Communication strategies that undermine your relationship

All couples have disagreements.  This is normal and healthy.  Nonetheless we often want to persuade our partner to agree with us.  The way we attempt to persuade, however, has serious consequences for the health and future of the relationship.  The following, according to The New Rules of Marriage by Terrence Real, LCSW, are five losing strategies for getting your way:

  1. Unbridled Self-Expression is when you or your partner let fly with all of your thoughts and emotions.  This is an attempt to overwhelm or overpower your partner into agreement (or at least surrender).  Though you may get your way, what comes of it may be damage to the relationship by either saying things that hurt or shutting off two-way communication.
  2. Control is a way of dominating and/or disempowering your partner.  A healthy relationship involves sharing control.  By mutual consent, you may agree to give one partner leadership over certain spheres-child rearing to the wife, home maintenance to the husband are common examples—but it is a human need to feel power over one’s life.  When one’s power is taken away, he/she will find another area in which to take it back.  This tug-of-war rarely results in a closer relationship.
  3. Being Right may be satisfying in the short run but the battle can do long-term damage.  Ask yourself if proving your spouse is wrong, irresponsible, inconsiderate or unskilled is going to make them feel loving toward you?  The hard part is, you may actually be right.  But which is more important to you: being right or being together?  It’s your choice.
  4. Retaliation is getting your partner back for their behavior, decision, words, etc.  Maybe you give them the “cold shoulder,” withhold sex or “forget” something.  Whatever form it takes, retaliation is a relationship killer.
  5. Withdrawal.  It would seem obvious that you don’t get closer by pulling away.  It may feel safer to walk away, stop talking or get busy with other things, but in the long run you will just end up as roommates rather than lovers.


If you and your partner want to learn to employ the winning strategies, give me a call.  I would be honored to help.

Joe Pollon is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in couples counseling.