Connect by Disconnecting

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Over the last 20+ years, perhaps the single most significant technological change (in terms of the number of people it touches daily) is the rise of the internet.

It impacts all sorts of areas of daily life; from marketing, to how many jobs are done, and even how we interact on a daily basis.  One of the newer ways the internet is used is social media.  A few years ago I had never even heard of social media, but now “social media” has become part of the social consciousness.

One of the catchphrases of this change is that we are now living in the “connected” era.

The Connected Era.

I saw a recent study that said in North America the average person has almost three devices that connect to the internet.  Initially most people connected to the internet with a computer, and although they are still commonly used they are increasingly replaced by tablets and smartphones.  Devices that allow us to continue to be “connected” wherever we are, 24-7.

The internet and social media allows us to connect with almost anyone in the world.  We can keep up with them and know what is going on in their lives in ways we never could before.

But this seems to come with a cost.

One of the ironies of today’s world is that through technology we have many more opportunities to be “connected”.  Yet at the same time, depression and anxiety levels are increasing dramatically, and many people seem to feel more disconnected in their lives than ever.  And there is a growing belief that technology is playing a significant role.

 

The Social Media Age

Over the years I lost touch with one of my closest childhood friends, and due to Facebook I now have a bit of a window into his life that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible, which is great.

I have a brother on the other side of the country, and although he doesn’t post much I am able to periodically see my nephew and niece due to social media.

Hell, I have another brother who lives in the SAME city as me, and I find out more about him through social media than I do through actually talking with him (which is pretty damned sad if you think about it).

Furthermore, this blog is only possible due to online connectivity.  It’s a great outlet for me, and through it I’ve come to get to “know” a handful of people around the world that I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and hopefully my words have been able to give hope to some people, or at least let them know that they aren’t alone.

So yeah, there’s a lot of good that can come from this world of online connectedness.  It’s just a tool though, and all tools have both positive and negative sides.

 

The Importance of Connection

In my last two posts I have talked about the importance of connection.  True connection with another person is a feeling of being seen, heard and valued by that person (and feeling the same for them in return).  It’s an intangible energy that can be thought of as closeness, or intimacy.  And it’s a key component of love.

I believe that kind of connection is a basic human need.  But it can be difficult to achieve, because it requires us to be able to be in the moment and it also requires us to be vulnerable with another person.

And this  is where the dark side of online connectedness comes in.

 

The Highlight Reel

We all crave connection, but connection isn’t easy because it requires us to be vulnerable with someone else and to allow them to see our true self.

And that can be scary as hell.

For many, a fear of rejection and of not being accepted causes them to keep others at arm’s length; either limiting intimacy in the relationships they do have, or keeping them alone.

Social media gives us an avenue to partially fill this void, without all the risk associated with it.

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One problem is, with an online persona we can be whoever we want to be.  And I’m not talking about the whole “your internet girlfriend is really a 40 year old man” type of fake persona, or retouching images like they do for models.

What I mean is, we get to be very careful about how we portray ourselves.  We are selective in what pictures we put up of ourselves, and what sort of things we post.

Thing is, it’s not real.  Well it is, but it’s more like a highlight reel of a person’s life.  Their life doesn’t always look like that!!!

I recently went on a car trip and posted pictures from it to my facebook account.  The pictures are the sanitized version of the trip, with everyone “smiling and happy”.

There are no pics of my kids continually arguing in the backseat while I drove, or my son getting carsick (that was fun).  There are no pictures depicting my stress level when my check engine light came on in the mountains and I was about an hour away from the nearest service station.

But that stuff was all part of my trip, and it’s part of life.  And when looking at online profiles, it’s easy to forget that.

It’s easy to look at the highlights of other people’s lives, and either consciously or subconsciously compare them to your own.  And since you know about all the details of your own life, it’s easy to imagine that everyone life is better than your own.  Funner, more exciting, and happier.

And our own life will often feel lacking by comparison.

 

Fear of Missing Out

Another problem with social media is a fear of missing out (yeah, that’s actually “a thing”).

Fear of missing out (FoMo) is related to anxiety, and is where someone has a desire to continually see what others are doing due to a fear on what they could be missing out on.  Instead of being able to live in the moment there is a fear of making “the wrong choice”, and time spent ruminating about “how things could be different”.

Wikipedia describes this as follows:

On one hand, modern technologies (e.g., mobile phones, smartphones) and social networking services (e.g., Facebook,Twitter) provide a unique opportunity for people to be socially engaged with a reduced “cost of admission”.  On the other hand, mediated communication perpetuates an increased reliance on the Internet. A psychological dependence to being online could result in anxiety when one feels disconnected, thereby leading to a fear of missing out or even pathological Internet use.  As a consequence, FoMO is perceived to have negative influences on people’s psychological health and well-being, because it could contribute to people’s negative mood and depressed feelings.

FoMO may drive someone to constantly look for a better or more interesting connection with others, abandoning current connections to do so, without realizing that what they move to is not necessarily better, just different.

For people who grapple with FoMO, social media involvement could be attractive because it serves as a convenient tool to be socially connected with a relatively low cost. However, social media could not completely substitute face-to-face communication. Therefore, people with FoMO end up with a higher level of loneliness and isolation, which leads to more FoMO.

 

The Golden Triangle

One of my life philosophies (stolen from the business world) is the Golden Triangle.  Basically, everything in our life is fighting for limited resources.  We only have so much time and energy, and the quality of everything we do is impacted by how much time and energy we are able to devote to things.  As a general rule, if we want something to be good (or great), we need to put time into it.  And the more time/effort we put into something the better it can be.

This has huge implications for our connections and the world of social media.

Look, back in grade two I may have been great friends with little Billy who lived a few houses away.  And yeah, in todays world I can probably look him up, send him a friend request and catch up on his life.  And yeah, it’s would probably be great to see him again and laugh about the things we did.

But every time I do that, I am taking away from time I am able to devote to something else.

Do I REALLY need to spend a bunch of time looking at the lives of people I would likely never see or hear from outside of social media?  It may seem like a harmless diversion, and it often is.  But it can also start to negatively impact our lives and relationships.

A while back I wrote a post called You can have anything (just not everything).  We CAN’T have everything, and attempting to means we stretch ourselves too thin while reducing the quality of the things we DO have.

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We need to pick and choose what’s really important to us, and allocate our energies accordingly.  And sometimes that means letting go of things that we would like.  It’s unfortunate, but that’s just life.

