In his book, The New Rules of Marriage, prominent family therapist, Terrence Real lists common strategies many people use in relationships that actually reduce the odds of getting what you want from your partner. Can you identify with any of these?
1. Needing to be right. Real notes that it does not matter who is right and who is wrong when you are having an argument. He says the answer to the question “Who’s right?” is “Who cares?” Maintaining open and respectful connection is much more important than being right.
2. Controlling your partner. Control is an illusion. At the end of the day, I suppose you could physically coerce a person into doing what you want, but this is not the path that engenders love or leads your partner to voluntarily give you what you need. It is much more productive to focus on changing yourself, rather than your partner.
3. Unbridled self-expression. Even if you are being “honest,” spewing forth every single thing you are feeling or thinking, especially if it is hostile, is ultimately very damaging to a relationship. Constructive communication is the key.
4. Retaliation. Lashing back at someone who has hurt you only compounds the damage. Real says that if you are angry, say so, but don’t behave in ways that destroy connection.
5. Withdrawal. Checking out of a relationship because you are angry, discouraged, or feel the relationship is doomed, is a slippery slope. Instead, move toward your partner and attempt to negotiate for what you need.