Life is all about relationships. Having people you love and love you back can be one of the most rewarding things in life. It makes sense from all perspectives. From the evolutionary perspective, without a community and without others, we couldn’t survive. Therefore, being rewarded for building thriving relationships can be seen as being hardwired in us. From a more human/spiritual perspective, it makes sense that we would find building relationships as rewarding because life is about others. Other people matter. And it explains why in study after study, people were much more satisfied spending money on others as compared to buying themselves something.
Spending some time to avoid the following pitfalls is very important in nurturing all of your relationships. See if there is one or more in particular that comes up for you more frequently, and learn what you can do to replace those behaviors.
1. Passive-aggressive behavior: when someone is passive-aggressive, they come off as being manipulative and/or dismissive. One passive-aggressive comment can perhaps be ignored, but usually it doesn’t happen in isolation. This adds up and the accumulation could end up as a blow-up in a relationship. Replacement: practice communicating matter-of-factly. It might be difficult to do, especially if it feels like you have to swallow your pride in acknowledging that something is bothering you.
2. Stonewalling: this is a term for when someone decides to shut everything out. They don’t want to look at you or doesn’t seem to listen to what you’re saying. This typically happens when someone is hyper-aroused and needs to shut things out to avoid too much stimulation and arousal. This is their way of self-soothing, although sometimes individuals may stonewall deliberately as a “punishment” to the other person in the relationship. Replacement: decide to take a time-out. Let the other person know that there is too much you’re experiencing, and need to take a predetermined amount of time to de-stress first.
3. Complacency: when one or both people in the relationship become complacent, the relationship grows stale. It sends a signal of apathy to the other person, or signifies that they don’t care enough about the relationship/the other person to do more to show the other person that they care. Replacement: set random reminders on your phone or calendar to remind or prompt you to do something nice for the other person. It can be a as simple as affirmations (e.g., I really value the way you take the time to check on me!) or gestures (e.g., picking up a doorstop on the way home because you remembered them saying how helpful having that would be).
Avoiding these behaviors are critical, but also helpful in your relationships in the long run is to focus on what’s good in the relationship and doing more to add value to the relationship. If there are things that need to get better, it’s great that you’re aware of the situation, but immediately shift your attention to making it better. What have you found to be really helpful to avoid/increase in your relationships? What has taken your relationships to the next level – I’d love to hear from you!