10 No Nos for Exceptional Relationships
Love should never cost you peace.
I’ve written about how our attachment style* governs our actions in a relationship, but to make it simple, if a relationship is based on fear, it is doomed.
How do you know if your relationship is toxic? It all starts with self-awareness and honesty and letting go of unrealistic expectations.
Consider the following as red alerts for a dysfunctional relationship: You feel unhappy. You doubt yourself. You walk on eggshells around your partner, afraid to create an argument. You are not able to do or say things you wish you could. You don’t feel safe. You don’t feel free. You are financially and emotionally dependent on your partner.
I’m not going to list ‘physical abuse’. That can never be tolerated. Ever!
Here are 10 No Nos to build and maintain a successful relationship
The following 10 No Nos are not listed in an order of importance. Nor have I listed every ‘No No’ possible. Outside of physical abuse, the following are the most toxic and critical.
No No #1: You keep score of misdeeds and mistakes.
You can’t lift a relationship up if you keep walking over the other person’s mistakes.
Keeping score of misdeeds and mistakes is a sign of a competitive relationship which means that your partner is lurking, waiting for a chance to ‘win.’
A relationship that is competitive is a disaster in the making. This includes operating from a ‘tit for tat’ mindset. In the purest form ‘tit for tat’ means retaliation for some injury. It also means “Because I did this for you, you owe me the same.”
It may also mean reminding you of mistakes you have made in the past or playing the ‘one upmanship’ or ‘power’ game.
Think of a successful relationship as a closed-end corporation or team where you both want the best for each other.
No No #2: Trying to change your partner.
You cannot, nor should you ever try to, change your partner.
That is his or her job. Your job is to change
the ways you communicate, react, and respond to your partner.
— John Gray
Trying to change someone else to match how you think the other person should act is like trying to control the weather. It is never going to happen.
LIFE RULE: You will NEVER change another person to match your expectations.
I hesitate to use the word ‘never’ since in certain cases it is possible, in the macro sense, to support a person to manage a drinking or drug habit or, in a micro sense, to put the toilet seat down. You simply will not be successful attempting to get a person to change to match your expectations.
No No #3: Being controlling.
Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.
– Leo Buscaglia
A successful relationship does not require a dictator. It requires a true partner and a supportive teammate.
How can you tell? It’s very simple. If your partner determines how you must spend money, what you are going to eat, who your friends should be, what to watch on your Smart TV, controlling what you wear, using guilt to control, expresses jealousy, constantly keeps tabs on where you are or who you are with or, criticizes you a lot, you are in a controlling toxic relationship.
To rectify this, you want to summon the courage to make sure you both have a say in your relationship in all the above areas.
My wife, Susan, came up with what I consider a magical question that can solve so much conflict. Each person asks themselves: “To whom is this most important?” You make an empowering choice and then, let go.
Reminder: You are in control of your habits and your choices.
No No #4: Not respecting another person’s space.
Giving space and time is the best recipe for a long-term relationship to work.
— Abhishek Tiwari
My mother, God bless her soul, was a snoop. I know it stemmed from her fear of something happening to me but, as a young boy, resented it terribly.
Snooping is a sign of a larger issue, lack of trust. And lack of trust is a major warning sign of a larger issue.
SUGGESTION: If you do snoop, ask yourself “Why?” It may be part of a larger issue you need to address.
On a personal note: As does my wife, I don’t like my ‘stuff’ moved, gone through, or borrowed without my permission. Bottom line is that both my wife and I respect each other’s space and I love her for it.
No No #5: Repeatedly breaking your word.
You should always keep your word. All the setbacks in life come only because you don’t keep your word.
Repeatedly breaking your word is not only a sign of disrespect, but it also sends the message that you have made your partner a low priority. It’s not only hurtful, but it also spells disaster for a healthy relationship.
Sometimes things happen beyond our direct control which interferes with keeping our word. When it happens, apologize, and don’t let it happen again.
No No #6: Crushing your partner’s confidence in public or in private.
Demeaning your partner is not a sign of love, it’s a sign of a dying relationship.
– Deborah M. Capaldi
Often it begins as a joke, or something considered ‘cute’ which was not meant to be hurtful. Or it is intentional to whack their confidence by making insensitive, passive aggressive or sarcastic remarks.
Do not tolerate this and, if you do it, STOP!
Be proactive. Speak up and let the person know how hurtful those words were. If your partner does not change, it is time to seriously examine your relationship on every level.
A last word on this. If you talk negatively about your partner behind their back, you will be judged by those listening as being a real jerk and you will never know it.
No No # 8: Clinging.
The person is experiencing fear and anxiety that is attached to a belief, they won’t get their needs met, so they cling even harder to a person or situation to prevent the risk of this happening.
