Just Don't: Things to NEVER Do in Your Relationship
Sep 6, 2018 | By: Melissa Hudson, LMFT
Sometimes it's difficult to know what to do in your relationship. It matters so much; it has the ability to make your world awesome or cut you to the bone. With so much at stake, sometimes we make mistakes. But marriage is a developmental process, and that means it affords us the opportunity to learn, do better, and grow. Here's a list of behaviors and approaches to avoid:
1. Resist the temptation. Do not snoop and check personal communication or devices. If you find yourself doing this, something is up with you or the relationship or both. Checking may seem to provide relief and comfort, but it can become a habit, a bad one, and every adult deserves privacy. If you are collecting passwords, checking texts, or emails, you need to drill in about what is going on that is leading you to behave this way. And you may need to head to a therapist to unpack it all.
2. Don't focus on winning in your relationship. I hear this a lot..."I need to win" "I can't let him win" "I never win". Here's the deal, relationships are not Friday Night Lights--there is no winning. In fact, if you are winning and your partner is losing, you're both losing. Instead, look for a win-win, get curious to understand your partner's point of view, look beyond the surface issue to the deeper issue at play. If you need help with this approach, well you know who to call for help (yep, a therapist).
3. Don't encourage a platonic relationship with anyone who could become more than platonic. What, "I can't have friends," you ask? Sure you can, but when we're in a committed relationship, it's just a no-go to participate in behavior that could undermine or threaten your relationship. When we're on a diet, we don't go to the bakery--it's part of being responsible and not exposing ourselves to unnecessarily difficult situations. Why put yourself in a situation where feelings can develop?
4. Don't have a discussion when either party in the relationship is escalated. This one is hard; sometimes you want to just resolve the issue now, to get your point across, to feel heard, so the knotted-up feeling will subside, but it's a risky proposition. We know that when we're escalated, which happens somewhere around when your heart rate is 100 beats per minute (not that high), that we have shifted to our emotional brain--the fight, flight, or freeze part. This is NOT where our best thinking comes from, it's where we go into survival mode, and this is precisely why we sometimes say things we regret, shut down, etc. You can wait. You can control yourself; I bet you do in your work life. So instead of charging ahead, take a break, sleep on it, and revisit it if it still matters, when you are calm and doing your best thinking.
5. Don't continue to revisit old arguments. Use the two-week rule...If it's older than two weeks old, let it go. Now, sometimes that strategy will not work because something about the issue hasn't been resolved. If that's the case, slow down, see if you can figure out why you can't let it go, and address the root cause. Otherwise, make it a habit of accepting apologies, not keeping a running tally of transgressions to bring up everytime you argue. If you can't seem to do this, you know what to do--call a therapist for help. This behavior will damage your relationship in the long run.
6. Don't discuss your relationship issues with family. "But that's my support system," you say. Nope, not for your relationship. You need to seek support elsewhere. When you have shared the fights and slights with the people who love you, your family, you likely don't share the work to repair or the positives in the relationship in equal measure. You get over the issue, but your family is stuck with a list of negativity. It's unfair to your partner and your family; you've forgiven and moved on and your family is stuck with your relationship junk. Family may not be as forgiving as you are; don't put them in this unfair situation. Family and friends are biased and give advice. That's not what a therapist does, however. If you need ongoing support, you know who to call.
7. Don't wait to get professional help. Would you let a physical wound fester, not seeking professional care? Likely not. We know couples wait way too long to get help when a professional can guide you to course correct the relationship with relative ease. Why do people avoid therapy? All sorts of reasons...You think therapy is for the mentally ill; seeking therapy acknowledges there is indeed a problem; therapists are messed up themselves; it's too expensive; you think you'll be blamed or have to change. All of these reasons, defense mechanisms, will just prolong the relationship distress and make matters worse. Things can get so bad in a relationship, that it kills the relationship. On the other hand, you can address issues early and get back to having a satisfying relationship. Don't be stubborn about therapy; we could all use third party, objective guidance at various times in our life.
8. Don't make your partner your whole world. This is a recipe for extinguishing passion or creating resentment. No one person can meet all of your needs, and to ask that of someone is unfair and unrealistic. I know at the beginning, we want to drink up everything about our love, but as the courting phase subsides, there needs to be balance in your life. There is your life, your partner's life, and then the relationship. Create a rich personal life, seek others to fulfill some of your needs that are not your honey's strengths or interests. This ability to go out and be autonomous and then come back to the safe haven of the relationship creates interest and passion. Nothing is sexier than seeing someone in their element, pursuing their life, and then coming home to share the highs and lows with you. A fire needs oxygen to burn hot. If you are attached at the hip, the fire will smolder and maybe extinguish.
If you find you'd like to work on these no-no's in your relationship or any aspect of your relationship, I'd love to hear from you. Relationships are a developmental task, which means we are learning, changing, and growing to continue to create the relationship of your dreams.
About the author: Melissa Hudson, Ph.D.(c) is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas specializing in couples and marriage therapy, anxiety disorders, and depression. She also works with adults and families on a full spectrum of psychological concerns. Have questions? Want to stop fighting and connect with your partner? Give me a shout! firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-235-8175 | www.counselingsolutionstexas.com