No matter who you are, what you do, who you know, we've all ruined relationships. But to be honest, we probably didn't mean to. To be even more honest, we probably don't know how we do it. Sadly, many of us continue to destroy our relationships and we can't stop.
Let's look at the word ruin. Webster defines it as “to deliberately destroy or damage”
Unfortunately, on top of this many of us are masters of sabotage. We ironically destroy the vital pieces of our own lives. Our careers, our friendships, our integrity, and even our trust. But if one thing is true, it's that relationships are a critical component to our health and happiness – not just intimate relationships, but all friends, family, and co-workers.
If you struggle with relationships, you struggle with life.
Early childhood plays a heavy role here. All of us, to some degree, have experienced damage and learned behaviors that result in brokenness and mistrust for others. It's made us skeptical, weary, critical, fearful, and worried. A re-learning of how to relate, how to connect, and how to love, is required.
Here are just 3 Ways (of many) we Ruin Relationships – and How to Stop:
1. The Blame Game.
I have a friend who just can't keep a girlfriend. Relationship after relationship. Great girl after great girl. Year after year. But they always end the same – in a list of reasons why they're so horrible. When all ten of your fingers are pointing at the other person, that’s a pretty good indicator that the problem is actually you.
People who struggle with blame often think:
- “I just can't find the right one”
- “Why am I so attracted to people who need to be fixed?”
- “I always pick the idiots”
- “I don't deserve a good relationship”
Can’t you read the bitterness and the cynicism in these words? Perhaps you’ve said them before. What if you are the problem? Have you had a series of relationships that ended before you wanted them to? When there’s a pattern in your life, you owe it to yourself to look closely at the cause or risk repeating the behavior in the next relationship. Don't be like my friend. You'll find yourself lonely and bitter, and sadly, you won't know why.
2. Passive-Aggressive Behavior.
You don’t say what you’re thinking or feeling. The truth comes out in ways that are unhealthy, even explosive at times. When you feel let down, for example, you might withhold communications or touch from the person you are in a relationship with. You’re not skilled or comfortable with using your words. You struggle through the awkwardness and lack the courage required for confrontation.
Kindergarten and preschool teachers often tell students who are struggling with self-control: “Use your words.” The first reaction of a child is to lash out and hit or to withdraw from the source of pain or hurt. As an adult, or maturing person, we have been given the gift of words, the gift of adult communication. These tools can be used to draw us back into a healthy understanding of our relationship's needs.
When you’re hurt, talk about it. When you’re angry, say something. The healthiest relationships acknowledge that conflict happens whenever two people get together and learn appropriate skills to navigate the inevitable.
3. Expectations as High as the Sky.
As an addict of performance, I’m guilty of this one. Unrealistic expectations. Trying to chisel out of stone the ideal image – the person you have in your mind’s eye – instead of loving and accepting the imperfect person standing before you. Sure, expectations are good when they drive incremental change, positivity, and are guided by grace and acceptance. But unreasonable expectations begin to undermine, or sabotage, a relationship once they become immovable standards that must be met.
People fail. People make mistakes. People are lazy. People are different than us. Many people who ruin relationships have problems accepting the reality of the flawed human being in front of them. We're all broken. It's time to accept it.