ERP 014: How To Stop The Drama In Relationship

By Posted in - Podcast & Relationships May 7th, 2015 0 Comments

A listener submitted this topic for this week’s online relationship help episode, which is How To Stop The Drama In Relationship. We all probably have different definitions of “relationship drama,” but I am referring to drama as the interactions and reactions that feel intense, emotional, upsetting, or surprising. Relationship drama can invoke a tremendous amount of stress and difficulty for couples who love each other.

A prominent relationship researcher, John Gottman, suggests a 5 to 1 ratio (5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction) to maintain a stable and happy relationship. Gottman acknowledges the importance of some negativity to address areas in the relationship that need attention and for the growth of the relationship. Couple playing on the beachHowever, if the balance gets weighted more negatively, by more negative interactions, then the couple will most likely feel unhappy or even miserable. Even if you have arguments with your partner, you want to strive for an overall positive dynamic, or as Gottman would describe Positive Sentiment Override.

Examples of positive interactions include: touching, holding hands, laughing, smiling, sharing compliments, etc.

Examples of negative interactions are listed below.

Working With Couples:

Whether relationship coaching or my online relationship/marriage course, I often assist loving couples in communicating more effectively with one another. When an individual is hurt, they usually do not say how they really feel. I listen and seek to understand what is underneath their complaints. As I reflectively listen, I coach the individual to express their real feelings with their partner. Most of the time, this allows their partner the opportunity to hear new information and understanding about their feelings, which can be incredibly illuminating for both partners.

As a reference, I offer this Step-By-Step Guide To Turning Any Argument Into Effective Communication. While this process might seem uncomfortable and formal, try and view it as a learning experience. Make the goal of communication about how to work towards a resolution. If you practice, you will get better at it, and you will become more comfortable.  We do not become effective, skillful communicators over night with no effort. I would much rather challenge you to engage in this process and get to some sort of resolution and understanding than argue and exchange harmful words that get you and your partner nowhere.

Nine Destructive Behaviors To Avoid:

1. Name Calling & Character Attacks: Name calling is when language is used to be insulting and offensive to another person. Character attacks are similar to name calling, but they are used more globally and generally to attack someone’s character.

2. Criticism: Criticism is the act of focusing on a person’s flaws and passing severe judgment.

alligator3. Dismissive nonverbals: Dismissive nonverbal gestures or body language are used to reject, disrespect, or put-down your partner.

4. Silent treatment (i.e. stonewalling): Giving someone the silent treatment involves shutting down, ignoring them, avoiding, and/or refusing to respond to your partner’s comments or questions.

5. Assuming: Assuming is the act of guessing or deciding what your partner’s thoughts and feelings are without asking them or checking it out.

6. Trying to be right:  couples will enter into a conversation with the intention to talk about a concern constructively only to get derailed and start arguing about whose reality is correct.

7. Defensive: Being defensive takes many forms, but mainly it is the act of trying to dispute or refute your partner’s perspective

8. Control tactics: Control tactics are the act of trying to manipulate or dominate the situation or person through various strategies.

9. Outbursts of anger: An outburst of anger is the act of expressing anger, often in an uncontrolled and sudden manner.

(Further details for how to recognize and avoid these destructive behaviors are taught in my online relationship help/marriage course.)

How To Get Out Of The Drama Cycle:

1.Understand that you cannot control your partner.

Couple smiling2. If relatively calm, remember the mental cue, “They are hurting. What is going on? Can I ask a curious question?”

3. If you are too upset, break to regroup. “I am too upset to listen to you right now. Or I am too upset to say things constructive right now. Let’s take a break and revisit this later.”

4. Attend to your needs

  • If you don’t want to rock the boat by bringing up a concern, you will likely be letting things build up and become more of a problem in the future.
  • If you attend to your needs, you are more likely to know how you are feeling and what is underneath.
  • The more you know about yourself. The more clear you will be in your communication, which ultimately will help you be more effective in getting the results you want. “If I know how I am feeling, then I can do something about it.”

(These methods [and many others!] are taught in my online relationship help/marriage course.)

Other Tips Mentioned On The Episode: 

  • Set limits and don’t engage in hurtful behavior (see above)
  • Stay on your side of the fence
  • Notice relationship patterns (distancer-pursuer, mutual attack, etc.)

Invitation For You:

Consider one bad habit that you sometimes do with your partner (from the list of nine above) in times of stress, and think of one way that you could turn it into a positive or constructive behavior for you, your partner, or the relationship.

If you have a topic that you would like me to cover in an episode, please leave me a voice message, by clicking on the “Ask Dr. Jessica Higgins” button here. Thank you so much for being interested in improving the quality of your relationship.

Also, I would so appreciate your honest rating and review, if you would be willing to click here.

Thank you!

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching