Avoid the toxic D’s in relationships

Story by Barton Goldsmith
(Scripps Howard News Service)
Fri, Mar 2, 2012
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All of us sometimes engage in behaviors that make a partner uncomfortable. These actions can tear your relationship apart, and if they have become part of how you relate to each other, you will have significant problems sooner or later.

It’s important to avoid the following:

1. Deceit. If you don’t tell the whole truth as soon as possible, when your mate finds out it could kill your relationship. Whatever it was you did that you need to ’fess up to, do it now, so it can be forgiven and dropped. The lies only get more complicated as you withhold the truth, and your partner will only distrust you more when those lies are revealed.

2. Drama. If you are making mountains out of molehills, there is something else you need from the relationship. Find out what it is and start getting it from, and giving it to, each other. Your relationship should be a place of peace, not a stage to control the attention in the room.

3. Demands. People who want you to do things that tend to make you uncomfortable may discover that if they had asked nicely, you would do your best to give them what they want. But when someone demands attention, sex or dinner on the table at 6 and gets angry with you for not doing their bidding, I think some counseling is in order.

4. Disrespect. What research tells us is that when partners tend to be disrespectful of one another, the relationship has an 85 percent chance of dying. You simply must get on the same team and make the decision to stop being nasty to each other. No matter how upset you may be, try to explain it in a neutral way, without blame or rancor.

5. Domination. If you try to control your relationship, you aren’t going to have much energy for anything else. Making sure that everything is done your way can be exhausting! Look, we all have our little bouts of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but if your mate starts to cry or leaves the room when you tell him or her to reorganize the dishwasher, you have to ease up.

6. Discord. No couple can get along all the time. Trust me: You will bump heads more than a few times. The trick is to see the situation for what it really is, a momentary disagreement, which is perfectly normal. What is destructive is walking around holding on to toxic anger and making sure that every move you make bugs your partner.

Avoid these actions and you may actually find yourself living happily ever after. If there are behaviors that you need and want to change and you know you could use some help, please don’t be afraid to get it. Seeking therapy doesn’t mean you are broken. It means you are smart enough to solve a problem before it ruins your life and love.

(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of “100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence — Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too.” Email him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com.)

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