Clinging and the terror of abandonment stems back to a person’s attachment style that develops in infancy between parent and child.
Couples’ therapist, Aparna Sagaram states, “If a child is unsure how a parent will react or the parent is inconsistent with responses, the child is likely going to develop an anxious attachment. Your attachment style to caregivers is most likely the same attachment style you will develop with a romantic partner.”
Clinging is fear of being left alone. The downside is that clinging can drive another person away emotionally or physically and ruin a relationship.
If you’re a ‘clinger’, you want to begin to work on yourself, now. Work on your self -love and self-confidence. Above all, create a life outside your relationship. This could include a book club, developing your own hobbies, interests, and friendships. Like creating space for plants to grow, space in a relationship nurtures the whole.
No No #9: Nagging
Clean the living room, wash the dishes, take out the trash … nag, nag, nag.
The incessant nagging you do not only drives your partner mad,
it drives them away and hurts intimacy.
– Louis Chang, MD
Nagging is a delicate and challenging subject because most naggers don’t know they are nagging.
My wife asked me, “What is the difference from nagging and reminding?”
NAG-GING: Definition from Oxford Dictionary:
Constantly harassing someone to do something. Complaining, criticizing, grumbling, fault-finding, moaning, pestering.
cause (someone) to remember someone or something:
jog someone’s memory, prompt nudge refresh someone’s memory.
LIFE LESSON: Science backs that asking for the same thing repeatedly — believe it or not — just doesn’t work.
Nagging can take the form of verbal reminder, requests, pleas or demands. Even through the nagger can say it several separate ways, if it is said over and over and over again, it is considered nagging.
Because most naggers truly don’t know they nag, they believe it helps. However, what one often considers a helpful nag isn’t if the partner being nagged says it is not helpful. How a person gets labeled as a ‘nagger’ truly depends on how the other person says it feels.
Here’s where ‘nagging’ gets a bit dicey. Feelings and emotions play a large part in nagging, which means that women usually play the stereotypical lead role.
Couples’ therapist Jamie Turndorf Ph.D. states, “Women take on the lion’s share of nagging because many women find it difficult to directly communicate their needs, they fall into the fatal trap of whining and nagging about what they aren’t getting rather than directly stating what they want, need, or expect from their partner. Unfortunately, whining and nagging doesn’t put a man into a giving mood, and a vicious cycle is born: The more her man starves her of what she wants, the more she nags and the less likely he is to be responsive to her wishes.”
NAGGING INSIGHTS: Women shoulder the biggest label being a nag because nagging women almost feel more responsible for managing the home and family. Nagging is fueled by the fear of not being in control.
But like any facet of a relationship, nagging is a two-way street. Both men and women can be ‘nags’
Ironically, woman who display the characteristics of nagging are labeled a nag while men who do it are called taxing, demanding, exacting, domineering, or difficult to please.
Solution: Start looking for more productive ways to communicate, or risk damaging the intimacy in your relationship
“Skip the nagging, and try taking action,” says social worker Michele Weiner- “Skills like active listening allow couples to learn how to talk to each other in such a way that they are heard. Too often, when couples talk to each other about heated issues, they are too busy defending themselves to hear on a deep level what their spouses are saying and feeling. If they can learn the tools for fair fighting, then both spouses can be heard, and nagging isn’t necessary.”
No No #10: Taking your partner for granted and not expressing gratitude.
Even the most caring people can get tired of being taken for granted.
– Nishan Panwar
This is not brain science. Taking your partner for granted is simply unconscious, lazy, and selfish behavior. You can quote me on that.
How do you know if you are being taken for granted? If you are paying attention to how you feel about the quality of your communication, you will know.
Ask yourself, “Do you honor your partner and feel honored? Do each of you express gratitude for each other? Do you honestly communicate with each other without getting defensive? Do you trust each other? Do you include your partner in making plans and decisions?”
If the answer to any of the above is ‘No’ then one of you has some work to do.
People change and forget to tell each other.
– Lillian Hellman
SOLUTION: Take a few minutes and think about what your partner has done for you and what makes your partner happy.
Communicate! Express gratitude and love. Express your concerns and be vocal about how you feel. If necessary, cite specific examples without blaming.
If you genuinely want to live an exceptional life in a successful relationship, take an inventory based on these 10 No Nos and ramp up your joy.
I leave you with a quote from one of my heroes, Dr. Gerald Jampolsky, which has served Susan and me well, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”
*James Mapes, “Imagine That: Igniting your Brain for Creativity and Peak Performance” (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016) Pgs. 27-31
James Mapes is the founder of Quantum Leap Thinking™, creator of The Transformational Coach™, expert on the psychology of “applied imagination,” best-selling author, highly acclaimed business speaker, consultant, seminar leader and personal excellence coach.