or if you are using your silence as a weapon, inevitably this will drive a wedge between the two of you, instead of pulling you together it will tear you apart. Once you have identified the problem or problems in your relationship, with an open, willing partner, studies have shown that you can turn a relationship around, and make it great. If your long term relationship is still progressing down the wrong path, pick up a copy of Before A Bad Goodbye: How to Turn Your Marriage Around by Dr. Tim Clinton.