How many of you have ever been involved with a significant other who wanted you to do something you didn’t want to do? I doubt that I’m the only one.
By virtue of a significant other relationship, there will be times when our partners will want us to do things we don’t necessarily want to do and conversely, there will be times when we will want our partners to do things they don’t want to do.
This is perfectly normal. The key, however, is what we do about it. Can you remember the 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 the 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 the 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, “After all I’ve done for you, you can’t do this one little thing for me?” I’ve actually heard some mothers play the “childbirth card”. You know the one. It sounds like this: “I was in labor with you for 36 hours! All I’m asking for is this one thing.”
I know for me, I am a world class nagger—just ask my children. The question of “Will you clean up your room today?” can be asked in a variety of different ways, with varying tonal inflections and volumes to convey a variety of meanings. By the time I’ve reached the end of my rope, it would frequently sound like, “How can you be so lazy! If you don’t do it right now, I am going to do something to hurt you!” (This pain usually took the 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 you’ve said it three times, your significant other has probably heard you and is not planning on obliging you any time in the 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 don’t want to do. Does this sound familiar? Why can’t you be more like _____________? Do you have to do it THAT way? Why can’t you ever do something I want? You never do things the right way. You are so lazy, stupid, frustrating, aggravating, etc. Do these sound like relationship strengthening behaviors to you?
I think the blaming, threatening and punishing behaviors are self-explanatory. Blaming sounds like: It’s always your fault. Threatening goes like this: If you do or don’t do ______________, then I’m going to (insert something you won’t like). Punishing often takes the form of withdrawal. It may be that we give our partners the 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 the same thing as negotiation. Negotiation in a relationship is very healthy and necessary to the long term success of the relationship. It involves two willing partners, each interested in helping the other person get what they need, while at the 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 the thing I know you don’t 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: “Kyle, if you clean your room today, I’ll let you have a friend come over and play.” Do you know what his answer was? He said, “I don’t want a friend that bad.” And the room didn’t get cleaned! What a surprise!
Bribing or rewarding to control also needs to be distinguished from spontaneous rewards. Can you feel the 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 the party.