How To Tank Your Relationship – Lesson 3

Chuck warding off critical wife Latesha
Chuck warding off critical wife Latesha

In our latest series of blogs, we have been trying to teach you what research tells us as to how to tank a relationship, if you really want to. Marriage researchers now know with  a fairly high degree if accuracy (about 91% ) which habits and traits predict marital success and which will probably destroy it. The fist of these habits was that of being overly judgmental and assuming that there is only one way (your way) to do the thing that is bothering you about your partner, or there is only one way to interpret the bad behavior shown by him or her. The second habit that predicts divorce is that of handling anger poorly in your relationship either in terns if being excessively angry or never standing up for yourself so that resentment builds.

For those die-hards who still need more ammunition, we now present  a third habit that should put your over the top:

Habit #3 that predicts tanking a relationship: Never ask your partner to meet you half way on an issue of disagreement.

Stated another way, to put yourself in divorce court, never stand up for yourself (without putting your partner down), give equal regard to their opinion or viewpoint, or offer reassurances that you don’t want to fight or attack, but you want to just solve the problem.

Why would an anger coach encourage you to stand up for yourself? Won’t that cause more conflict? Yes, sometimes it will, but often you might be surprised at the change in behavior by your partner when you stand up for yourself and insist that they take into account your viewpoint or opinions or feelings  on the matter, instead of being dismissive, bullying, or controlling. Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean that you insist you are right and they are wrong; rather it means asking them to make room for your equally valid input around  the issue.

According to Chuck, Latesha criticizes almost everything about him – constantly.  In this instance, Chuck is doing the correct thing to try and influence  Latesha’s critical behavior in the future. He is saying, “ Hey, I’m willing to listen to you, but I’m having a hard time because it feels like you’ve already decided that I’m wrong. Could you slow down a bit and tell me why you’re upset?

But,  what should he do if Latesha continues to be stubborn, uncooperative or unrelenting in her attack?

Chuck, in the graphic above, does not want to tank his relationship. So, he  is using what marital therapist Dr. Bret Atkinson calls the “offer and ask” technique in response to warding off attacks by his highly critical wife, Latesha.

Basically, it means  firing a warning shot into the air before pulling out the big guns in marital battles.

To do this, Chuck might try something like: “Hey, I’m trying to work with you here, but it feels like I’m not getting it back! Will you work with me?

In the “offer and ask” tactic, you offer assurance (“I’m willing to listen; I’m not saying that things have to be entirely my way; I’m not saying that I’m right and you’re wrong; I care how you feel too, and I’m willing to work with you) and you ask her to be willing to do the same thing (“Will you work with me? Will you stop criticizing me and just tell me what’ s bothering you?“)

To be effective, according to Dr. Atkinson, the “offering” and the “asking” must be done in a clam but firm manner. You must make it clear that you are still willing to try and maintain a cooperative attitude, but only if your partner is ready to return cooperativeness.

If that still doesn’t work you will need to go to Lesson 4- Tank your relationship by Not Taking a Stand. Stay tuned.