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Pick a fight (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

What's the difference between discussing an area of conflict (very healthy and necessary) and picking a fight (not so healthy)?

It is how you start the discussion.

If you want to ensure that a discussion ends badly, be sure to start harshly.

As we you may know, our favorite researcher Dr. Gottman can predict with 96% accuracy whether or not a couple will divorce within watching the first three minutes of a conflict discussion. His research in the famed "Love Lab" shows that the way an issue is brought up in the first place will have a major impact on how it ends.

Women are far more likely than the husband to bring up touchy issues and to push to resolve them. This is true both in happy and unhappy marriages.

(This is also why husbands who ask "Honey do you want to talk about it" get a zillion bonus points from their wives!)

There is however, a dramatic difference in how the wife brings issues up in unhappy marriages compared to relationships that are happy.

In relationships that...

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Always be right (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

A really effective way to ruin a relationship is to insist on being right. All the time. To make this strategy even more effective, insist on being right, refuse to give in even on the smallest issues and insist on having the last word on every issue.

Oh, and do remind your spouse about how wrong they are and how right you are.

When your relationship suffers, you will at least have the consolation of knowing that you were right.

You may be alone and miserable but at least you are right.

If you do not want to wreck a relationship, on the other hand, you may want to reconsider the need to always be right.

You see, in happy relationships, couples often choose to be happy rather than being right.

They chose to be open to a different point of view than their own.

They consider the viewpoint of the other with some humility and with much kindness.

They recognize that when you insist on winning every argument, it is the relationship that ends up losing.

Happy couples chose to be open to...

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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 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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Maintaining our newly formed good habits

As we celebrate Eid and get back to our normal routines, let us reflect on the spiritual gains that we have made this month and reflect on some tiny steps that we can take to maintain the spirit of Ramadan alive so that the spiritual gains that we have achieved are not lost. So that we may start next Ramadan inshallah at a slightly higher plane of spirituality than we did this year.

This week inshallah we will talk about some of the actions that we took during this month and habits that we formed which helped us nurture our spiritual bond to Him. We will explore some small and simple ways that we can continue these practices in order to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive for ourselves.

1. Establishing Salaat

Ramadan is a time when we most conscious of Salaat and its' timings, especially the fajr and maghrib prayer.

Regular and timely prayer is the most basic and vital way to maintain our connection to Him. Salaat is designed by the Almighty to be an intentional and consistent...

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