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Be a psycho-pest (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

In this day and age, we get relationship advice from many places: friends, family, Google, books, lectures, workshops and therapists. Many of us become familiar with psychological concepts and are very adept at using psychological jargon.

If we are using this information for our own growth and development, with the intention of improving our relationships, it can be a very good thing.

Very often, however, once we read a book or learn a concept, we become REALLY good at identifying how are significant others are falling short and could do with a psychological tune up. We even begin diagnosing our loved with various psychological issues based on our newly acquired expertise.

We gently and not-so-gently remind them how they are not great at communication or are not practicing effective relationship skills. If we are in therapy, we might remind our spouse that they are not following the therapist's recommendations.

This is a fun and easy way to ruin a perfectly good relationship as our...

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Look down on your spouse (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

A really effective way to destroy a relationship is to think that you are better than your spouse. You get bonus points for conveying it to them through words and body language.

This kind of looking down or contempt in relationships has been found to be the number one predictor of divorce by Dr. John Gottman in his many decades of relationship research.

How can you show contempt for your spouse? There are so many ways, verbal and non-verbal to be truly mean and show disrespect and contempt for others:

Mocking
Using sarcasm
Name calling
Hostile humour
Mimicking
Sneering, eye-rolling,
Making light or belittling what matters to them
Invalidating their thoughts and feelings

Saying things like: who does that? Everyone knows that not the way it is done. What's wrong with you? Etc. etc. etc.

In whatever form, contempt is very destructive to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It's virtually impossible to resolve a problem or feel loving towards the other when your partner is getting the...

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Refuse to discuss issues (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

Another easy way to destroy a relationship is to shutdown or stonewall your spouse when they are trying to discuss an issue which is of importance to them.

Stonewalling can look slightly different in different people: being unresponsive, walking away, tuning out, ignoring, turning away, turning to technology, acting busy or saying "I will not talk about this".

When your spouse is making an effort to address a problem, whether attempting to talk about something that is upsetting them, explaining their feelings about an ongoing area of conflict, or trying to reach a resolution or a compromise, and you are pretending that they aren't there, they are likely to reach a level of upset or anger so high that unless this issue is addressed, it is almost guaranteed to destroy your relationship. Here is some research on the impact of stonewalling on relationships.

A word of compassion for you if you are the stonewaller: you are likely engaging in this behavior because you are going through an...

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Be defensive (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

An easy way to ruin a perfectly good relationship is to NEVER EVER accept responsibility for anything. If your spouse makes a complaint, counter that with a counter attack or criticise them for bringing up the issue.

When we do this, it pretty much guarantees that our significant other will stop bringing up issues that bother them. The issues will fester and grow and impact other areas of our relationship.

For some of us, our defensiveness is truly unconscious. We immediately and impulsively refute or rebut whenever our spouses bring up actions and behaviours that are causing a problem in the relationship.

If we do not want to ruin our relationships, however, we do need to pause when we feel the urge to be defensive. Pausing allows us to reflect on what our spouse is truly saying and asking of us. What part of it can we take responsibility for? What can we acknowledge and commit to changing?

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Be critical (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

Complaining is great for relationships but criticism is very destructive.

What's the difference?

When you are complaining, you are focused on an issue which is bothering you and you are giving your spouse information on what bothers you, why it bothers you and how to make it better.

This is what a complaint sounds like:
"When you leave your socks on the floor after you change your clothes, it frustrates me since I like to have the floor free of clutter. Please put them in the laundry basket instead."

A complaint involves taking ownership of the way the issue makes you feel and it invites the other to support you through a clear request of change in behaviour.

Criticism on the other hand, involves attacking the other person's character or personality. It does not give information for change and causes defensiveness in the other person.

"You always leave your socks on the floor. How selfish can you be? You don't care that I spent so much time clearing up. Why can't you pick up after...

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How to ruin a perfectly good relationship

Over the years in my practice as a marriage and family therapist, I have witnessed the many ways people hurt those that they love most and damage the relationships that matter most.

