Sex as a Weapon
Too often I hear of "weapons" being used in marriage/long term relationships - talked about as if it was an OK strategy to get what you want from your partner. Sex is a common one - particularly for women. But money, time, fun, anything good that is withheld from your partner to manipulate, can become a weapon. And I need to be clear - it is not an OK strategy. While it may be effective in the short term, in the long run weapons increase negativity and turn your relationship into a battle ground. And who wants to live in a battle ground?
Getting into a negative mindset - or as John Gottman, world renowned relationship expert, calls it negative sentiment override - in your relationship is the beginning of the end. At the start of a relationship positivity is so high it is hard to understand how a relationship can ever fall apart but over the years anger, resentment and unaddressed issues can build up and everything the other person does starts to be interpreted negatively. For example a simple comment like the wife on her way to bed asking her husband if he could turn all the lights off before coming to bed gets interpreted negatively and an angry response follows like: "Don't I always turn off all the lights - why are you always telling me what to do?". In a relationship where positivity rules the husband might see the request as merely his wife being too tired and gladly does it to help her out.
When even simple requests become an opportunity for a new battle, very often we stop asking and find other ways to get our needs met - hence the weapons.
Gottman says you need 5 positives to every 1 negative for a happy relationship - relationships can tolerate a small amount of negativity if the majority is overwhelmingly positive.
So what can you do if you recognise negativity increasing in your relationship and it is feeling more like a battleground? What if you know you have a couple of weapons up your sleeve you pull out now and again? The first thing you need to do is surrender your weapons and start replacing them with tools. I like to think of it as just like a carpenter creates beautiful furniture with the tools in their workshop - so too can we create beautiful relationships with the right tools. And there are literally hundreds we can draw on to assist us. Here are a few to get you started:
1. Make deposits into your emotional bank account. Gottman talks about the emotional bank account balance as being a tally of the positive minus the negative interactions between couples over time. It is important that this account doesn't get into deficit and the way you do that is to ensure that daily you are consciously adding to it with positives. For example a cup of tea in bed; foot rub in front of the telly; washing your partners car; etc all positives. And being late home from work; or not completing something you agreed to do are examples of negatives. The more positive balance you have the better your relationship will withstand the big negatives.
2. Create a culture of appreciation in your relationship. Say thank you; appreciate the positive acts; show that you are truly grateful that your partner is there with you.
3.Bring back the fun. When you have positive experiences together it helps you remember the good - why you got together in the first place.
It will never happen if you don't start - TODAY