How to make relationships worse

Whenever and wherever we face relational conflict, someone is always to blame, someone is responsible for the conflict.

So we have been considering specific decisions we can all make to move toward reconciliation in broken relationships. We begin with a commitment to get back to, not get back at, the other person. If your goal is to get back to that other person, rather than get back at them, one of the best ways to do that is to accept your personal responsibility for the condition of the relationship now.

As we have said, all of us are better at starting or maintaining relationships than we are at fixing them when they are broken. When the relationship is fractured, ruptured or broken, we typically employ ineffective methods to fix, heal or repair the relationship.

We typically use one of four tactics to get people to see things our way. We try to convince them by sharing a lot of information. Our goal is to win them over. Sometimes, we try to convict them by implementing a little shame, guilt and manipulation. A third option is to try to coerce the other person and force them to see things our way. A fourth possibility is control. This is what happens when we attempt to leverage our power in the relationship.

None of these tactics work on us or anybody else, at least not for long. Even though these approaches are very different, they are similar in that they usually make things worse. We want to make things better. We give it our best shot. We typically make matters worse when we try any of these unhealthy approaches. That is when we realize that what we’re doing isn’t working and we start making excuses.

The first excuse is to say, “I don’t care.” When you hear yourself say or think, “I don’t care,” you need to pay attention to that. This can be so dangerous and destructive to the future of any relationship.

That’s because we often say, “I don’t care” about things we care about deeply. What we may be saying when we say, “I don’t care” is that “I do care, but I am powerless to do anything about what I care about. I wish I could do something to make things better, but I don’t know how or I can’t figure it out.“

I have heard that excuse most often regarding father/son relationships. You may try to convince yourself or others that you don’t care. You may even believe you don’t care, but the truth is you do care. You know you do.

More next time…