RELATIONSHIPS - Part II
Dennis B. Kottler, MD
Westlake Village, CA
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(Please read Relationships - Part I first)
See also: LIFE NAVIGATION vs. PSYCHOTHERAPY
Rules of Engagement
Every relationship has implicit and explicit rules. The unspoken rules often color the relationship as much as the rules which have been verbalized. A tacit arrangement might involve, for example: "You can continue to make all the decisions, since I like to be taken care of, but I absolutely will not tolerate any physical or verbal abuse."
Relationships with well understood rules can be quite stable, though not necessarily always in the best interests of one's personal development. Often psychotherapeutic treatment of one person leads to "new rules" which may be unacceptable to the other person. Thus, conjoint treatment may be required.
I have made a list of a few items which I believe belong on a relationship code of etiquette. The "don'ts" are listed first.
Negative Things People Do in Relationships:
1. Dishonesty. Invariably leads to problems with trust.
2. Paying obvious, undue attention (sexual in nature) to the opposite or same sex (as the case may be). People have fantasies. While there is no reason to feel guilty, avoid being hurtful.
3. Excessive financial control. Control issues over money and how it is spent can get out of hand. Many of us live in community property states these days. Perhaps sharing things in a marriage/relationship is preferable to dividing them up afterwards.
4. Unpredictable ranting and raving. Again, often a male attribute (at the expense of sounding sexist). Temper outbursts do not seem conducive to a loving, trusting relationship, except in certain sado-masochistic arrangements, in which case this behavior has been known to lead to wild sex. Others are advised to count to ten, have something to eat, or take a cold shower...also works for tempers.
5. Cheating.. No further explanation required.
6. Physical abuse. A minor offense may be subject to the "one-bite" rule reserved for wild dogs. No "three strikes" rule here.
7. Emotional or verbal abuse.
8. Excessive attention to:
Blackberry's and IPhones
Laptop computers - sometimes under the guise of "work"
Other "obsessive/addictive" behavior....may include internet "chat" rooms, sports, gambling, or substances
Positive Things to Do in a Relationship:
1. Communicate and negotiate. Most conflicts can be worked out by discussion and compromise, whether a nation or relation.
2. Verbalize feelings. When angry it often helps to say so and to explain why. Maybe the anger has to do with work and has no connection to the relationship. However, the other party doesn't know this unless you inform him (her).
3. When feeling frustration with the behavior of a partner, express this in non-judgmental terms. For example, "when you look at other women in restaurants it makes me feel like I am no longer attractive to you."
4. Seek out counseling when things seem to have reached an impasse or when the quality of the relationship seems to be deteriorating.
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