“If you want to know what is inside a person, look at their relationships.”-Jamie Cearley, PhD
Whether you want to strengthen your marriage, teach your kids to keep their room clean, or train your puppy to pee outside your level of success will boil down to your relationship. It is true, what you do in a relationship is important. But, many problems erupt not because of negative actions but because of the negative attitudes preceding those actions. Even if the action appears to be positive, if you have the wrong attitude you are killing the relationship.
Here are 4 ways to kill any relationship:
Be chauvinistic. This is believing you are higher than the one you are trying to have a relationship with. Do you think your species is superior to any other? Is the dog, “just a dog?” Or you think your gender is superior to another? Are women smarter than men? Are men better than women? Should kids “do as told” because you are in charge? Or is it skin color, education level, nationality or even religion that places you above others in your mind? We all struggle with chauvinism one way or another. Until we come to treat others as equals we are in danger of destroying our relationships with them.
Be autocratic. This is playing the power card. To rule with absolute power and authority without consideration of another’s opinions, wishes, or perspective: tyranny. This attitude in a relationship often shows itself in the failure to allow choice. One skilled at relationship building recognizes the difference between make and choice. Will you make your kid do their homework or will you find a way to cause them to choose to do their homework?
Anthropomorphize. In the truest sense this is assigning human qualities to another species or object. We do this a lot with animals; and not only our domestic pets but wild animals too. Here we will use this term to illustrate how failing to recognize an individual’s uniqueness in this world is destructive whether human or animal. For example, let’s say you were an outstanding sports star back in the day and so you think your kid will also grow up to be a sports hero. Yet, reality says the kid has no athletic talent whatsoever, but wait, they can play any instrument they pick up. Pushing this kid into sports is a lot like putting an owl on a stuffed horse and making a video to go on social media: both wretched and awkward. Let individuals excel in their own way. You will find their dignity remains intact and your relationship deepens.
Use direct line thinking. Following an unyielding path toward a goal. This is heading straight for the target without consideration of the needs, wants or desires of the other. Humans are first-class direct line thinkers. We see or dream up what we want and it seems nothing can cause us to waver from our path. In a marriage relationship this can take many forms. Do you consider your spouse’s needs, wants, and desires when it comes to financial goals and management for example? What about the cloths your children wear? Could it be a man and a woman have different views on what is appropriate clothing for an 8 year old? Getting back to the puppy: the bladder of a puppy is quite small. Are you conscientious of their needs being different than yours?
In summary, relationships are best built when we recognize and respect each other as unique individuals and allow one another the freedom of choice.
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