The majority of us have experienced that moment when we realize our relationship is in rapid decline. Although this slide into couple distress often ends in a breakup, it doesn’t have to. In all likelihood, there’s some behavior undermining the relationship’s foundation of love and friendship. If you can identify the subversive behavior, you can save the relationship.
Here are some of the most common relationship killers, as well as some quick remedies to heal the hurt.
- Blame and Shame
Aside from all-out abusive behavior, blaming and shaming is likely the fastest way to kill the connection. Both of these behaviors communicate contempt of your partner, meaning that you view him or her as beneath you or deserving of scorn. This point of view has toxic effects not only on the person being blamed, but, perhaps surprisingly, on the person doing the blaming as well.
Quick Remedy: Start every disagreement or conflict with the presumption that the problem is not caused by a character flaw in your partner. This will help both of you deal with the problem at hand without heaving personal insults at one another.
- Kill the Fun
This behavior, although damaging to a romantic relationship, often sneaks up on couples. A husband will wake up one day, look at his wife and think, “When was the last time we just had fun together?” Deep in the trenches of an ongoing fight, a wife will turn to her husband and say, “Can’t we ever just have fun?” Once all the joy and lightheartedness is gone from the relationship, it becomes a struggle to stay together.
Quick Remedy: Identify one thing the two of you used to enjoy doing together. You don’t necessarily have to resurrect the joy of that activity (or you may not be able to), but the memory of that joy can inject hope for future fun into the relationship.
- Use Breaking Up as a Bargaining Chip
When you threaten to break up with someone (or even worse, divorce your spouse) during everyday conflicts, your partner will develop the impression that the relationship doesn’t matter very much to you. These types of threats don’t work well for getting what you want, and, even worse, they imply that you don’t value the relationship. This implication is often far more damaging than the conflicts themselves.
Quick Remedy: Simply put, use something other than the relationship as leverage. For example, instead of threatening, “If you go to Vegas with your friends I’ll break up with you,” try, “If you go to Vegas with your friends I’ll feel worried the whole time.” Not only is the second statement more honest, it opens the door to addressing the deeper issue at hand.
- Conjure the Ghosts of Ex-s.
Everyone knows that talking about ex-s is a minefield. If you remember them with too much fondness, your current partner may become jealous or insecure. If you speak of them with too much disdain, your partner may wonder if you have anger issues. While past relationships are an intractable part of your life story, if you constantly conjure the ghost of an ex, your current relationship will start to feel haunted.
Quick Remedy: Communicate what you liked (or disliked) about an ex’s behavior without mentioning the ex himself (or herself). For example, instead of saying, “My ex always cleaned up after himself,” try, “It would mean a lot to me if you cleaned up after yourself.”
- Keep One Foot Out The Door
This is the stealthiest relationship killer on our list. The relationship could be going well, by all accounts, but it somehow feels… off. It feels shaky. You wouldn’t be totally surprised if your partner broke up with you tomorrow. Or, alternatively, the idea of ending the relationship yourself sounds plausible. These are the symptoms of keeping one foot out the door. This relationship killer is not a bullet, like blame and shame… it’s a poison.
Quick Remedy: Be more transparent in your thoughts and actions. There’s no need to commit yourself body and soul to every relationship you’re in, but relationships become painful when you never know what’s going on. Ask questions… and reveal your own honest answers.
If you feel your relationship is suffering from one of these killers, give it a healthy dose of behavior change. It may recover quite nicely!
Blame photo available from Shutterstock