Relationships can be viewed as a collection of behaviors. If a couple has more behaviors that enrich a relationship and create warm and loving intimacy, it is more likely the couple is going to enjoy their time together. The Relationship Check up is a basic gardening tool. If you notice any of the Relationship Check Up behaviors operating in your relationship, you may want to weed them out and replace them with behaviors and skills that work better for your relationship. With each "weed" listed, an alternative positive behavior will be listed.
The Relationship Check up will list challenging behaviors first and positive alternatives immediately afterwards. If a behavior is hurting your relationship, you might consider an alternative and practice it until it's the first choice and feels natural. Couples can review this sheet together or work alone to bring about alterations they desire.
Judging/put downs. Judging and putdowns unravels intimacy and trust. There's no real place, in relationships, for negative global labels of partners. Alternative positive behavior: Accepting your partner and viewing them as multi-faceted. This behavior can be practiced in place of judging and putdowns until "other acceptance" feels natural and the first choice for a behavior.
Making non-specific requests. Making non-specific requests creates vagueness about what you want from your partner. Clearly and specifically describe what you want your partner to do. Alternative positive behavior: Ask specifically for what you want. "I want you to clean all your dishes right after you finish dinner and place them on the second shelf."
Expecting your partner to know what you want without telling them. Expecting your partner to know what you want without telling them is passive and will invariably lead to frustration on both your parts. If you want something, ask for it and be specific. Alternative positive behavior: Tell your partner clearly and specifically what you want.
Mind Reading. With Mind Reading we believe we know what's in our partner's mind without them telling us. We believe we know their thoughts, intentions, and feelings even though they haven't told us. We may insist they are hiding something or are not admitting the truth when they insist that's not their thinking, feelings, or intentions. Mind reading is based on the distorted belief that we know better than our partners about what is going on inside their heads. Knowing another's mind without them telling us directly or demonstrating it by behavior is not possible. Practising mind reading on our partners often demonstrates our projections or seeing them through a filter of someone from our past. Alternative behavior: Refuse to mind read and ask them about their thoughts, intentions, and feelings.
Temper tantrums. Blowing up and having tantrums is very destructive to intimacy and closeness. If you're prone to tantrums, practice assertiveness where you tell the other person what you want and need without being aggressive, hostile, or blowing up. Alternative positive behavior: Act and speak assertively, letting the other person know clearly and specifically what you prefer. Practice assertiveness until it comes naturally.
Avoid nevering/forevering. Avoid absolutistic descriptors like "It never happens." "It happens all the time." "This is going on forever." Alternative positive behavior: Consider using "frequently", "infrequently", "some of the time" etc.
Acting defensively. When criticism is offered we shut it out by quickly becoming defensive. We don't hear what our partner is saying. This shuts down communication and closeness. Alternative positive behavior: We listen and remain receptive to what is being said. We listen and get at least a kernel of truth in what our partner is saying. We learn to get in their shoes and see from their perspective. This takes practice.
Demanding proofs of love from your partner. The habit of saying: "If you loved me or cared for me you would do _______________." This kind of proving puts your partner on a treadmill and is likely to create resentment and close down intimacy. Alternative positive behavior: Begin to notice all the ways your partner is actually demonstrating loving behavior.
Guilt tripping. Deadly to relationships is making someone responsible for how you feel and act. Telling someone they "should've done" ________ and because they didn't they're “no good." will be profoundly unmotivating for your partner and shut down closeness in a large way. Keep away from making someone responsible for your feelings, health, or behavior. Alternative positive behavior: If you have a complaint, present it without downing the other person and keep it behavior specific. "I didn't like that you did _________."
Bang on your partner's hot buttons. If someone wants to damage closeness, a major way to accomplish it is to find a partner's weaknesses and shortcomings and harp on them. Especially damaging is picking on areas where your partner is liable to get angry. Knock their friends, relatives, what they do for a living, their aspirations and key values and you will guarantee them shutting down if they don't become angry with you. Alternative Positive Behaviors: Sincerely find things to compliment your partner about and notice the many good things they do.
Emotionally threaten and blackmail your partner. Threaten to leave, divorce, or withhold something emotional unless you get your way. Threats and blackmail are deadly to intimacy and trust. Alternative positive behaviors: Be assertive and ask for what you want without the threats and blackmail. Only use ultimatums as a last ditch approach and do them if they get no response.
Avoid your partner and shut them out when they are angry or repeatedly making requests (nagging). Avoiding your partner through work, hobbies, and TV can undermine a relationship and lead your partner into believing you don't care. Alternative positive behaviors: Set time aside and listen to your partner. Don't agree to requests you don't mean to fulfill just to get them off your back. Let them know you don't like being nagged or blown up at. Both of you sit down and discuss how chores and the like can be pulled off without getting into a rope pull.
Demands for constant attention and watching the tap. A large problem in relationships is when one of the partners is demanding attention and watching for how much they receive. Often times the one demanding attention and watching the tap misses or minimizes attention. The effect of dependency, tap watching, and "attention on demand" is the reverse. These behaviors will shut the partner's attention down. No one likes choicelessness and being forced to be attentive. Few people feel close to persons who are excessively needy. Alternative positive behaviors: Learn to accept yourself, give yourself attention, and treat yourself in caring and loving ways.
Micromanaging your partner and relationship. Anxious micromanaging and controlling your partner and every aspect of your relationship will create distance with your partner. Assumptions and expectations welded to a lot of shoulds and musts can make relationship drudgery for both the controller and the controlled. Positive alternative behavior: Learn how you can deal with your emotions through integration and processing and how you can make yourself feel okay through self-acceptance and treating yourself in a loving and caring manner.
Manipulating your partner. Manipulating your partner through coercion, intimidation, 3rd partying, past hurts, etc. will pull the rug out from under emotional closeness and trust. Alternative positive behavior: Learn to assertively ask for what you want without manipulation.
Putting your partner on the defensive with accusations. Accusations shut down intimacy and trust. They are especially damaging if they are tossed out indiscriminately to stir up a fight. Alternative Positive Behavior: Seek to build a bridge to your partner though spending quality time together and another time to resolve issues.
Failure to keep promises. This damages trust an important part of maintaining intimacy. Alternative positive behaviors: Learn to fully commit to your promises.
A lack of acknowledgement, acceptance, and appreciation. A lack of acknowledgement, acceptance, and appreciation will put folks out of contact. Alternative positive behaviors: Learn to acknowledge, accept, and appreciate your partner.
Making physical intimacy a bargaining chip. Sometimes physical intimacy becomes a bargaining chip especially when there is a power struggle. When people feel hurt or untrusting they back away. Alternative positive behavior: Enjoy physical intimacy and consciously put it off limits to being used as a bargaining chip.
Impatient behavior. Couples have to overcome excessive Low Frustration Tolerance and impatient behavior. Alternative positive behavior: Learn to stay with and stand activities. Practice integration and the I Stood It Exercise.
Depressed and anxious partners. If one partner is depressed or anxious it can create a strain on the relationship. Alternative positive behavior: The depressed or anxious partner should consult with a therapist.
Blame casting. Blaming is a major roadblock to an intimate connection and blocks finding solutions. Alternative positive behavior: Blame the universe for 12.5 seconds, then go for finding solutions.
Have fun, Steve