With this blog, we begin a series of reports on how to tank your relationship. Researchers now know which habits predict relationship success and which predict disaster, so we herein present a tutorial on what to do to increase the probability that your relationship won’t succeed or that you will never get from your partner what you need.
On the other hand, if you learn how to respond differently to your partner (that is, use better relationship habits) when you feel that he or she is not treating you well, you might just start seeing changes in both your partner and in your relationship.
A CASE EXAMPLE
Miguel has just gotten off the telephone with his buddies with whom he made arrangements to play basketball Saturday morning. Unfortunately, he did not discuss this first with Maria who obviously is very upset over this. From her point of view, Miguel often makes plans independently, just as if he was still a single guy. She had other plans for them Saturday morning and now she has to re-plan her whole day. Worse, she wanted more time with Miguel and was looking forward to it this weekend. Miguel, on the other hand, doesn’t have a clue as to why Maria is so upset. To him what he did was “business as usual.” Besides, he felt that a man shouldn’t have to get “permission” from his wife to play basketball with his buddies.
In our example, it is obvious that Miguel acted in a way that Maria saw as selfish and, from Maria’s perspective, he should have talked to her before he made his plans. But, partners often act in ways that the other sees as selfish, uncaring, misguided or just plain wrong. (Miguel sees the situation very differently, as he has a different perspective). May marriage survive and even thrive with one or both partners having these negative traits. So, it is not the traits themselves that tank a marriage.
According to marriage research, because of this difference in perspective, what causes additional damage to the relationship is how Maria responds to Miguel’s behavior (and how Miguel responds to Maria’s upset). So, let’s now look at different ways Maria could handle the situation:
HOW TO TANK THE RELATIONSHIP: Lesson 1- If Maria wants to cause more relationship damage and decrease the chances that Miguel will change, she should repeatedly do the following:
*Take the attitude that Miguel did what he did because he was selfish, uncaring, or immature.
*Take the attitude that he did not care enough for her to think about it before he made his plans with his friends.
*Assume that there is a clear “right” and “wrong” way to deal with same-gender friends and same-gender activities when in a marriage.
*Seeing Miguel as the whole problem instead of seeing the issue as their having different opinions, priorities or ways of navigating life.
USE GOOD RELATIONSHIP HABITS TO NOT TANK IT
Alternatively, Maria can respond differently and increase the probability that Miguel won’t do this again in the future, if she does the following. These are relationship “habits” that research has found are related to better success.
*She should avoid jumping to conclusions and keep an open mind, asking Miguel calmly why he did what he did.
*Hear Miguel out and refrain from disputing or debating what he was saying before he was able to explain fully.
*Tell Miguel in a loving way that she feels hurt and unloved when he makes plans without including her and she would appreciate it if he did not do that in the future.
*Rather than criticizing Miguel, ask him to work with her to find a solution that takes both perspectives of the situation into account.