 

The connected era can make it really hard though, especially when the tools we use for it are literally designed to make us “feel good”.  Companies spend a ton of money on trying to understand human psychology, and the way our brains reward system works.  And this trickles down to the products they create and market.

The “ding” of a message coming in, seeing the number of “likes” that you get on a picture or a post, the friend request.  All these mechanisms are designed to release dopamine, and make us “feel good”.  And that sort of instant gratification is often easier than the effort required sustaining our relationships in everyday life.  Kind of like escaping into substance abuse and affairs, it’s so much easier to escape into the world of online connection than it is to face the connections we have in real life.

 

With that I’ll leave you with two questions to ask yourself:

  1. What REALLY matters to you?
  2. Do your actions reflect that?

I’ll guess that for most of us, if we look at how we are actually spending our time – we will find we aren’t spending it on the things, or with the people we say matters.

And if that’s the case, what does that tell us about ourselves?

 

Avoiding Life

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Over the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time trying to grow and improve as a person.  I would like to think I understand certain things a bit better, but for the most part I haven’t really changed that much.  There have been some changes I suppose, but they are largely small tweaks and refinements.

Really, the “new” me isn’t that different from the “old” me.

There is however one area where my outlook has changed considerably, and that’s in how I look at and approach conflict.

 

Conflict has become an area of interest for me, and it’s something I’ve written about in the past.  A few years ago I viewed conflict as a bad thing.  It was a sign that something was wrong.  And that’s bad, right?  Well, if that’s right then the absence of conflict must be a good thing.

That was how I viewed the world.

And that’s a viewpoint I’ve come to believe was completely wrong (like, totally and completely wrong).

 

You Aren’t Me And I’m Not You

Each person is an individual, with their own wants, needs and interests.  And this uniqueness is a part of our beauty.  However, because we have differences there are times our differences will collide.

My new(ish) viewpoint on conflict is that it is a natural and unavoidable part of any relationship.  Conflict is simply the collision of our differences and can actually be a very positive thing; as the process of learning to accept each other and work together in spite of these differences (because let’s face it, they aren’t going away) is the key to a healthy relationship.

So although there can be issues in how we “deal” with conflict, conflict itself isn’t bad.

 

Problem?  What Problem?

Currently I’m back in school, taking courses that will in theory help advance my career; and if not at least keep me somewhat current.  And one of the courses I’m taking has a section on conflict.

Reading over the course materials, I came across the following:

Of all the issues that people tend to avoid, managing conflict ranks at the top of the list, along with public speaking and swimming with sharks.

Most people see conflict as indicative of a problem because disagreement feels uncomfortable and threatening.

When there’s no open conflict we can carry on as though things are all right even if, really, we know they aren’t.

 

It’s the last line that really stands out to me – open conflict is the key.  If there is no  open conflict we all can carry on as though things are alright even when we know they aren’t.

People can be kind of stupid at times.  For whatever reason, sometimes we don’t see things that are right in front of our faces.

Sometimes its ignorance, or we misjudge the severity of something.  Or maybe we simply lack the context to truly understand what we are seeing.  For example I have a buddy that almost died from a heart attack a few years back, when he thought he had the flu.  That stuff happens, and is largely understandable.

It’s a VERY different scenario though when there is a problem and we KNOW it.  But we pretend it isn’t there.  When we ACT as though things are fine as long as we aren’t talking about it, and it’s not out in the open.

That approach is very destructive, to everyone involved.

 

When to Deal with Issues?

Conflict isn’t fun, and I think it’s safe to say most people don’t want to deal with it.

Imagine you’re at home and you notice a drip in your bathroom faucet.  Let’s imagine the progression of this problem faucet looks something like this (with some sort of time lapse between steps):

  1. We see the faucet dripping for the first time.
  2. We realize the faucet is still dripping over a period of time.
  3. We notice the drip is getting worse.
  4. Instead of a drip, we see that there is now a steady stream of water coming out of the faucet
  5. We notice that the room underneath the bathroom has water stains in on the ceiling.
  6. We notice that there is water streaming down the walls of our house.
  7. Sections of the ceiling below start to crumble and collapse
  8. We can no longer open the bathroom door, because the flow of water has gotten so strong that the water pressure is holding the door closed

Let’s face it, problems suck.  However although we don’t want to, most of us recognize that there comes a point in time when we HAVE to deal with them.

WHERE we draw that line differs from person to person.  For example, some people will get on an issue as soon as they see the first sign of trouble.

Personally, I would find that exhausting.  I would rather wait a bit to determine if it was an actual (recurring) problem.  If something happens once and then not again?  Well, it might not be worth worrying about.

Thing is, when small problems aren’t addressed in time they have a tendency to grow into much larger issues.  I would like to think though that most people wouldn’t allow the leaky faucet to get to step 8.  Hopefully somewhere between step 2 and step 5, people will accept that there is an issue and be willing to put in whatever work is necessary to address it.

 

Avoidance

Unfortunately some don’t accept that issues need to be dealt with – ever.  In fact some people will walk around their house in rubber boots with a diving mask and snorkel insisting that there’s no problem and everything is alright; as the faucets are pouring water and their house is rotting and crumbling around them.

In psychology this is known as Avoidance.

Psychology Dictionary defines avoidance as:

the practice or an instance of keeping away from particular situations, activities, environments, individuals, things, or subjects of thought because of either (a) the anticipated negative consequences of such or (b) the anticipated anxious or painful feelings associated with those things or events. Psychology explains avoidance in several ways: as a means of coping- as a response to fear or shame- and as a principal component in anxiety disorders.

 

Avoidant people are masters at pretending that things are fine, because as long as they don’t acknowledge a problem openly they can tell themselves everything is alright.

Thing is, avoidance brings with it a slew of problems.  Stealing another section from my course materials:

There is one main reason to engage in conflict, and that’s to reach a resolution. Without resolution, conflict merely becomes an opportunity to recycle old arguments, disagreements and opinions: nothing moves forward, feelings get stirred up and reinforced.

 

By denying problems and refusing to deal with them avoidant people actually make things worse.

They allow small problems to grow, and ensure there is never a resolution.  Nothing ever moves forward, and they end up stuck.

 

Misdirected Effort

One of my sons hates cleaning his room.  And when I ask him to, it always turns into a big production.  He talks about how he doesn’t want to, and how he thinks “it’s not that bad anyhow”.  Then he complains about how much time and effort it would take to clean it.

