Thursday, February 26, 2009

Relationship Matters Seven- Eliminate The Negative

Don’t Let Love Busters Destroy Your Marriage
It is easy to see your partner’s faults. They are glaringly obvious, right in front of your face. But it’s harder to see your own faults and really, who wants to? Owning up to your own faults is challenging. It is far easier to opt for denial and point the accusing finger right back at your partner, declaring: “You’re the problem, not me!”

Commit To Change
How do we free ourselves from the loop of blame and counter-blame? For anyone to change and grow, the first step is willingness. And if you really want to change, you must scrutinise yourself and face your faults. It takes courage.

Thankfully psychologist Dr Willard Harley, after 40 years of tough experience with finger-pointing couples, has done the hard slog for us. He has identified six core habits that are guaranteed to destroy any marriage. He coined the cute term ‘Love Busters’ and if you want a happy marriage these habits must be treated like dangerous pests and exterminated.

The Six No-No's
The six Love Busters are selfish demands, disrespectful judgments, angry outbursts, dishonesty, annoying habits and independent behaviour.

Selfish demands are made for your own benefit at the expense of your partner and laced with a threat of punishment if refused. Such demands are made in a state of frustration when you’re trying to solve a problem. It might be that you want help with the kids and the housework or you are demanding your right to come home late from a business meeting. However demands lead to resentment and kill love.

There is another way. Thoughtful requests mean asking your partner to do something for you with willingness to withdraw if there is reluctance. The request is preceded by “How would you feel if you were to…” which shows concern for your partner’s feelings.

Respectful Persuasion
Selfish demands lead to resistance and escalate to disrespectful judgments. Out of mounting frustration you will resort to name-calling, insults, ridicule and criticism. Such attacks are damaging to your partner’s self-esteem and sense of safety and they never work! Dr Harley suggests you try respectful persuasion, which means blending your values systems, giving each one’s wisdom an opportunity to override the other’s foolishness!

If you persist with demands and insults and fail to get your own way, you are likely to resort to angry outbursts, temper tantrums and ranting and raving. For some, anger escalates to rage that explodes in a tirade of verbal abuse or even physical abuse. Such episodes are extremely harmful and must be stopped through anger management.

These first three Love Busters tend to be used by extroverted, fiery people and they are justified with excuses such as “I’m just an assertive guy who tells it like it is”; I need to let off steam”; “I’m just expressing myself. It’s better to let your feelings out than keep them bottled up”.

Superficial Behaviours
Fortunately these destructive habits are superficial behaviours, rather than deeply ingrained traits. They have often been role modelled on parents. In fact you are usually in your 'adaptive parent' state when you are demanding, lecturing, patronising, insulting and yelling at your partner. It is the selfish 'Taker' part of you, as Dr Harley terms it.
Thankfully with enough determination, it is possible to change these bad habits with intelligence and will power. Firstly, you must decide that such abuse is completely unacceptable.

Introverted people might not be guilty of these three aggressive Love Busters but they can specialise in the other three. Then there are those who have mastered all six bad habits with great finesse!

Radical Honesty
Let’s explore the other three Love Busters. People lie to protect their partner, look good or avoid trouble. (Some people are compulsive liars due to mental disorder). But dishonesty, for whatever reason, is a virus that will infect your marriage. Dr Harley advocates Radical Honesty, which requires complete honesty about one’s feelings, past experiences, present activities and future plans.

Annoying habits can range from how your husband slurps his coffee to how your wife always keeps you waiting. The partner with annoying habits will usually say “Like it or lump it! This is just how I am. I’m not going to change!” The truth is annoying habits destroy love and if you want your partner to stay in love with you, it makes sense to eliminate the habits that bug them.

Separate Lives
Finally some people choose to live separate lives. They are absorbed in their careers, have their own friends and interests and don’t consult their partner about decisions. At first glance independent behaviour might seem healthy. Who wants to be clingy and dependent? But living independently will make you drift apart and is not the only alternative to unhealthy dependency. Inter-dependent behaviour is the right balance that nurtures and protects each other.

The key principle to overcoming all six Love Busters is the Policy of Joint Agreement, which means never doing anything without the enthusiastic agreement between you and your partner. Obviously this refers to the big decisions of life. It requires consideration for each other and making the success of your marriage your highest priority.

This article was published in February 2008 in XL Extra! an international magazine for entrepreneurs and business people.

For more information, read Love Busters, Overcoming Habits That Destroy Romantic Love by Dr Willard Harley, Jr or visit

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