Q: What are three things you see that damage relationships?
A: Great question! I will give you three common problems I see with my clients who come in for marital/family counseling that really get in the way of their happiness. Here we go.
1. Selfishness -- So common. So easy to see in others, so hard to see in ourselves. People who are focused on what they "should" be getting, or are caught up in how they feel, what they think, and what they want tend to be unhappy in relationships. They are a bottomless pit looking to get filled by others, and that is not the way relationships work. Choose to hear your partner's (or child's or mother's) opinion, choose to think about what he/she might be needing, and be open to the idea that there is more than one right way to do things. Your way is not the only way, and your needs and feelings are not the only important needs and feelings in the relationship. Look outside of yourself.
2. Anger -- this is a bit tricky, because underneath anger is usually a softer emotion, like fear, or insecurity, or pain. But I want to focus on the anger part. When you let anger control your responses, you create distance in your relationships. BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR ACTIONS. You may not be able to control feeling angry, but you absolutely can control how you respond with that anger. DO NOT call names, swear, intentionally hurt, use mean sarcasm, or become physical in any way. This is not productive, and it is damaging to individuals and relationships.
3. Holding on to hurts -- I struggled with how to articulate this one. Part of me wanted to say "not letting things go (cue ridiculously overplayed Disney song)." But I think holding on to hurts is the best description. We will all be hurt in relationships, because we are in relationships with humans, who make mistakes. Whether in our marriage, or with our children, or with a sibling, we will have times where our feelings are intentionally and unintentionally hurt. It can be difficult to let those things go. Even if the offender apologizes and makes amends, we tend to hold on to the hurt feelings. If you want to be happy in relationships, you will learn the skill of forgiving. You will be able to accept apologies, remind yourself that this person loves you. There are thousands of ways we hurt each other unintentionally. Your husband forgets to bring home the dry cleaning, your wife forgets it was your big meeting at work, and on and on. Talk about it, accept apologies, and move on.
Important side note: I am mostly talking about unintentional hurts, and the occasional purposeful one. However, if you are in a relationship with someone who intentionally hurts you, over and over, without acknowledging the need to change, you need to consider setting some appropriate boundaries with that person. I am not advocating allowing yourself to be abused or taken advantage of when I'm talking about letting go of hurts. This is an entirely different topic altogether that I'm not going to get into right now. Just keep that in mind.
What would your spouse/children/siblings say if you asked them whether you did any of these things? We all do these to some degree or another. Pick one to work on this week! Good luck friends. Happier relationships are waiting!