Usually it turns into some sort of power struggle where he refuses, and I’m forced to come up with some sort of consequence for not doing it as a way of getting him to clean it.

When he finally gets to cleaning it, I’m always struck by the fact that he will have spent WAY more time arguing over and fighting against cleaning his room than it actually took him.  He expends all this energy “refusing” to clean his room.  And if he would just DO it, a lot less time and energy would be wasted.

He’s 9, and I’m optimistic/hopeful that this is just a stage he’ll grow out of.

 

In many ways, his behavior is similar to avoidance.

An avoidant person will expend a tremendous amount of effort ignoring a problem, pretending it’s not there, and refusing to deal with it.

And to a non-avoidant person faced with this, often it feels as though the issue at hand (whatever it is) is actually resolvable.  And likely could have been easily resolved with considerably LESS effort than there seems to be spent ignoring the problem and maintaining a (broken) status quo.

It’s like they are trying to talk to someone while the other person is walking around with their hands over their ears chanting “la la la la la, not listening”.

 

Relationships with avoidant people can be difficult, because couples often get stuck with issues that often seem normal, or manageable.  However because the avoidant partner won’t acknowledge the issue they are unable to move forward and improve.

So every leaky faucet has the potential to cause the whole relationship to crumble down around them.

And let’s face it, we all have leaky faucets.

 

Admitting to issues in your relationship is never easy, but if you don’t you can never, EVER resolve them.  And you can never improve.

For any avoidant people, I ask you this – what is your goal?  What is more important to you?

Is it more important to create the illusion of a perfect relationship and not have to deal with issues (even when you know that the issues are there)?

Or it is more important to have the best relationship you can?

 

A while back I read an article on couples counselors, and in it the counselors talked about how their ability to help a couple is often hampered because couples frequently come to them YEARS later than they should have.  I suspect this is often due to avoidance, where a couple is refusing to deal with their faucets until the relationship is crumbling around them.

People can talk about priorities, but actions are much more important than words.  So if someone “says” they want their relationship to be better but they refuse to work to improve it?  Well, they are showing that they find the pain of a broken relationship to be less than the pain of trying to work on things.  THAT shows true priority.

And if pretending things are good even when you know they are not is more important that improving, remember that if the rot sets in too deeply there will be no way to pretend any more.

 

 

Conflict comes from differences and differences are just part of who we are.  Having a relationship with another person means there WILL be conflict.  And accepting that conflict as normal allows you to deal with it proactively, and make your relationship the best it can be.

Strength in a relationship isn’t built through the absence of conflict, it’s built through encountering obstacles and getting through them together.  So although we should never want conflict, we should always see it as an opportunity to improve on where we are.

A perfect relationship will never exist, no matter how much you pretend it does.  But your relationship CAN always get stronger.

IF you accept that there are issues.

IF you accept that conflict is an opportunity for improvement.

And IF you are willing to face your issues and work on them.

If you can do those things?  Then your relationship will never be perfect, but it will be as strong as you make it.

Communication Is Hard

In life, communication is probably one of the most important skills we can learn.

But it’s also one of the hardest.

I recently had a bit of a back and forth with my sister, and it became clear that we were not “getting” each other. The communication was through email, and while written communication allows people an opportunity to get their thoughts out in an organized fashion, it is also prone to misinterpretation.

See, we all have our own triggers and filters. So no matter how clear one person *thinks* they are being, they can’t control how the other person will receive the message. This idea is summed up pretty well here:

what we see

It’s true, we don’t see things as they are presented. We see things as we interpret them. These interpretations are based on our own experiences, and sometimes they can be quite different from the initial intent.

This concept was definitely played out in our interaction.

She had some thoughts and ideas she wanted to share, I received them, interpreted them in a different way then what was intended, and responded accordingly. Sadly, this sort of thing happens all the time.

What makes matters worse though is that when she saw my response, she thought she had offended me. And because she thought she had offended me, she felt it was best to apologize and not address the issue any further.

How We Can Help

Maybe it’s just me, and my own poor communication skills – but I see this everywhere. We all have moments where we are scared to say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, and hurt someone we care about. So often, we say or do nothing.

It’s natural, and understandable. But I feel this approach is very broken.

When you care about someone, you will hurt them sometimes. You will piss them off sometimes.

And that should be alright.  That’s part of what a relationship is about.

When you genuinely care about someone, you care when you see them hurting. And you want to support them and help them however you can. Thing is, you can’t actually “do” anything. With the people we love, we can be there to listen and support them. And we can try to make suggestions and advise them. But that’s about it.

Incidentally, this is one area that guys seem to get themselves in trouble. Guys are “fixers”. We have a hard time listening without thinking solution. Not sure why, but it seems to be something that’s hardwired into us. And from what I read/hear/see, women don’t actually like that. Sometimes they want to talk and have us guys just listen and not say anything. Ladies, I have to tell you – sometimes it’s really freaking hard to do that.

In any case, everyone has their own battles to face, and only they can face them. So even when someone you care about is hurting, or you think they are making poor decisions, or you think you can help them – you can’t actually do anything more than listen, support and advise.

It’s the advising part that gets us in trouble though.

 

Dealing with Advice

When offering advice, how you do it is very important. It always has to be done in a way that is about the issue or behavior at hand, and not the person. No matter how careful you are though, you still have no control over how the other person will interpret what you say.

And sometimes the recipient will not to be receptive to what you have to say.

People don’t like being criticized, told they are wrong, or feel they are being told what to do.  And advice can often feel like all of those things.

It’s important to remember advice is often an attempt at constructive criticism, and not the same as being critical of the other person. It’s only when it is poorly presented or when we are oversensitive that they things can appear the same.

If you are someone who can’t take criticism (constructive or not), consider this. People often provide advice for two different reasons:

  • they feel they know everything, and they are more than happy to share their opinions (solicited or not). Often trying to force their ideas on someone else
  • they feel they may have experiences/knowledge that gives them insight into what someone is going through, and they want to share that to try and help the other person

These are two very different approaches. And when in doubt, it’s probably a good idea to assume that someone is giving advice because they do actually care, and want the best for you.

Learning to accept criticism is very important.

Everyone’s experiences are different, and no two situations are exactly the same. Even if they were, we are all different so what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. But we can still try to learn from each other. Learning is all about doing things, seeing flaws in our approaches and learning from them.

