When you are unable to communicate effectively in your relationship, things will continually get swept under the rug. That is until a massive divide forms between you and your partner. When people do not have the skills to communicate their needs, wants and desires they start to use other means to get the outcome that they want. This process is often unconscious and needs to be brought to light in order to end the negative behavioural cycles that we fall into.
Cycle 1: Resentment
The first unhealthy cycle that people fall into when they lack communication is resentment. If the person who feels hurt or disrespected has a hard time communicating they will begin to resent their partner, creating a divide in the relationship. The person feeling offended pulls back and can even begin to act out of spite towards their partner because of the pain and frustration they feel.
Spite is the opposite of love and intimacy. It is very difficult to build intimacy in a relationship when one of the individuals is acting out of spite and resentment instead of communicating. Acting spiteful would be committing a behaviour that you know will drive the other person crazy, such as leaving the toilet seat up when you know that it should go down. The goal may not necessarily be to hurt the other person but it clearly conveys that you are frustrated with them. It is essentially an oppositional tantrum from a grown adult.
Cycle 2: Manipulation & Guilt
The next unhealthy cycle that people fall into when they lack the ability to communicate effectively is to manipulate or guilt their partner. Manipulation is the devious management of a situation to ones own advantage. Many people manipulate in their relationship without even knowing it. A person can manipulate by using the partner’s words against them or by constantly playing the victim. For example, a female that has been mistreated in previous relationships may have a tendency to play the victim. She may make comments like “all guys are the same and will eventually abandon me anyways, so why should you be any different.” Another statement might be something along the lines of “no one has ever made a promise to me and kept it so why should I expect anything different from you.” These statements place the female in the role of a victim and provoke a sense of guilt in their partner. They act this way because it often leads to them getting the reassurance they are looking for.
Cycle 3: Mind Games
The last unhealthy cycle that people fall into when they do not assert themselves in their relationship is mind games. I’m sad to say, but I see this all the time. Mind games are a combination of manipulation and spite, but with the aim of making the other person feel the same way you do. For example, a girlfriend doesn’t like that her boyfriend is texting another female so she sparks up a conversation with her ex to get back at him. She is hurt by his behaviour and instead of addressing it in a productive way she tries to get even so he can feel the pain he has caused her. Mind games don’t solve anything. They cause a couple to continually go in circles with the same issue and never find resolution.
If you are reading these cycles and relating to them don’t feel ashamed, you are human and we have all acted in these ways. The beautiful thing about human behaviour is that it can be molded and changed.
In our relationships, the first place we should work on and improve is our communication. If we can learn appropriate ways to communicate we can eliminate the resentment, spite, manipulation and mind games that cause so much frustration and damage. Analyze your behaviour and communication with your partner to get a snapshot of your current situation. Are you holding resentment? Have you acted out of spite or been manipulative towards your partner? If so don’t beat yourself up over it, just make a conscious effort to be more assertive. Take time to open up to them and tell them how you feel. Opening yourself up to be vulnerable may be difficult at first, but when you see the walls that come down between the two of you, it will be extremely rewarding.
This article was originally written for and posted on Liveabundantly.ca