Of course, no one starts out wanting to destroy a perfectly good relationship. The damage to relationships often starts with small hurts that we feel. Instead of talking about the hurt and dealing with it, we may keep quiet thinking that it is not worth fighting over.

When not dealt with, these tiny resentments built up over time, create emotional distance and begin to show up in our behaviour in little ways. It is these little ways that we fail to be there for each other or hurt each other that add up over time and erode the love that is there.

Other ways that we ruin relationships is by not being aware of actions and behaviours that create discord and destroy love.

This month we will focus on how NOT to ruin a perfectly good relationship by exploring all the ways that we CAN ruin a relationship.

We...

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Continue reaching out to loved ones

Maintaining Family Relationships

The month of Ramadan finds many of us trying to reach out to family, by an invitation for iftar or sending food and gifts. As the nights of Qadr approach, we are reminded about making amends with those members of our family whom we have issues with.

Through prayer and supplication, our hearts become soft, through closeness to Him, we begin to recognize the big picture and may be more amenable to forgive and overlook the small grievances that we may have been holding.

While reflecting on the Quran, we are reminded to pardon people, to manage our anger, to repel evil with good and to maintain relationships with our blood relations. We begin to recognize, once again, that He is happy with us if are human connections are in order. We are reminded that the path to Him begins with loving His creation.

Baby steps:

Regularly reach out to long forgotten family members through a phone call, email or text.


Consider inviting family to share meals with you, even...

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Continue calling on Him through Dua

 Dua
One of the most special things about Ramadan are the moments of connection to Him through Dua or supplication. The process of turning to Him and asking from Him enriches us beyond measure and gives us spiritual strength.

Whereas sharia applies to our outward actions and its job is to regulate human action in order to create the basis of social justice, Dua is the training the heart to love the Creator, to experience His love and to understand that the more you love Him, and have a personal relationship with Him, the more you understand that the laws of sharia are to help you reach your full potential.

The Duas that we have been reciting during this month all emphasize the personal quality of Allah's relationship with us and His all-encompassing love. Dua is therefore a vital practice to cultivate spirituality and nurture our connection to Him.

Baby steps:

Look through a compilation of Dua such as the Sahifa Sajjadiya or the Duas of Imam Ali (as). Pick one that calls to you....

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Continue the practice of giving

Giving generously

Many of us plan our yearly giving, Sadaqa, Khums and Zakat, during the month of Ramadan. We actively seek out those that are needy and reach out to them with giving in cash and in kind. We experience the deep sense of gratitude, humility and sense of satisfaction that comes from reaching out and helping fellow human beings. It reminds us of the human connection that we share, of our responsibility to the whole and of the necessity of enabling the flow of wealth rather than the hoarding of it.

Throughout the Quran, the acting of giving Zakat (literally means to purify wealth through giving) comes hand in hand with establishing prayer. Allah swt constantly reminds us that our relationship to Him through prayer is complemented by our relationship to humanity through giving.

Baby steps:

Be aware of need all around you. When the urge to giving strikes, do not second guess it or talk yourself out of it. Take action to meet the need in whatever way you can.
Remind...

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Continue reflecting on the message

Reading the Quran

This is the second habit that we developed during the month of Ramadan – a daily practice of recitation and reflection on the message.

To succeed in any area of life, the first step is knowledge about the rules that govern that area. We do not expect to excel at academics or in the workplace without reading the texts that govern the particular field. Similarly, we cannot expect to succeed in this world, get to know the system of cause and effect, to know ourselves or figure out how to achieve ultimate success in the hereafter without looking at the manual gifted to us by the Creator of the system.

Although we may have spent much time in recitation during the month of Ramadan, an ongoing relationship with the Quran necessitates understanding, contemplation and action. Only with understanding and reflection can we use the wisdom in of the Book to improve our life here and beyond.

Baby steps:

Read and reflect on one ayat of the Quran every day. Once again, it is...

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