Tuesday, November 10, 2009

7 Deadly Sins Against Relationships

I have devoted my professional life for over three decades to helping people improve the quality of their relationships and their lives. Recently, I have begun thinking about how to summarize the best and the worst things people do in relationships.

In my most recent book, Marriage Isn’t for Sissies: 7 Simple Keys to Unlocking the Best Part of Your Life, I list and discuss the 7 most essential skills people need to possess in order to have a satisfying and healthy relationship.

Those 7 Keys are:
1. Deepening Trust Affair-Proofs Marriages
2. Taking Time for the Daily Magic Ten Minutes
3. Setting Good Boundaries Keeps Everyone Safe
4. Sharing Feelings Enhances Intimacy
5. Fighting Fairly Solves Problems and Builds Intimacy
6. Healing Past Hurts
7. Cultivating a Nurturing, Close Sexual Relationship

Here are the 7 Deadly Sins Against Relationships.

1. Emotional Reactivity. When individuals are unable or unwilling to respond to each other and to the world in a calm, reasonable manner, situations easily degenerate into explosiveness and misinterpretation of each other’s words and intentions. This typically occurs when people grow up in a family where individuals are poorly differentiated. These couples have difficulty getting genuinely close because emotions are weapons that are used to create distance. Therefore, feelings drive a wedge between them.

2. Being controlling. There is a vast difference between being controlling and being in control of yourself. Controlling people have a high need for structure and order as they define it. They leave little or no room for others’ needs and opinions. They often overtly are tyrants. But they also can be the more subtle – and more infuriating – kind of controller who gets his/her way by passive aggression and manipulation. By contrast, people who are in control take responsibility for themselves, their emotions, and their lives.

3. Blaming and Shaming. People who use this strategy to get their way generally seek power over their spouse, partner, or children. It is a defensive strategy so they can remain “safe” by being holier than thou. What they don’t realize is how they give away their power to improve situations in the process. It is only in taking responsibility for ourselves and for our actions that we claim the full measure of control of our lives.

4. Jealousy. People who are jealous to a fault are either highly insecure, extremely controlling, terrified of being abandoned, or all of the above. Jealousy is different from envy, which is a normal human emotion. Jealousy carries emotional freight. and is not endearing. In fact, it backfires, often serving the unconscious function of creating psychological and emotional distance in a relationship. It is a significant barrier to intimacy.

5. Negativity. The renowned marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, found that for every 1 negative comment couples make to each other, there should be 5 positive comments to counteract the impact of the criticism. Yet some couples seem to subsist on a steady diet of negativity, sometimes disguising their intent saying they are being honest with each other. They may be honest, all right. But it is not an intimacy-generating sort of honesty. Furthermore, viewing the world through a lens of scarcity and negativity, perhaps more than anything, is contagious. It eventually infects
both parties with despair and hopelessness.

6. Unfair Fighting. There are three main earmarks of unfair fighting. They all involve defensiveness. First is "hitting below the belt,” that is, using previously shared information as a weapon against the other person. This can be extremely brutal if it is flung at your partner in the midst of a fight. Second, attempting to control conversations and the other person so no vulnerability is required. Third, self-righteously blaming the other person for all problems in the relationship. A close cousin to this Deadly Sin is accusing.

7. Stonewalling. This is one of the most detrimental sins in a relationship. When partners stop openly communicating and become stone walls to each other, all overt communication stops. It is replaced by anger, conflict, and isolation that smolder inside each person. As partners add stones to their wall, they become more and more alienated from each other until the cracks in their relationship eventually become unrepairable. Then an emotional – if not an actual – divorce ensues.

If you have any questions about these 7 Deadly Sins – or
anything else – feel free to call my toll-free number
(888-546-1580) for a free 20-minute consultation.


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