How many of you have ever been involved with a significant other who wanted you to do something you didnít want to do? I doubt that Iím only one. By virtue of a significant other relationship, there will be times when our partners will want us to do things we donít necessarily want to do and conversely, there will be times when we will want our partners to do things they donít want to do.
This is perfectly normal. The key, however, is what we do about it. Can you remember behaviors your partners used to get you to do things their way? Dr. William Glasser, in his book called, Getting Together and Staying Together, talks about seven destructive relationship habits. They are: complaining, criticizing, blaming, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing or rewarding to control. Do you recognize any favorites?
I like to add guilting to list---this seems to be a favorite behavior of mothers. I know, because I am one. You can recognize this pattern in martyr type behavior. Saying things like, ďAfter all Iíve done for you, you canít do this one little thing for me?Ē Iíve actually heard some mothers play ďchildbirth cardĒ. You know one. It sounds like this: ďI was in labor with you for 36 hours! All Iím asking for is this one thing.Ē
I know for me, I am a world class nagger---just ask my children. The question of ďWill you clean up your room today?Ē can be asked in a variety of different ways, with varying tonal inflections and volumes to convey a variety of meanings. By time Iíve reached end of my rope, it would frequently sound like, ďHow can you be so lazy! If you donít do it right now, I am going to do something to hurt you!Ē (This pain usually took form of haranguing my child for an extended period of time.) Does this sound familiar?
With regard to nagging, it is my belief that after youíve said it three times, your significant other has probably heard you and is not planning on obliging you any time in near future. Repeating your request most likely will be unsuccessful at getting you what you want.
Complaining and criticizing are other behaviors we often engage in to get our loved ones to do something they donít want to do. Does this sound familiar? Why canít you be more like _____________? Do you have to do it THAT way? Why canít you ever do something I want? You never do things right way. You are so lazy, stupid, frustrating, aggravating, etc. Do these sound like relationship strengthening behaviors to you?
I think blaming, threatening and punishing behaviors are self-explanatory. Blaming sounds like: Itís always your fault. Threatening goes like this: If you do or donít do ______________, then Iím going to (insert something you wonít like). Punishing often takes form of withdrawal. It may be that we give our partners silent treatment or we may withdraw affection or at least our enthusiasm during intimacy.
The last destructive habit to discuss is called bribing or rewarding to control. This may require a little more discussion. Bribing or rewarding to control does not mean same thing as negotiation. Negotiation in a relationship is very healthy and necessary to long term success of relationship. It involves two willing partners, each interested in helping other person get what they need, while at same time meeting their own needs. Bribing simply means that I am going to dangle a carrot of what I think you want in front of you to get you to do thing I know you donít want to do.
I can remember often asking my youngest son to pick up his room. His room was always a mess and quite possibly a health hazard. I remember one day, I decided to put my nagging behavior away and try something new. So I said something like this: ďKyle, if you clean your room today, Iíll let you have a friend come over and play.Ē Do you know what his answer was? He said, ďI donít want a friend that bad.Ē And room didnít get cleaned! What a surprise!
Bribing or rewarding to control also needs to be distinguished from spontaneous rewards. Can you feel difference between these two scenarios? You want your partner to attend an office party with you that he or she does not want to attend. In your best attempt to bribe him or her, you seductively express what you might do when you come home from party.