Things that Destroy a Relationship

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source edited on canva

"Like dissolves like" or "opposite attracts", which is the right approach for a happy relationship?
While across the film industry, the idea of opposite attraction is more popular (source), the researchers are not very much in favor of this proposition. Some theorists are of the idea that people with complementary personality traits tend to have a lasting relationship. This might be true in some instances but it is not the case for all kind of traits (source). Nevertheless, if the relationship among people with opposite personalities doesn't seem to be everlasting, the similarity in personalities doesn't guarantee a happy relationship either (source). In fact, having similar low level of conscientiousness and/or high level of extraversion and neuroticism are found to have negative consequences on relationship; while the similarity on openness to experience and agreeableness have found to be increasing the well-being of a relationship.(source).

The relationship is a complicated and complex phenomenon just like a hive having various compartments inter-woven with each other. It is not affected by the similarities or differences of one aspect i.e. personality alone. Instead, there are several other factors that are to be taken into account. The more holistic and sophisticated research in the field represents that similarity does matter for the well-being of a relationship but similarities of one's personalities alone do not account for a successful relationship. The couples who have similar religion, political views, chronotype (source), values, background, socioeconomic status etc (source) are likely to be happier.

Despite extensive research, based on similarities and differences it cannot be predicted whether or not the relationship is going to build or destroy in the future. If I am asked what makes a relationship work, I would say respect for each other, mutual understanding and unconditional loyalty.

A series of comprehensive researches by Dr. Gottman and his wife (source) has demonstrated that these are not the similarities that make a relationship work, nor are the differences that sow the seed of discord. Instead, there are some malicious habits and behaviors that can bring frailty even to a strong relationship.

They have developed a research lab where the couples go through a series of tests and procedures after which the therapist predicts whether or not the relationship is going to end within the next 10 years. The results are startling. 92% of the time, the predictions are true. It means the factors they have identified have a lot to do in destructing a relationship. Conversely, if those factors are undermined the relationship may work better.

Following are the four behaviors that have been identified as the reason for destruction in a relationship:

1. Contempt

Any action or conversation that implicitly represents one's superiority over their partner comes under the category of contempt.
It may include name-calling, sneering, mockery, sarcasm, or anything like that.

According to Gottman, contempt is the strongest predictor of relationship failure. The couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to be divorced in the coming 10 years.

Contempt is not only bad for a relationship but also for the person's health. The person on the receiving end of the contempt is likely to suffer more from infectious diseases.

If you find yourself in a habit of contempt and want to save your relationship, start practicing appreciation. Think of your partner's qualities that you like and compliment him/her for those qualities.

2. Criticism

The statements of criticism typically start with "You....".

It is generally thought that telling someone what is wrong with them will bring a positive change. However, the case is almost the opposite. Criticism only elevates the negative feelings in the receiver. If one or both the partners are into the habit of criticizing each other, the relationship will rot gradually.
Stopping to criticize does not at all mean not tell your partner about what hurt you about them. It simply means to remodel the way of communication. Instead of beginning with you, structure your sentence with I. For instance, instead of saying, "You never listen to me carefully", say "I feel disrespected when you don't pay attention to me. I would feel important if you listen to me carefully."

The transformation of a sentence from you to I not only tells your partner what you think they have done wrong but also what you want from him/her.

3. Defensiveness

Refusing to take responsibility for a dispute and insisting that one is not at fault is called defensiveness.

The defensive partner often worsens the argument by accusing the other partner guilty of every wrong happening. It brings negative feelings to both partners. Both of them are likely to think of them as victims and being misunderstood.

The point to think here is that no one is perfect. The wall of defensiveness should be broken if there is a desire to create mutual understanding. If you try to accept the mistake on your part, the communication is likely to flow positively.

4. Stonewalling

Have you ever gone through a situation when you try to talk to your partner and what you get in response to all your conversation (better to say monologue) is silence as the answer? How does it feel to be? If I am asked this, I would say it feels like being buried alive.

The Gottman Institute says stonewalling is withdrawing from a conflict without resolving anything. (Quote source)

If you have often received this treatment, you would agree with me that it destroys the relationship like termites. There are no signs of destruction to the outsiders. They may think of you in a very calm relationship.

The giver of this silent treatment may be thinking that s/he is saving the relationship by avoiding arguments. Nevertheless, the receiver knows how painful it is to be ignored in such a harsh manner. It brings hopelessness and helplessness to the couple and the persistent stonewalling finally leads to giving up on the relationship.

I remind me of this 👇 song by Laura Doran. The lyrics are true representative of the feelings when you receive the silent treatment


Concluding Remarks

None of us is perfect. At one point or the other, we attempt to perform actions that have negative effects on our relationship. The key to a happy and healthy relationship is to communicate with each other in a healthy manner without the signs of contempt, criticism and defensiveness.

This is my participation for the pob-words of the week (hive, malicious, frailty, discord) challenge round, season 3.

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