Note: This is the second of a two-part series.
The following are a continuation of the guidelines for how to decide which of your issues are deal breakers-and when you’d be better off leaving a relationship instead of staying in it:
• Feeling poorly treated. Not feeling respected, valued or cherished. Poor treatment can come in many forms: disrespectful behavior; knee-jerk reactivity; too much anger, mistrust or jealousy; or not enough TLC, nurturance and affection-to name a few. Poor treatment almost always entails one person not thinking about or valuing how the other person feels, and therefore not behaving in friendly and caring ways that allow the other partner to feel cherished, valued and respected.
• Very little affection and/or sex. Affection and sex is the glue that keeps people feeling close and connected with each other.
• Dishonesty/lack of trust. It’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t act trustworthy-or who has deceived, misled or betrayed you in the past-or who is secretive, hidden or withholding of personal information.
• Betrayal. The deception and sense of violation lead to continuing mistrust-and mistrust is the death knell of intimacy.
• Being resentful, angry or hostile too much of the time. Using hurtful, insensitive or demeaning words or behaviors. If that happens, your partner will want to avoid you or will become afraid of you, and that will destroy intimacy over time.
• Addictions. You can be addicted to a substance, (alcohol, drugs, food, etc) or a behavior (watching TV, sleeping, porn, knee-jerk reactivity, jealousy, etc) or an attitude (unwarranted mistrust or suspiciousness, fear of abandonment, selfishness, lack of reciprocity, etc). Any unhealthy addiction will undermine a couple’s connection and distance a relationship, because the desire to feed the addiction will take priority over the feelings or wishes of the other person.
• Control/power struggles. This might be related to a self-absorbed, insecure control freak who wants everything his way, or it might indicate that the two of you have different goals and are therefore fighting for different things. Either way, the chronic arguing, bickering, mistrust and bad vibes will destroy your closeness and connection. If one person demands that things are done his way, you may feel you have to give yourself up and lose you in order to survive in the relationship, which will lead to enormous resentment over time.
• Not respecting your partner.
• You are no longer sexually attracted to your partner-or your partner has no real sexual interest in you-and you find that intolerable.
• You no longer have fun together or have common goals or interests, so you increasingly find yourself feeling more alone and lonely in the relationship.
• Poor intimacy skills. Most of us are spectacularly lacking in effective relationship skills. These include good give and take emotional communication; being a good listener; knowing how to deal with conflict and differences without destroying love and goodwill in the process; being in charge of your own emotions, reactions, angry impulses and defenses; knowing how to effectively and consistently be responsive and nurturing to another; and knowing how to wisely negotiate through all the power/control issues every intimate relationship encounters.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, CO, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303.758.8777, or e-mail him from his website, www.heartrelationships.com