We can’t learn unless we accept the flaws and limitations in how we do things. And sometimes we are blind to those flaws, and need some guidance from the people who care about us.

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If someone can’t take criticism, often this is more an issue with them and their own insecurities.  But it means they often remain stuck, and unable to improve on where they are.

 

Afraid to Offend

When people care about each other, they shouldn’t be worried about hurting each other. They should be careful about what they say and not hurt the other person intentionally, but hurting each other is part of caring about the other person. They tend to go together.

It’s only when you do care about someone that they have the capability to hurt you.

I think good communication is about being able to say what you feel is right without fear of how the other person will interpret it. And also being able to accept that your thoughts may or may not be accepted the way you want, and that’s alright.

A big issue with communication is that people worry too much, and end up scared to say the important things because they feel the other person will not see it as information/advice, and will instead take it as an attack.
So instead they say nothing.

When it comes to the people we love and the people we care about, I think one of the most important things we can do is learn to say “no”, or to say “I disagree”. If I’m being selfish, a jerk, or an idiot – I WANT the people I care about to call me out, to tell me that how I am acting or what I am doing is not acceptable.

It may hurt, and it may piss me off. But that’s alright.

To my sis, I know she cares. We won’t always see eye to eye, and that’s alright. If there’s something she wants to say, I don’t want her to ever be scared to say it. If I think she’s out of line I will tell her. But I’ll also listen, and consider what she has said.

And to me, that’s a big part of what relationships are about.

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The Best of Both Worlds

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One of my co-workers is a first time grandfather, and recently spoke on how much he’s been enjoying the experience. In his words:

Being a grandfather is great, I get to have all of the fun but I have none of the responsibility.

It was said in humor, but there’s a lot of truth to this.

A grandparent is able to have a small window into the life of their grandchildren. They only see them occasionally, so it’s easier to make those limited moments special. It’s much easier to put in the energy to keep things special when the grandkids are only there for an afternoon, or maybe overnight and then they are back to their parents. And in those limited moments the grandkids are more likely to be on their best behavior.

Parents still have fun moments, but they also have to worry about all the little things. Food, care, homework, discipline, etc. And they need to do this on a consistent basis. Parents have all the little tasks that can be exhausting and thankless. As my co-worker said, grandparents get the fun parts and have the knowledge that they can return the grandkids when things get hard.

Think about that for a moment.

All of the fun with none of the responsibility.

In some ways, isn’t that the holy grail in life? At some level, aren’t we are all looking for the big “Easy” button?

Look around today, and you see all sorts of advertising that preys on this. Everywhere you turn you can find testimonials like:

  • my friend earned (insert some crazy amount of money) last week while working from home
  • This diet pill will let you lose weight fast (likely while still eating whatever you want)
  • Build muscle fast with this product
  • Make someone fall in love with you with these quick easy steps

Even politicians sometimes provide some variation on this, with platforms like “I’m going to decrease taxes, while increasing social services.” Which sounds great, until you take into account the fact that social services cost money, and if you decrease taxes you have less money to pay for things.

All of the fun with none of the responsibility.

We would all love to have a job where you can come and go as you want, have no responsibilities, and get great pay and benefits. We would all love to eat whatever we want without putting on weight. We would all love to look like models or athletes without having to exercise.

But that’s not how things work.

Usually higher pay is reserved for jobs that have higher responsibilities and educational requirements. Cheeseburgers and Doritos are delicious, but if you eat too many of them you WILL gain weight. And looking athletic and fit requires a combination of diet and hours of dedication to exercise.

Sure, there are some cases where people are just lucky. They are in the right place at the right time, or are they hit the genetic jackpot. It does happen sometimes.

Hell, the whole lottery industry is built on the idea that if you make the cost of entry small enough, a LOT of people will take a chance in the hopes of winning the big prize.

But the odds are astronomically stacked against you. In the real world there are no short cuts, no easy buttons and no magic wands.

When something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Responsibility in Relationships

If you take the premise of “All of the fun with none of the responsibility” and apply it to the world of relationship, you know what you get?

Dating.

Isn’t that really what dating is? It’s the early stages, where everything is new and exciting. You get to go out and just “have fun” – which can mean anything from a walk through the park to dinner and movie to casual sex. There are hopes and expectations on the part of both people, but there is no pressure on anyone to meet them. If you don’t feel like going out you don’t have to. And if things aren’t going well you can just walk away. No commitment, and no responsibility.

When things start to get more serious, two individuals start to become an “us”. Suddenly it’s not just about you any more. Responsibility starts to come in. The needs and wants of your partner have to matter as much as your own. Plus you are usually building towards something, which involves having to make some sacrifices in the short term for long term game.

Now when conflict occurs you can’t just walk away. Commitment forces you to work on issues – hopefully addressing them and sometimes acknowledging them as simply differences between people that you need to accept.

Add managing a household, a budget, maybe a couple of kids; and suddenly, it’s not all about “fun”, and doing what makes you happy.

And this is where the challenge comes in.

Stuck in a Rut

People often talk about wishing that things were “like they used to be”. They want to recapture those feelings of the early days of a relationship.

In long term relationships it’s easy to get so caught up in day to day life that we take each other for granted and lose track of what brought us together in the first place – things like fun, attraction and excitement. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest issues with long term relationships. So I understand wanting to recapture the early days, and think it’s understandable and even admirable.

It’s a positive thing when you realize you are in a rut where you have lost sight of each other as a couple, and you want to work to rebuild that connection and spark. This is a time when some couples start carving out more time for each other, maybe plan some date nights, try to have fun together again and reintroduce an element of romance that has been lost.

Unfortunately, some people take different approaches.

Instead of working to improve the relationship, some people look for easy ways to find that excitement again, so they look for it outside the relationship.  Some have affairs, others propose things like “open relationships” (which to me is simply an affair where you have asked permission first).

These are simply escapes. Ways of trying to escape from the pressures of life into an imaginary world where they can have all the fun without any of the responsibility.

Best of Both Worlds

I don’t think people who have had affairs are necessarily bad people. But they are people who have made bad choices.

Selfish choices.

In my last post, I listed 3 keys for a successful relationship. Love each other, don’t be selfish, and communicate.

I think affairs (or pushing for open relationships) pretty much lead the pack in selfish behaviors.  Often the people who do these things DO actually love their partner/spouse. It’s the selfish part they struggle with (and probably the communication).

