Nothing is more important to our happiness than the relationships we have with others. If you do not feel loved, supported and appreciated by the people who are closest to you, it is unlikely that you will be able to sustain a positive outlook for long, especially in the face of life’s inevitable challenges. You may feel temporarily happy when engaging in pleasant experiences, but these short-term buzzes often give way to deeper feelings of disconnection, loneliness, and isolation.
This is why so many people enter therapy to improve the quality of their relationships, especially their romantic relationships. They know that things aren’t working as they should, and they understand that the problem needs to be addressed to preserve their long-term happiness.
Fortunately, psychological research identifies some common problem areas that can gnaw at the fabric of our relationships – and all it takes is a refresher or “tune-up” to get things back on track with your romantic partner or other close loved ones.
Here are two things to watch out for if you feel your relationships are out of alignment.
#1. Do you choose silence or “silent treatment”?
The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive manipulative tactic used by people in relationships to regain control. Research published in Communication research reports offers some information about the silent treatment, such as:
- More than half of people in marriages have used the silent treatment. In other words, even the best of us are not above use.
- It can take a variety of forms, such as reduced eye contact and non-responsiveness/stonewalling.
- It is more used by women than by men.
- When you start to be used by a partner in a relationship, it is more likely to be used again.
- It is dysfunctional.
Although giving someone the silent treatment may be your point and ultimately lead to a successful resolution of the problem, there are more mature ways to handle confrontation. Instead of choosing the silent treatment as a relationship repair strategy, try silence instead. It is perfectly acceptable to take timeouts in the form of silence in your relationships. In fact, it is one of the healthiest ways to deal with conflict.
Tell your partner, friend, or family member that you need some quiet time to gather your thoughts around what you see to be an upsetting situation. Once you have taken some time to calm down and process the situation, talk to them about how it can be resolved so that the two of you can continue to enjoy each other’s company.
#2. Do you go “tit for tat” instead of hitting the reset button?
When we are angry about something, we are more likely to react than to observe. In some cases, this can take the form of giving someone the silent treatment, as discussed above. In other cases, it can cause you to go “tit for tat” – that is, if someone does something to upset you, do something different to upset them.
This style of escalating confrontation comes at a high price. It can often spiral an easily addressable situation into something that is much more difficult to replace. remember, research it clearly shows that forgiveness is always a better option for your long-term mental health than revenge. Some transgressions and battles can change the course of your relationship forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t forgive.
None of us is above acting immaturely from time to time. We were all given the silent treatment and we all went “tit for tat”. But we can still strive to be better. By avoiding immature coping styles and focusing on the happiness we derive from our close, even challenging, relationships, we can reach a new level of connection with the people in our lives.