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4 Elements That Can Make or Break Any Relationship

Updated: Jan 16





There are three areas in life from which most challenges arise: money, health, and relationships. All three hold almost equal weight, and when one is toxic, it will affect at least one of the other two.


In this blog, I will be focusing on relationships. Family, friends, romantic, business, and neighborly are examples of relationships. In my more than thirty years of medical practice, personal life, and work as CoachMD, I have seen that most relationship torment stems from family and romantic. Hundreds of people have come to me seeking advice on this topic. To this end, I have compiled a list of the four primary influencers that can make or break a relationship. A toxic relationship wreaks havoc on our physical body (health) and destroys our finances (money).


  1. Jealousy


Jealousy requires at least three parties—two in a relationship and a third outside the relationship. It is the outsider that poses a threat to one in the relationship. On the other hand, envy requires just two parties—a person who envies something of or about the other. Jealousy arises when there is a past outsider, a current one, or the prospect of someone coming along in the future. This person may be bigger, stronger, better looking, wealthier, have the appearance of more confidence, for instance, and play on the insecurities of one in the relationship.


What can arise becomes toxic. Jealousy arises from our primitive nature, which I have defined as the automatic brain (or AB). This brain protects us from any danger, threat, or vulnerability. When the external environment (or internal via thoughts) signals danger is near, it sends an alert to the AB. The AB reacts to this signal by causing us to fight or flee. When faced with a situation in which we are potentially "one-upped" or having love withdrawn, these are both instances that the AB detects as dangerous. Jealousy is a form of this, and all the behaviors that arise from it are us fighting or fleeing. The fighting manifests as anger, which can further escalate to rage and emotional or physical mistreatment. At the same time, the fleeing usually results in one leaving the relationship.


2. Conflict Resolution


Very few of us enjoy conflict. Conflict is very uncomfortable unless you have gotten used to a lot of it, for instance, if you worked as a prosecuting attorney. When it enters into a relationship, it can tear it apart. Conflict occurs when the parties in a relationship do not agree on a particular point of view and refuse to see it from another's perspective.


The exact process occurs with the AB as described above. "I'm right; you're wrong," is a threat. It is the danger of being "one-upped," and with this danger comes fight or flight. The fight can be similar to what occurs with jealousy. Simultaneously, the flight usually doesn't result in one party leaving but leads to a withdrawal or a tolerance of the other's perspective. This can result in resentment and lead to passive-aggressive behaviors, which become toxic to all involved in the relationship. Learn more on my YouTube Channel.


3. Listening


I have heard countless people tell me their partner or family member doesn't listen to them. In our modern-day, we are distracted by so much. When someone is talking to us, we often find ourselves on our smartphones, watching the news on television, or thinking about our life, the world, and our children. As Steven Covey once wrote, the other issue can be, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." Real listening is one of the most respectful actions toward another person, especially someone you like or love. It is respectful and tells a person that you genuinely appreciate them and their point of view.


Unfortunately, in our modern-day, many people feel unappreciated. This can lead to sadness and insecurity and be the demise of an otherwise stable relationship. Listening can not be in our wheelhouse, our comfort zone. When we venture out of our comfort zone, our pesky AB senses that danger may be around the corner. Listening as a threat? Hard to believe, but that may be why it is a struggle for some of us.


4. Loyalty


Since 1960, the global divorce rate has increased from 12 to 44 percent. This probably reflects the expansion of information technologies. We have access to so much information and are so "in the know" that, too often, the grass always looks greener in other pastures. Loyalty goes against the grain of our primitive nature, especially for men, because it limits our ability to spread our DNA far and wide. Yet, those who can master loyalty radiate integrity and strong character. After all, if one can prevent the AB's dictates from controlling them, it sets the foundation for a long-lasting relationship. Perhaps if one were to focus on the first three items above, the loyalty part would become more accessible.


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Relationships are complicated but worth it. We, humans, are social beings and thrive on good relationships. When explored and worked on, these four aspects can be a basis for any relationship. Tune into my relationship series on YouTube.

© Dr. Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD

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