So they try to have “the best of both worlds”. The comfort and stability of home and family, while also having the freedom to do what they want.

Instead of putting the effort into improving their relationship they take the easy route and look for the fun and excitement on their own terms. They want the relationship, but they also want to be able to act like they are single.

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When you take the easy way out, you are escaping into an imaginary world, and one that is not built to last.

Most affair relationships last less than two years. When they fall apart it’s usually because the imaginary bubble has been burst. They realize that the new person also has flaws. They were exciting and new, but now they are known.

Their escape may have started as all fun, but it started to have responsibility, problems and expectation as well.

Some people are serial adulterers, because they are always searching for the easy way out. The quick fix, the easy thrill.

But eventually most people realize there are no magic wands. There are no easy buttons.

Putting in Effort

Success in life isn’t an accident. It takes planning, and dedication.

People seem to understand that to get a good job they (usually) need to put in time to get schooling or learn a trade. They understand that if you want to excel at a sport or a musical instrument, you need to put in time to learn. And the more time you put in, the better you get. Olympic athletes don’t achieve that level by chance. Sure, they may have good genetics but it still requires dedication and sacrifice.

It’s a pretty simple formula – what you get out of something is dependent on what you put into it. You may not be able to guarantee your level of success, but you CAN guarantee that additional effort improves your chances of success.

Yet many people seem to believe that a successful relationship should “just happen”. That you shouldn’t have to work at it. That if you simply love one another, everything should be rainbows and butterflies.

I think that’s insanity.

A relationship is no different than anything else – shortcuts don’t work.

So if your relationship is in a rut or in a bad spot, it’s up to you to decide how you want to proceed. You can wait, and hope it magically gets better. You can check out on the relationship and start living largely independent lives (pretty much assuring things never get better). You can tell yourself that “this is just what happens in long term relationships”, and accept it as normal. You can escape the relationship issues by having an affair. You can even end the relationship, and tell yourself that things will be better in the future if you just find the “right person”.

There are all sorts of paths you can take.

And one of those paths is to work on things. To focus on the three keys – love each other (even when it seems hard), don’t be selfish, and communicate.

There are no easy buttons.

You only get out what you put in. If you work at your relationship, it can improve. So instead of trying to have the best of both worlds, work to make the world you do have the best it can be.

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3 Keys to a Successful Relationship

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When I started writing about relationships a few years back, I started with a simple premise and a question.

My premise was, in most cases when people get married they truly love each other and expect it to last. They believe they are committing to forever.

But many marriages fail. And many that “succeed” end up as unhappy marriages where people no longer love each other and live largely independent lives.

My question was, why? Why does this happen? What are we doing wrong, and how do we prevent it? How do give our marriages the best shot to last?

Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about this. I’ve read other people’s stories, and I have to say I find it remarkable how although every situation is different there are many commonalities. I think we’re all doing the same things, and screwing up in the same ways.

People go into a relationship thinking Hey, we love each other. That’s what matters right? Isn’t love enough?

We all start with love, or at least what we think is love (more on this later). Yet divorce rates continue to hover around 50%. So while I think love is an important starting point, it’s clearly not enough.

I believe there are three basic rules needed for a strong relationship:

  1. Love each other
  2. Don’t be selfish
  3. Communicate

With a bit more focus on these three things, I think any relationship can be better. Thing is, you need all three. And when you don’t, problems arise over time.

Rule 1 – Love Each Other

Loving each other should be the easy part. However, depending on our age and experience I’m not sure if we really understand what love is. I recently saw a great line:

People don’t understand what love is, and they confuse the combination of sex and excitement for love

I truly believe that most of us don’t understand love, we really don’t “get it”.

We start in relationships that are mostly lust and excitement, and hopefully it grows into more over time. Learning to love one another takes time, effort and understanding.

But loving each other all the time isn’t easy.

It’s important to accept that loving someone and liking them are two different things. People have good days and bad days. Sometimes people are jerks. Sometimes people we care the most about hurt us.

In a relationship I think it’s fair to say that you won’t always like the other person. But for the relationship to be successful you need to always love them. And you need to understand that loving someone doesn’t mean you have to always like them.

How do we do that? Love isn’t just a feeling, and it’s not just a word. We need to love people through our actions. And we have to be vigilant against getting complacent and taking them for granted.

Rule 2 – Don’t be Selfish

If loving each other is fairly easy, than being unselfish is a bit harder.

We all come into our relationships as individuals. The relationship starts because of what it does for us, and what we get out of it. Yes, we want to do things for our partners because we care about them, but also because we like how it feels to see them happy.

The thing is we had our own lives before. Our own interests. Our own friends. Now we are fitting this new person into our life, and finding that balance that will allow the relationship to flourish while maintaining our own identity can be very difficult.

People say you need to put your partner’s needs before your own. That’s a noble sentiment, but I think it’s flawed. You matter too, and if you believe you always need to put your partners needs before your own then that is kind of like saying you should live for them or do things the way they want.

Ummm, no.

A relationship has to be mutually beneficial. For that to happen, you need to be willing to put your partners needs at the same level as yours. Not above, and not below. And doing that consistently is very difficult.

A relationship is a partnership. Both people need to be feel valued, appreciated, and happy. Any time one person is putting themselves above the other, they are creating an imbalance in the relationship.

Rule 3 – Communicate

I know it’s cliché, but the key to keeping a relationship healthy is communication.

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I heard this for years and thought that I “got it”, but it’s only recently that I have truly started to understand this.

Imagine for a moment that in a marriage, people are like two ships heading for a destination. If you haven’t shared your vision of where you want to go, and you just assume the other person wants the same things, sometimes you find out you aren’t actually heading to the same place. And often by the time you find this out, it’s too late.

That’s a pretty fundamental flaw to start with.

But lets imagine that both you and your partner did actually start out with a shared vision of where you wanted to go. You are still two separate ships.

If one or both of you are off course by a little bit, the longer you go on this way the more impact it has. And in a long term relationship, we all get off course once in a while. Or maybe our course changes.

This is where effective communication has to come in. An ability to listen without anger, criticism, defensiveness or ego (something much easier said than done), and to respond with empathy.

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Effective communication allows a couple to have periodic course corrections, preventing problems from getting too big and preventing them from getting too far apart.

Communication is freaking hard though. No one teaches us how to do it, so we try to learn it on our own. And because it’s hard, it’s easy to convince ourselves that avoiding problems will work. If we avoid things, maybe they’ll get better on their own.

