If you happen to be a journalist wondering how to lose a guy in just 10 days you are in luck! With just 4 simple skills pretty much any relationship can be destroyed. The best part!? Many people already do them in their own relationships. Let’s go over criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling to see what they look like and what would be Romeo’s and Juliet’s can do to work against them.
This one is easy and is the most common. Look at your partner, be frustrated at them, and think about all the things they’ve done you didn’t like or agree with. Leaves the butter knife just out with bread crumbs stuck to it, leaves a billion bottles all around the bathroom sink, snores loudly… whatever. Try to find a pattern, like, when they do these things it means they don’t care about you, respect your need for some cleanliness, or that they’ve never really loved you at all. Now, to strike, come up with a few “you” statements to hit them with, like, “You’re always making messes, you never care that I have to do all the cleaning!”
The goal here is to take some action, add the words you, always, or never and reduce their whole being to these actions as their only personal characteristic. They’ll feel rejected and hurt. Make sure you’re not trying to actually address a specific situation that could be resolved, make it about them as a person.
What not to do if you want to keep the criticism train running? Express your dissatisfaction with something that is going on with a gentle start up that expresses your concern and what you need in a positive fashion like, “I feel disrespected when I’ve just wiped down the kitchen counter and it gets left with a new mess, I’d appreciate it if you could help me.” There’s only the emotions you feel and what you need from your partner with no blame, which just won’t help get rid of people. They might even express they care about how you feel and agree they could help, negative yardage.
Not as in actually standing up for yourself when you’ve been attacked or misunderstood, we mean blaming your partner for criticizing you. When your partner says something like, “hey, honey… did you leave the juice out?”, you would say, “I can’t keep up with everything that goes on everywhere, why didn’t you just put it up?” Absolutely avoid taking responsibility, life happens and they need to know that’s not your problem because we all know the real problem is them. This also makes sure the underlying problem isn’t actually resolved and instead escalates the conflict for further relationship decline.
What to avoid when trying to ditch the relationship? Taking presence, turning your attention inward, and taking some kind of responsibility. For example, don’t say, “Sorry, I don’t always pay close attention.” Taking responsibility, even if only for their role in the current part of the conflict, that you could be supportive of your partner as they process their frustration, would make them feel heard and cared about. You may begin to listen to what the other person is actually upset about instead of just reacting to their words. Many fights aren’t about what is actually being discussed. I might be upset that you humiliated me by saying something embarrassing about our lifestyle to my family, but I’m not ready to have that heavy conversation, but the juice is out so I’ll be angry about that instead. Masters of keeping relationships together will seek to clarify misunderstandings, you want to be a disaster so absolutely do not accept responsibility.
This one is so easy! The goal is to get your partner to just withdraw from the conversation, shut down, and not actually engage in the conversation in any meaningful way. Saying absolutely nothing, giving reactive one word answers or mumbles, acting busy, or simply walking away. Your partner may do this for you if they feel overwhelmed, exhausted, aren’t safe expressing themself, or won’t be validated anyhow. As the aggressor in this you may become infuriated they aren’t responding any longer and you are now being invalidated, but that’s your part in this dance to play.
Do not take a break to allow for self soothing. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes after they stop thinking about what they’re upset about for the liver to filter out the adrenaline and cortisol you’ve worked so hard to have them flooded with. Saying things like, “oh, you’re just going to walk away huh? I thought this was important!” can guilt them into staying even though nothing productive can come from the conversation. You can just keep beating them down instead of both of you agreeing to come back to the conversation later, calmer, and with some more self reflection.
This one is the most likely indicator in divorces so you know it’s going to do the trick! Straight disrespect. Mock them, name calling, roll your eyes when they talk, sneer at them, and use your most cunning insults. You just need them to feel, to know, you’re better than them and they are beneath you. If you have any long time negative thoughts of your partner it might even come naturally, which if you’ve used the 3 tricks above you’ve probably been able to stock up on unresolved frustrations. Phrases like, “you must be too stupid to even put juice away” or “you must have been too busy texting your crush , why don’t you go to their house and leave their juice out?” If you build enough contempt in the relationship, you can become more likely to get sick which could lead to even more stressors to fight about! It’s really the gift that keeps giving.
People who try to shut down contempts will try short term and long term strategies. In the moment they will try to avoid using “you” statements to help their partner not feel attacked, and turn using “I” statements into a habit. Those trying to go the distance will work on building habits of fondness and admiration. Talking about happy moments, creating happy moments, remembering times you helped each other through something tough… just generally sharing what you see as positive about the relationship and building a “we-ness” rather than a “me-ness”.
If you or someone you know is a master of these 4 skills, and for some reason you think your life could be happier, freer, and more fulfilling without them, feel free to contact me below for a free, short consultation.