It’s difficult…thinking about reasons for ending a relationship. And yet, there’s that knot in your stomach, the ache in your chest, and the gnawing message, “Something isn’t quite right.”
On the other hand, many folk have tons of ultimatums—typically stated as, “If you do that again, I’ll... I’ll... leave!” The problem with this is that it’s expressed over trivialities, and the person saying it doesn’t actually leave! I think that every couple ought to be exploring what I call “Lines in the Sand.”
These are the few things that would lead, pretty quickly, to the ending of a relationship. In my case, my wife Darbella and I have only two lines in the sand: Total honesty, and using a Communication Model. If either stop happening, our relationship would be over.
While by no means an exhaustive list of Lines in the Sand, here are a few that are important:
Use of the pronoun “I”—most fights are about blaming, and the pronoun of blame is ‘you.’ If either or both partners are ‘you-ing,’ it’s time to stop. You want to remember that the only person you have control over is yourself, and therefore finger pointing is a waste of time.
Only talk about what you know about—the only thing you know about for sure is you and your motivations. Pretending to know what’s up for your partner is impossible. Yet, most fights contain a lot of, “here’s what you are thinking, feeling, doing…”
In good communication, you talk about what is happening for you, and invite your partner to share their story. You may also make requests, but they need to be things you are also doing, like, “I am willing to sit and talk for 30 minutes a day, using a communication model, and I’m asking you to do the same.”
Why it matters: Good communication is the only way to resolve issues. Bad communication [blaming, yelling, demanding, manipulating] is a huge marker for something seriously wrong with the relationship.
If you are engaging in bad communication and both of you are not willing to fix it [by going to see a therapist to learn how to communicate!], then what you see now is as good as it will get.
Being unwilling to communicate well is a primary cause of relationship failure, so choosing not to fix this basic ingredient is a clear indicator that the relationship is over.
Total honesty is what it sounds like. In a relationship, there can be no secrets.
Typically, resistance to honesty is caused by:
- The resistant party pulling the “I’m an adult, I have a right to privacy!” card, or
- The person has done something they fear revealing.
There’s something about dishonesty—it simply stands out. You can “feel it.” It’s that undercurrent of distrust—the sense that you’re only being told part of the story. And the excuses for not being honest are simply dumb.
YES, YOU DO HAVE A RIGHT TO PRIVACY. IT’S CALLED BEING SINGLE!
Why it matters: In a relationship, honesty is everything. And this includes being honest about attractions to others [of course it keeps happening!], how you relate to others [see below] and what is going on at work, with your maiden family…everything.
And primarily, it’s about communication: “So, I’m noticing that I am making myself uncomfortable about…”
If either you or your partner is hiding things from the other, it’s time to spell out what’s not being said, or end the relationship.
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