Unsafe, unsound — Unhealthy Relationships

Stress_Anxiety

Unsafe, unsound — Unhealthy Relationships

Posted by Lauren Rose in Balance 10 Feb 2017

It’s unfortunate to admit, but I have experienced unhealthy relationships – friendships, boyfriends, and nothing ever ended well. I do wonder how much of the unhealthy relationship was my fault, and how much was the other person. Was I being too pushy? Too distant? Was the other person pushing my buttons? Were they doing it intentionally? As I sit here asking myself questions that I don’t know the answers
to, I wonder why I didn’t just ask these questions at the peak of the unhealthy relationship.

Why do we choose to avoid conflict? When someone says a sassy comment at work, why do we turn the other cheek? (at least I do..) When your significant other leaves dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, or shoes in front of the door, why do we get upset on the inside, but just continue with our routine? I
agree, there are times where I will choose my battles and I am finally fed up with the dishes, but instead of that coming out, I also belt out my annoyance with 15 other things I have been keeping to myself. Is that fair? Is that the right way to handle conflict?

I grew up during the information and technology age. I grew along with developing technology, so from a young age, I was very familiar with computers, cellphones, and software. My peers also grew with me and
with technology during this time. We still continue to grow and develop as with technology. For this reason, I do blame technology for my fear of conflict. I can’t speak for all of my peers, but I many of the people I knew and many of the people I know now, avoid a lot of conflicts due to technology. How?

When I was in elementary and high school, instant messenger was the cool thing to do. I would run home just to see who “signed on” so I could instant message them. I got in many fights over instant message
with mean girls at school. Mean girls could hide behind their keyboard and avoid saying things to my face. They never said those things to my face. Additionally, boyfriends asked me out and broke up with me via
instant messenger. Again, guys didn’t have the confidence to ask me out, and they didn’t have the confidence to tell me how they really felt, so they broke up with me online. This is just one example
of how we started to learn to “protect” ourselves from conflict by using technology.

Then cell phones came into the picture. Cell phones, iPhones, headphones, iPads, noise canceling headphones, email, instant message at work, Gchat, Facebook message, social media — there are thousands of ways for individuals to avoid face-to-face conflict via technology. Personally, I also avoid even talking to someone on the phone. I dislike face-to-face conflict and I dislike over-the-phone conflict. Which is why when someone calls me at work, I usually email them back, pretending to be busy. In high school, we all learned to do this by gossiping, fighting, arguing, and breaking up via all aforementioned outlets. Or we used those outlets to distance ourselves from the conflicts that were almost inevitable to avoid. I can remember in college, walking to class and seeing a friend along the way. I would call their name and waive, and they would continue to walk, and I looked like a loser. It turns out that my friend just had his headphones in, which is totally fine. But someone who wears their headphones all the time, everywhere they go, could be someone who is trying to block out reality, and maybe conflicts that the fear could happen.

Now fast forward to adulthood, or young adulthood (wherever you find yourself), and see if you use technology, or have learned to lean on it to avoid conflicts. As I sit here and think about myself, I’m
pretty sure I’m guilty of texting my husband about bills that are super huge or about something I have been pestering him to do or something else that I fear can turn into a conflict. The sad part is that my husband would never just get upset over bills or my pestering, so there is no need to avoid saying these things to my husband’s face. But I have been so distant to face-to-face interaction, that with the possibility of conflict always in the back of my mind, I end up avoiding any situation that can escalate.

Avoiding conflict is essentially what leads to burst out fights. We build up our nit-picky problems and we avoid saying anything until we just cannot take it anymore. Your list of 100 problems are expressed and
probably not received well because the person on the other side of the situation is feeling attacked. They get defensive. Who wouldn’t? If I’m attacked with a list of things I would get defensive, too. I know it’s hard, and right now I should be taking my own advice. But if you think you might fall into the category of an unhealthy relationship, try to take a step back. Where is the root of the issue? It sounds like an easy question with an easy answer, but it’s not always that simple. Work backwards. Okay, we fight. Why do we fight? When do we fight? How do we fight? Now how can that be resolved; what are we actually looking for when we fight? Do we want to be heard? Understood? Sympathized with? How can we let the other person know this is what we actually mean when we’re yelling at them (because trust me, they can read our mind)? And now answer the next question – instead of fighting, yelling, pushing, and avoiding contact with the other person, what is a better way to talk about the issue and handle the issue. Because honestly, I don’t think the fighting, yelling, pushing, and avoiding is going to get one anywhere. Take a deep breath, collect yourself, control yourself, and handle the situation appropriately.

Note that I mentioned “control” in the last sentence…“Our findings show that self-control promotes an optimal balance between personal and relationship concerns. Also, results partly supported our hypothesis that self-control prevents personal and relational imbalance. Furthermore, we demonstrated that successfully maintaining personal–relational balance and preventing personal and relational imbalance may be one of the mechanisms by which self-control can promote personal well-being (e.g., higher life satisfaction, psychological adjustment, and lower stress) and relationship well-being (e.g., better couple functioning and higher relationship satisfaction). Thus, these findings show the importance of self-control in maintaining a healthy balance between personal and relational concerns, which in turn can promote personal and relationship well-being,” according to a relationship study.

Everything comes down to open, honest, and present communication – and an awareness (and practice) of self-control. Don’t let things build up – talk about it immediately. Don’t talk to someone the way you wouldn’t want to be spoken to – two wrongs don’t make a right. Don’t avoid conflict. Don’t get defensive. Don’t hurt the other person because they hurt you- if you love them you wouldn’t want to intentionally hurt them.

I’ll leave this all here, while I reread this editorial and take my own advice!

Lauren Rose

Lauren Rose is a talented writer and an aspiring novel author. She graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 2013 with an English degree and double minored in Sociology and Communications. She is pursuing her Master's in Writing Studies at St. Joseph's University. She works as an Advisor for Graduate Business students @ St. Joseph's University.

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