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The First Rule of Relationships

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A few weeks ago my kiddo was staying with my sister. Every time we pick him up when he spends the weekend away I always hold my breath a little when I get the “behavior report” for the weekend. You just never know how that’s going to go. Kids will do the darndest things when they are staying with Aunties who spoil them rotten.

This particular weekend the behavior report was quite disturbing because my dear, sweet, innocent child had punched a kid in the nose. He’d been playing with a group of older kids he didn’t know when one of them started making fun of him.

So, like any rational seven-year-old would, he punched the kid who was making him feel bad.

When I got this news, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You could have seriously hurt him. Were you trying to hurt him?”

His answer was swift. “No. I wasn’t trying to hurt him, but I knew I might.”

And there you have it. Seven-year-old logic. Someone makes me feel bad, and in order to feel better, I’m going to lash out. It’s probably going to hurt them, but I don’t care, because I’m going to feel better. Seven-year-old boys think that way. Unfortunately, as wrong as it is, it’s developmentally appropriate. However, if you’re still thinking that way when you’re seventeen, you’re likely to end up in jail.
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Someone recently asked me in an interview if there was something I wish I could say to couples, but rarely do. I had to think about it a little because I’m not one to bite my tongue, but if I had to come up with something, it would be this:

Stop hurting each other and pretending like you didn’t notice you were doing it.

The one thing a couple cannot ever overcome is when someone is hurting the other person, maybe not purposefully, but knowingly, and continues to do it, while justifying the reason they are doing it is compelling enough.

You cannot be in a relationship where any one person or even both people treat each other’s hearts and feelings with disregard. No matter how small or insignificant it might seem, if you are knowingly hurting your partner, you are making them unimportant for some reason, and there is no reason that’s good enough to make that ok.

If whatever someone did or is doing is really so egregious you can’t help yourself, then you need to leave. Otherwise, if you plan to stay, you can’t keep pretending like your partner’s feelings don’t matter.

The reasons a person will disregard their partner’s feelings are numerous.

To name just a few:

“I’m shutting you out, even though I know it hurts you, because I was abused as a child.”

“I’m nagging you, even though I know it hurts you, because you don’t listen.”

“I’m yelling at you, even though I know it hurts you, because I’m angry.”

“I’m withholding love and intimacy, even though I know it hurts you, because I’m tired.”

“I’m chatting with my ex online, even though I know it hurts you, because you ignore me.”

“I’m spending money behind your back, even though I know it hurts you, because I’m bored.”

“I’m undermining you with the kids, even though I know it hurts you, because I don’t trust your parenting.”

“I’m snapping at you, even though I know it hurts you, because I’m stressed to the max.

I’ve heard all of those and about a thousand more just like them. When I hear something like that my heart sinks,

because I know, this couple is in serious trouble.

There is usually truth in the excuses so the excuses can seem really valid.

“I was abused as a child” – truth.

“I feel like you don’t listen.” – truth.

“I’m angry,” – truth.

“I’m tired.” – truth.

“I feel like ignore me.” – truth.

“I’m bored.” – truth

“I don’t trust your parenting.” – truth.

“I’m stressed to the max.” – truth

Those things are very important. Those things need fixing.

But these things are breaking the relationship:

~Shutting someone out.

~Nagging

~Yelling

~Withholding love and intimacy

~Chatting with an ex

~Spending too much money

~Undermining someone’s parenting

~Being stressed to the max

Nothing gives you a free pass to knowingly hurt someone you’re in a relationship with.

I get it. It’s not easy. I live with a seven-year-old – you know the one, the boxer. Here is a breakdown of an exchange I had with his just this morning. I was frustrated, with good reason. Heaven knows this child can avoid following instructions for literally hours at a time. Usually at the heart of his procrastination is a pile of legos that are squared in opposition of my very tight schedule. Anyone who knows me, or probably eighty percent of the other mothers on the planet, knows the morning routine is often a source of conflict. He wants to build a lego city. I want him to get ready for school and take care of the chickens.

“Please get your clothes on and go take care of the chickens without me having to repeat myself a dozen more times. I don’t want to start the day yelling at you to get things done. Please don’t make me lose my temper.”

Sounds reasonable, right?

Except, of course, it’s not.

This, as if him not getting dressed and getting the chickens taken care of would somehow hijack my otherwise calm attitude and absolutely force me to lose my shit and become a raving lunatic possessed by some demon over which I have no control. We all know that’s not true. For sure my kid knows it isn’t true. This doesn’t mean he should be excused for not following directions. However, if I lose my patients and yell, I know that hurts him, and that’s on me.

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If you ever want to have a relationship that is about possibility, you can’t knowingly engage in behavior that harms. The first rule of relationship is, do no harm. When you allow any justification to override that rule, you aren’t in a relationship any more. Even if for a moment, relating has ceased.

The challenge is a lot of people are breaking the do no harm rule a lot of the time, again, maybe not intentionally for the specific purpose of causing hurt, but none the less, knowing it will cause hurt. This causes relating to be suspended over and over again, and intimacy breaks down. A lot of people are living in relationships where intimacy is a ghost of days gone by and hardly even notice it.

If you want to take your relationship to a higher level, if you want to feel the light in places you thought were forever dark, you have to be willing to fix the things you’ve been making your excuses for not showing up.

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Lisa Hayes, The Love Whisperer, is an LOA Relationship Coach. She helps clients leverage Law of Attraction to get the relationships they dream about and build the lives they want. Lisa is the author of the newly released hit book, Score Your Soulmate and How to Escape from Relationship Hell and The Passion Plan.

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