Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shortcuts to the Worst Relationship, Ever

Sitting in the coffee shop yesterday, I could tell from bits of overheard conversation that many people had read and put to work the methods from my post, Shortcuts to Unhappiness.  Based on the success of that effort, I thought that today I would tackle another common challenge: primary relationships.  If your relationship is only so-so, by following the simple steps outlined below you can rocket it to the heights of dysfunction. I guarantee it.
  1. Keep Things Buried Deep Inside
    Whatever bothers you most about your partner, don't talk about it. Airing your issues, specially early on, will probably lead to an open discussion and open discussion is a problem, a big problem. Before you know it, you'll be talking about what troubles you generally and, if you're not careful, working things out.

    They key to a bad relationship is to hold your issues deep inside. It can be useful to mull on them, specially if it leads to your partner asking, "Is something wrong?"

    Of course the appropriate answer is, "No, nothing's wrong. Why? Do you think something's wrong?"

    Note: if you choose to mull, mull carefully. Avoid any thoughts that focus on you rather than the source of irritation. Some people have completely undermined mulling by asking themselves, "Why does that annoy me so much?"
  2. …Until You Can No Longer Bear It
    To maximize the effect of keeping things to yourself, you must let them out. The best time to do this is when the pressure is so great that you simply can't contain it any longer. Statistically, this is most likely to occur between 45 and 55 minutes past the time you usually go to bed.

    Airing your issues when you're dead-tired and incoherent is optimal, specially if your partner has just drifted off to sleep. Ideally you should awaken him from a REM state and, if possible, hold in your issues until the night before a big event where she "needs her sleep". If she says something selfish like, "Can't this wait until tomorrow night?", then: a) insist that you must talk now for the sake of your relationship, b) go for a drive, or c) cry.

  3. Confide in Anyone But Your Partner
    If you have a hard time holding in your issues, then share them with someone other than your partner. Anyone other than your partner will do, but it's best to go to someone who already doesn't really like him that much.

    There are three basic benefits to this activity. First, you'll release some of the pressure that may lead to inadvertent discussion with your partner. Second, if you choose the right person, you may discover other annoyances. Third, you'll reinforce the dislike of your partner held by your confidant.
  4. Envy Your Partner's Happiness
    The other day, my friend Will mentioned how happy his partner Mary gets when she sees him happy. It doesn't matter if they're together or if Will is off on his own, she just loves to see him happy and fulfilled. Yesterday in the coffee shop, I picked up on several people employing the antithesis of this technique, one that I would be remiss to exclude: envy your partner's happiness, specially in cases where you're not involved. It's one of those things that, once you see it, you think, "of course!", right?

    If your partner has a night out with her buddies, feign to have forgotten about it and prepare a special meal, just for the two of you. When she says, "Honey, I'm sorry. I've got to go. Remember, it's Wednesday, and I meeting up with the gang", look hurt.

    Say something like, "but... but... I worked all day to... oh never mind, you go have fun with your friends."

    Remember, look hurt, not offended. If possible stifle a cry or wipe away a tear. Reserve phrases like, Wow, it seems like you'd rather be with your friends than me or Sure, you get to go have fun all day at work while I'm stuck here with the kids for other opportune moments when there's not time to discuss it.

    Bottom Line: Make it not OK for you partner to be happy without you. Make it downright awful for your partner to be happier without you than with you. With any luck, he'll start to downplay his happiness outside the relationship. She may even dread leaving the house or begin to lie about where she's going.
  5. Employ Obligation Liberally
    It's important to avoid any motivation based on your partner's desires.  The last thing you want is your partner doing something for you simply because she wants to. Classic methods include the phrases: but you told me that, and, by now we should have.

    Remember, nothing kills love faster than obligation; whenever employing the but you told me that try to invoke your marriage vows or perhaps even better, a promise made prior to marriage when you were at the heights of romance.

    The by now we should have method can be applied to getting pretty much anything you want. By now we should be living in a house, not this crummy apartment. By now we should be able to afford a vacation. By now we should have had a least one child.

    If your partner questions your assertion, point to other couples who by now have...  However, be careful about external references lest your partner conclude, "Hmm... by now we should have been divorced for three years."

  6. Do Things for the Sake of the Relationship
    Nothing makes a relationship more onerous than insisting that you do things for its sake. With a little finesse, you can translate your relationship into something akin to a cantankerous, unwanted child from a previous marriage.

    For example, if you want your partner to spend more time with you, rather than doing something frivolous like concocting an evening that she would truly enjoy, insist that you spend an evening together for the sake of the relationship.

    The goal of this effort is to give the relationship a life of its own.  In addition to a sense of burden, this approach fosters a sense of helplessness. If you can get your partner to see a relationship as something that exists rather than a way to describe interactions between and perspectives of two individuals, you're golden.

    Be careful of overusing this technique. One day your partner might wake up and realize that there is no relationship; there's just him and you, and how each of you look at and interact with the other. He may feel suddenly empowered to change himself, how he sees you and how he relates to you, regardless of what you do or how you see him.  Very, very dangerous.
Oh, I could go on and on, but I think we'll leave it with these six for now. I'm certain that pretty much anyone can effectively use these techniques to undermine even the best relationship. Perhaps you've already used some of them?

Happy Wednesday,

1 comment:

  1. oh boy! especially letting things out an hour after my bedtime. Especially effective when I let it out several hours after Isaiah's bedtime.


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