Without those course corrections though, we just get farther and farther apart. And by the time we are willing to acknowledge there is a problem it is often too late.

Another issue with poor communication is that all relationships have problems and people can’t hold them in forever. So people turn to close friends either for advice, or simply to vent. But one of the biggest mistakes people make is having them come out with the wrong people.

This is a very dangerous thing to do. First, in doing so it can be very easy to violate trust. Additionally, the very act of opening up to someone is a large component of how intimacy is built in the first place. So opening up to the wrong person can place additional stresses on your relationship.

Someone is having problems at home, so they open up to a friend or a co-worker who lends a sympathetic ear. The opening up is a form of intimacy, and when the other person listens and understands, a bond is formed. Then they in turn start to open up. And suddenly, in addition to a troubled relationship at home you are building a bond with someone else.

This is how many affairs start.

And it’s something that could easily be avoided by simply working on communication in the relationship.

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Making it Work

As people, we are always only one half of a relationship. We have no control over the other person and their actions (and shouldn’t want it), so there is no way to “divorce proof” a relationship.

But we do have control over ourselves and our own actions. And these three actions are the ways to give our relationship the best chance at success.

Love each other, don’t be selfish, and communicate.

Simple, and obvious rules. But although they are easy to understand, they aren’t always easy to do.

But if we can accept that and work on them every day, we give our relationships their best chance of long term success.

Passive Aggression

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In my last post I talked about Avoidance, and how avoidance is one of the most destructive things you can do. It limits quality of life and personal happiness while also doing damage to relationships.

Relationships require communication – even (perhaps especially) about the difficult things in life, while avoidant people withdraw or check out when confronted with anything difficult or uncomfortable.

The avoidant approach is, why deal with something if you can ignore it? After all, if you ignore something long enough it will just go away on its own right?

Spoiler alert – it doesn’t. Actually, things just get worse. And here’s one of the main reasons why…

Avoidant people may do their best to avoid conflict, and they may “think” they are succeeding. But everyone has emotions, and feelings; and eventually these frustrations find a way out. But since they have never developed healthy ways to express and deal with emotions and feelings, they find “subtle” ways to express them.

Ways that are very, very damaging.

The Four Horsemen

In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work John Gottman says he can predict with a fairly high degree of accuracy whether or not a couple will succeed or fail. And one of his beliefs is the existence or amount of conflict itself has nothing to do with the success of a relationship.

What matters is HOW a couple fights.

He describes the following “corrosive negative behavior patterns” as being the strongest predictors of divorce, or as he put it – “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.

  • Criticism: No relationship is perfect, and we all have things about our partners that make us unhappy. Complaints are fine and are about behaviors you want to change. A criticism is a way of expressing the complaint that becomes an attack on the other person. With criticism, the issue isn’t the behavior – it’s the other person.
  • Contempt: This is the use of things like threats, name calling and insults. Contempt is when there is an air of superiority, and the offending person focuses on their partners mistakes instead of appreciating them and seeing the good. The existence of contempt is the highest predictor or divorce in a marriage
  • Defensiveness: This is when any attempt at discussion of issues becomes interpreted as an attack. When people get defensive, they attempt to “protect themselves” by doing things like counter-attacking, denying, or re-directing the conversation away from the topic at hand. There is no acceptance of the issue, or acceptance of responsibility. If you think back to my post on accountability, defensiveness is the first few steps – denial, blaming/justifying
  • Stonewalling: This is when in a discussion the listener emotional withdraws or “checks out” on the discussion. They likely are feeling emotionally overwhelmed, or flooded by the discussion; so they don’t engage. They may listen, but they don’t focus or give any clues they are actually paying attention. For the person trying to have a discussion, they feel ignored.

The first two are predictors of early divorce (supposedly 5.6 years after the wedding), while the next two predict later divorce (16.2 years after the wedding). Defensiveness and Stonewalling are the hallmarks of avoidance, and they are classic signs of passive aggressive behavior.

 

What is Passive Aggression?

Passive aggression is perhaps the worst thing you can do in a relationship. If you aren’t familiar with passive aggression, here’s another term for it – treating your partner like crap (I’m not sure if that’s the official scientific term. If not it probably should be).

What does passive aggression look like?

I found a great description of it at this site:

Passive Aggressive behavior can be defined as conduct which is conflict avoidant. Anger is not openly expressed but manifests itself by way of covert resistance, procrastination, withdrawal, sarcasm and more.

Broken agreements, withholding emotional support and/or sex, sabotage, sulking and silent treatment are all common features of passive aggressive behavior.

Many Passive Aggressive people simply refuse to contemplate that they might be doing anything wrong and simply do not believe their conduct to be anything untoward.

Basically it’s “conflict avoidant” behavior, where the real feelings of conflict (anger/frustration/resentment) leak out in other ways.

Passive Aggressive Behaviors

Here are a number of common passive aggressive behaviors (cobbled together from a number of sources):

Refusing to say what you mean. This is when someone will say one thing (usually what they believe the other person wants to hear) even when they don’t actually mean it. Sometimes they will say Yes when they really mean No. Or they will say “We’ll See” instead of saying No outright. But then they show what they “really mean” through their behavior.

Putting on a false face. This is similar to the previous one, but at a bit different. Passive aggressive people will often appear to be kind and agreeable, while inside they are actually hurt, angry or resentful.

Afraid to be alone, but also afraid of being dependent. There are difficulties with communication due to a fear of rejection that make relationships difficult. At the same time emotional walls are built to keep close relationships at a distance because there is a fear of dependence. Passive aggressive people do want relationships, but only on their terms. There is a strong need for control.

Learned Helplessness/Victimization. When conflict arises (which it will), the inability to deal with it often leads to anger and resentment. However instead of recognizing the problem is due to a lack of communication, it is perceived as being the other persons fault. “They” did this, or that. They caused the conditions that led to the anger (which of course is seen as justified). There is no ownership by the passive aggressive person. They are a victim of others being hard on them, unreasonable or expecting too much.

Resenting Demands/Expectations of others. Relationships have expectations, and these expectations form the boundaries of relationships. Passive aggressive people will often view others demands/expectations as unfair or unjust. But rather than expressing this and trying to find a path that works for both people they will hold things in and allow resentment for the other person to build.

