Have you ever been upset with your partner?
Of course you have – we all have. But you may not have ever wondered why you’re upset or what that feeling means. Feeling upset in a relationship is directly connected to the fear that things aren’t going the way you want them to.
All humans want to feel some level of control over their relationships. The desire for control isn’t necessarily about bossing your partner around; a sense of control and certainty generally means all is tranquil between the two of you. When a disagreement interferes with that tranquility, it shakes your sense of control and thus your trust that all is going well.
This can be frightening, and thus we often subconsciously attempt to wrestle control back. We perceive our partner as the “bad guy” in this situation, no matter what the initial disagreement may have entailed, and we set out to punish them. Punishing someone in a relationship does not look all that different from how we punish others: we ignore their calls or their efforts to speak to us. We lock ourselves away in our bedroom instead of facing the problem. We do more insidious things, too; we might go so far as to stay in the same room with them or attend an event, but we will give them the cold shoulder, only interacting when absolutely necessary.
To the one being punished in a relationship, this sort of behavior is incredibly damaging. It drives a wedge between you and your partner, who will likely respond to you in exactly the same fashion. This disconnect will push you further and further apart. And if you fall into a pattern of punishment, as so many couples do, then there’s not much for the relationship to do besides fracture.
Instead of punishing someone in a relationship, focus on what Tony Robbins calls “the jackpot.” Treat your partner with kindness instead of cruelty. Show them compassion and affection, even when you are in the middle of a disagreement. By doing this, you are reinforcing the sort of behavior you want to see. As your partner comes to view you as someone who is always on their side, they will treat you in much the same way. You’re training each other to share responsibility in the relationship rather than struggle to maintain control, and that will lead to a stronger, more intimate partnership.
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Tony Robbins is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. For more than 37 years, millions of people have enjoyed the warmth, humor and dynamic presentation of Mr. Robbins’ corporate and personal development events. As the nation’s #1 life and business strategist, he¹s called upon to consult and coach some of the world¹s finest athletes, entertainers, Fortune 500 CEOs, and even presidents of nations.