Thursday, November 4, 2010

How to Quickly (and Easily) Ruin a Relationship.

So much as been written by so many about how to make relationships (with mates – family – coworkers) better; I thought I’d try it the other way – since there are shelves after shelves of books about improving relationships and the reasons for relationship failure continue to grow.

One might think that (logically) it would be reasonably easy to keep a relationship together; just pay attention to what’s happening in the relationships that go bad… and do the opposite!

To get you started with your own list, I’ll start you off with some of the most common blunders I encounter as I work with families and couples.

[11/15/2010  Warning: the following is irony, see the below comments.]

  • Believe fervently and insist that your perceptions, judgment and recollections are “RIGHT”. For variety, you can try the reverse – insist that the other person’s recollection of events are distorted or outright lies. Try gently insinuating that the other person is perhaps demented or lacking in integrity. (Just consider how effective this has been for Israel and Palestine.)
  • When you’ve been thinking for days about something the other has done that bothers you – wait until the other party is unprepared and ambush them with your carefully thought-out and rehearsed verbal attack. During WW II this was known as the “Pincer” attack and was successful in defeating the other side.
  • Tell others that you know what they are secretly thinking – this is almost guaranteed to make the other person apoplectic and will damage the relationship.
  • Secretly keep score of who is winning or losing points when there is a disagreement. If you think the other person “won” the last contest, provoke another argument so you have an opportunity to even the score.
  • Make up tests that will determine if the other person REALLY cares about you, is honest, finds you desirable – anything you feel insecure about; design a test (also known as a trap) that will somehow prove that your insecurities are caused by the other person which also means it is THEIR responsibility to behave differently so that you won’t have to deal with your own issues.
  • During a disagreement, be sarcastic and pretend to agree with the other person but paraphrase what they’ve said stating it in the extreme, absurd and hyperbolic manner. For example, if the other says, “I didn’t understand what you were saying.” You could try saying, “Oh, that’s right, I’m the one who doesn’t know how to communicate and you’re the one who never miscommunicates.” (If you can say it in a snide tone it’s even more destructive.) This will often create a no-win situation that will surely damage the relationship.
  • At all costs, avoid stating things in a provisional way. Stating anything provisionally only leads to solving problems. To insure problems, state things in the extreme. (i.e., I never… You always…) Stating things in the extreme will make sure that a disagreement is perpetual. (Isn't this fun?)
  • Whenever possible over-reach your boundaries and encroach on another's boundaries. This should be easy because there are a variety of ways to do it. Here, are but a few you could try tonight. Tell the other person how to drive or where to park. Tell the other they use too much salt. Make social plans without informing others – then “spring it on them” with little or no notice. Tell the other how to dress. When you engage in any of these, reframe the boundary violation as an innocent attempt to be “helpful”. (This way when the other person objects; you can make it sound like you were only trying to help and THEY are unappreciative.) SCORE.
  • Never fall into the trap of accepting personal responsibility for contributing to the misunderstanding. Proclaim your sainthood at even the smallest of opportunities.
  • Only talk about negatives. Never tell the other person about all the nice things they do. This nearly always makes the other person feel like a failure and they’ll quickly stop trying to be helpful giving you another opportunity to criticize them (cool).
  • Remember all the things you used to do early in the relationship that was fun? Don’t do any of them. If you really want to poison the relationship, only do things that are drudgery. Make sure that everything else is more important than your relationship. Work, kids, laundry, softball, lawn-work should all take priority.
  • To spice things up, try blindsiding the other with an ultimatum. Ultimatums will always set you at odds and will surely stimulate resistance from the recipient.
  • Expect others to read your mind so that they would do better than Kreskin (I guess that dates me.) when it comes to reading your body language and silence.  
  • Treat your relationships with others as if they were made of iron and able to tolerate abuse and neglect.
  • Take your relationships for granted. Perhaps this is a little redundant since many of the above are examples of how you can behave as if your relationships are a birthright. Behave as if you are entitled to use awful language. Act like an impudent adolescent and NEVER share in household responsibilities.
These are but a few ideas just to get you started. Remember, improving a relationship takes time and work but tearing one apart can be done easily and quickly without too much effort.


  1. Follow these steps for working up to ending a relationship. By the time you're ready to split your partner will be so glad to get rid of you that it will become a joyful occassion.

  2. Lame... is this all you could think of for this column? We have enough problems without outright trying to destroy relationships. My family was dysfunctional enough as it was. We don't need more encouragement. Try again.

  3. Anonymous- forgive me... I could have been clearer that this was meant as irony. From "...the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning..." R.

  4. Addendum: I thank anonymous for illustrating that even when one (in this case, me) "think" it's clear that I'll be understood - I am not to take it for granted. Rob


As always, your comments are helpful.