Procrastination. Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but for a passive aggressive person procrastination is a form of control and punishment. They don’t like “having” to do things, especially when this is related to the expectations of others. So they won’t. But instead of saying they won’t, they make them wait and come up with excuses on “why” they haven’t been able to. When someone calls them out on their lack of follow through on things they either promised of agreed to, the passive aggressive person will often find ways to turn it around and blame the other person for why things aren’t done.

Not giving honest answers. When dealing with uncomfortable topics passive aggressive people will usually try to change the subject. When they can’t, they often say a lot of things without actually saying anything. Often no real answer is given. Or instead of being truthful, they will withhold information, and be selective in what they say and how they respond. They may not “lie”, but honesty is not just about the words you say. The ones you don’t say are often just as important.

Sulking/Withdrawing/Pouting. When things aren’t going their way, or they are unhappy about a situation passive aggressive people will shut down emotionally and withdraw. They will withhold affection, kindness (and empathy really) as a way of “showing displeasure”. Again, this is about punishment and control. Silent treatment and “walking away” are common ways of “dealing” with issues. This may sound a lot like tantrums. Well guess what, they are. This sort of behavior is basically an adult tantrum by someone who has never learned to communicate and deal with emotion in a healthy way.

Keeping Score. Passive aggressive people have a very difficult time letting things go. We all have times people hurt or disappoint us. Instead of confronting the issues, dealing with it and letting it go; passive aggressive people will hold onto things. Not only do they not let go, they also often feel someone doing something to them entitles them to do something in retaliation/response. In relationships (especially ones that matter to us) taking this approach is destructive, and will only escalate things.

Silent Treatment. This is one of the hallmarks of passive aggression, as well as being one of the great killers of relationships. When someone is upset they withdraw – emotionally and/or physically. Passive aggressive people often tell themselves they do this to ensure they don’t “say something they will regret”, and there is some truth to that. But they never return, and never deal with the issue at hand. They avoid it, and this becomes both a way of dealing with things as well as a form of punishment and control.

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Take a good look at the items in the above list.

I’m pretty sure any rational person will accept these are all COMPLETELY TERRIBLE things to do to your partner. Hell, they’re terrible ways to treat people who you DON’T like; never mind ones you are supposed to be building a life with.

That said, we ALL do these things once in a while. But people with healthy communication and conflict skills realize they are being an asshole when they do it, while passive aggressive people don’t seem to see a problem with it – or they have a long list of excuses and reasons (usually someone elses fault) as to “why” they are doing it.

At least at some level though, even the people exhibiting these behaviors have to KNOW these are self-destructive behaviors that are damaging their relationships; as many of these behaviors are selfish, petty and cruel. These behaviors don’t belong in a “loving relationship”.

So why?

Why willfully engage in behaviors that at some level they know are destroying their relationships?

Why do it?

An Inability to Cope

There are two main reasons people are passive aggressive.

  1. They don’t realize they are doing it
  2. They don’t know any other way.

One thing to be clear on…

…when you look through these behaviors it can make it seem like passive aggressive people are horrible monsters. They’re not.

Often they are good, kind people “most” of the time. They simply been taught conflict is bad, so they have spent their lives repressing feelings and negative emotions, and have never learned how to effectively communicate and deal with conflict. As a result they are emotionally crippled, and shut down in the face of negative emotions.

Passive aggressive behavior often goes hand in hand with anxiety and avoidance, because at it’s root it is about a fear of conflict, and a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness that comes with being unable to deal with conflict.

Conflict happens though. It’s a natural (and needed) part of life. So passive aggressiveness is really about an inability to cope with the reality of life. This is why many passive aggressive people try to present an image of perfection. It allows them to create and escape to a fantasy world where conflict doesn’t exist.

Healthy Conflict

At the beginning I talked about John Gottmans book, and how he believes there are behaviors that are good predictors of divorce. Passive aggression is one of the biggest ones.

Well, what does a “healthy” relationship look like according to him? Gottman says the signs of happy couples are:

  • Couples who behave like good friends and handle their conflicts in gentle, positive ways.
  • Couples who are able to repair negative interactions during an argument, and are able to process negative emotions fully.

See the key words in those two things?

Handles conflict.
Deal with negative emotions.

These are things the avoidant and passive aggressive person either can’t or won’t do.

There is good news though.

People are not avoidant or passive aggressive by nature. It is a communication and coping style that is learned. Because of this, it is also something that can change.

I’ve written on change in the past, and although it’s not an easy thing to do is CAN happen. But for it to happen, the person making the change needs to truly understand how their behavior is hurting them. They need to face the mirror, and realize the way they have approached things has not been working.

If you are someone who defaults to avoidance or passive aggression as your default coping mechanisms, here’s something to consider:
Avoidance and Passive Aggressive behavior are among the most damaging behaviors one can have. When you look up “Toxic Behavior” the behaviors listed are usually lists of both passive aggressive and avoidant behavior.

If having your default coping mechanisms defined as “toxic” doesn’t convince someone to try and change, I not sure what will. However avoidance and passive aggressive behavior ARE toxic. They are behaviors we all should be aware of, try to recognize when we do, and try to minimize.

For our relationships, our happiness and for those around us.

Avoidance

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Do you like horror movies? Some people do, others don’t. Some people love romantic comedies, others hate them. Movies, hobbies, foods, styles. It doesn’t matter what it is; we all have our own interests and preferences – things we like and things we don’t.

A natural result of this is putting our energies towards those things we enjoy (and not towards things we don’t).

Sure, there are benefits in expanding our horizons and trying new things. But if we don’t like something or we decide it makes us uncomfortable, it’s alright to avoid these things.

When things are just personal tastes and preferences, it really doesn’t matter if you like them. You can choose to ignore them without doing any harm to yourself or those around you.

But not all of life is like that.

Sometimes there are things we need to deal with, whether we like it or not. No matter how awkward or uncomfortable it makes us feel.

 

Responsibilities

It’s easy to say “I don’t like horror movies so I won’t watch them”. It’s a bit tougher to say “I don’t like paying bills so I won’t pay them”. I mean, you can, but over time there may be some impacts of making that choice.

Bills are just one obvious example of things we can’t ignore.

The fact is, there are a lot of things we have to do. If we live on our own, we need to pay rent or a mortgage. Which means we need some sort of income – which usually comes in the form of a job. Which means we need to show up at work and put in enough consistent effort to hold a job.

We need an income to live. And we need to both manage our income and live within it.  At the very least, jobs and bills are something we need to deal with.

We may not like the restrictions this places on us, and we may feel uncomfortable when we look at our bills and our account balance.

But it’s not something we can ignore.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I CAN ignore things that make me uncomfortable. That won’t make them go away though, and has consequences of it’s own.

In fact ignoring problems tends to backfire over time, as small problems often grow into something much larger when they are not addressed.

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Avoidance in Relationships

If life were just about me, it would be easy to do what I want and avoid the things that make me uncomfortable. Yes, this is unhealthy and there are usually negative consequences for doing this. But if I choose to do this, hey, it’s on me.

However most people don’t want to be alone. There is a natural tendency to seek relationships with others, both as friendships and intimate relationships. With friendships you can still get away with avoidance to a degree, as your friends only see you sometimes. In intimate relationships however this will ultimately cause problems.

Intimate relationships can be wonderful and rewarding. But they can also be challenging.

Life doesn’t always go down a happy path, sometimes things don’t go the way we want. Because people are different all relationships occasionally run into conflict, and some of the most common conflict areas are the following:

  • Money/Finances
  • Children (can be whether to have, or child rearing once you have them
  • Chores/Domestic Work
  • Sexual Expectations
  • Family (dealing with extended)
  • Elderly Parents (care of)
  • Life Priorities

None of these are fun, or easy topics to deal with.  And yes, at times it would be easier to just ignore them.  But for a relationship to thrive (or even just survive) the couple needs to find a way to navigate these in some way.

Navigating them involves accepting the each member of the relationship may have different ideas, accepting each persons opinion as valid, and working through the problem to find a common ground.

When something affects the couple and has impacts on them, the issue NEEDS to be addressed and dealt with.

It doesn’t matter if we like dealing with the problem or not, if we feel it’s an issue for us personally or not, or if it makes us uncomfortable.  If it’s a problem in the relationship, it’s a problem.

This isn’t like choosing not to watch scary movies. These things matter.

In life, we can’t just pick and choose the parts we want to deal with and ignore/avoid the rest.

Avoiding problems puts stress on the individuals, on the relationship, and over time it will threaten to destroy the relationship if a different path is not found.

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When Avoidance Becomes a Problem

No one likes to deal with difficult or uncomfortable issues, and unless you love conflict (which some do) everyone will try to avoid things sometimes.

However when avoidance becomes a pattern of behavior, or a default ways of “dealing” with issues and conflict then it has become a problem.

According to Merriam-Webster avoidance is an act or practice of avoiding or withdrawing from something.

As noted, we all do this sometimes. But why does it become a (very broken) method of coping for some people?

One explanation for this can be found in the Fear Avoidance Model.

This is a psychological model that believes avoidance is driven by pain, and fear of pain. Conflict and dealing with conflict comes to be associated with discomfort, which can be physical or psychological.

Due to this fear, over time people start to avoid situations associated with this pain in the belief that doing so will “protect” them from it. However this same act of avoidance over the long term does more damage than good – as people will increasingly restrict their life to only include things that are “safe”, resulting in disability and depression.

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Avoidance is strongly linked to anxiety, as anxiety is based on fear. So an anxious person will often avoid situations that make them uncomfortable, even to their own detriment.

In extreme cases, anxiety can cause people to avoid life; and they end up trapped in a cage of their own making.

These extreme cases are often referred to as Avoidant Personality Disorder. Wikipedia describes this as being characterized by the following traits:

  • Hypersensitivity to rejection/criticism
  • Self-imposed social isolation
  • Extreme shyness or anxiety in social situations, though the person feels a strong desire for close relationships
  • Avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Severe low self-esteem or Self-loathing
  • Mistrust of others
  • Emotional distancing related to intimacy
  • Highly self-conscious
  • Lonely self-perception, although others may find the relationship with them meaningful
  • Feeling inferior to others
  • Uses fantasy as a form of escapism to interrupt painful thoughts

Communication and Avoidance

It is often said that communication is the most important thing in a relationships, and there are a number of quotes like this:
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Communication builds closeness and mutual understanding. You build intimacy through letting the other person in and being vulnerable around them. This doesn’t happen without communication. In fact, in its purest for physical intimacy (sex) is really just a form of communication.

But we are all different, with different ideas and beliefs. And these differences provide the potential for conflict – especially in areas that make us uncomfortable.

I’ve written in the past on conflict, and how dealing with it is one of the most important relationship skills you can have. Conflict allows us to improve our mutual understanding of each other, and understanding is important to the long term success of any relationship.

Well what happens when you don’t communicate well, or perhaps not at all?

Avoidance is really the complete opposite of communication. Indeed, it is a refusal to communicate.

If communication is the lifeblood of a relationship, then avoidance is one of the biggest roadblocks to a happy relationship.

Avoidance often goes hand in hand with silence, or the silent treatment. What is often overlooked is that silent treatment is a form of punishment and control. In fact avoidance/withdrawal and the silent treatment are leading form of emotional abuse.

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A Better Way

I believe avoidance is one of THE biggest killers of relationships. But instead of ending relationships, it often leads to couples being “unhappily married” or in “bad relationships”. Because problems happen, and not only are they never addressed, but they are also never discussed and never out in the open.

Tension and body language makes it obvious problems exist, but they are avoided, leading to unhappiness and resentment.

We all have things that make us uncomfortable, and dealing with problems is never easy. But if you are someone who falls back on avoidance as way of “dealing” with issues, then your happiness and potentially your relationship depends on your ability to learn a different way.

As shown in the fear-avoidance model, avoidance is a destructive coping mechanism. By using avoidance to cope, people end up shutting down and withdrawing. As the model shows, the avoidance is due to fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of consequences.

Guess what? Life happens. And yes, things DO have consequences. This doesn’t mean you can’t deal with them and get past them though.

Avoidance goes hand in hand with anxiety, and one of the main components of anxiety is this fear of what “could” happen. Effective anxiety treatment is all about showing that yes, things can happen, and yes actions have consequences. But the consequences are almost always much less than the anxious person believes. Anxiety is about irrational fear (though it seems very rational at the time).

Like anything else in life, the only way to improve something is to do it. Avoiding is the opposite – it involves not doing. So it also involves never improving.

Take a chance, and try to overcome your fears. Try to actually tackle issues head on instead of avoiding them. Start small, and hopefully you will find the fear is greater than the reality.

Over time you can take your life back, and instead of avoiding you can start living.

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