What Is Your Losing Strategy in Your Relationships?


Photo by Maya Dehlin

I read a book recently called The New Rules of Marriage by Terrence Real. Terrence Real is a family therapist and the author of various books on relationships. The New Rules of Marriage book is (in my humble opinion) a solid attempt at looking at marriage through a modern lens. Our world and our relationships differ dramatically from our parents' generation with regard to roles and expectations (among other things). In addition, we ask more of our marriages than ever before (our partner should be our best friend, lover, confidante, business partner, etc...)--and we also expect our unions to last longer than ever before. Real asserts that the twenty-first-century marriage requires a new perspective and hence, "new rules." I don't unequivocally love Terrence Real's approach but he does have some amazing insights. I have chosen to share a few of the ways we commonly sabotage our relationships. Real calls these "The Five Losing Strategies."

  1. Needing to be Right--this losing approach involves asserting or finding out whose view is more "accurate" or "right". Whose perspective is more valid? This pitfall is usually accompanied with self-righteous indignation and a great deal of debating or arguing.

  2. Controlling Your Partner--this losing strategy may be direct or indirect (manipulation). Control rarely works and when it does, connection is the cost. It almost always backfires. As it turns out, healthy humans protect their agency most when they feel it is being threatened.

  3. Unbridled Self-Expression--this strategy includes the idea that we must communicate all of our feelings with our partner because sharing always creates closeness. Real highlights this fallacy. We may ask our partners to hold emotions for us--that we really should be processing on our own. This need to "sharing everything" can burden our partners and leave them feeling emotionally hurt and spent.

  4. Retaliation--this approach usually stems from a wounded/victimized stance. The idea is to make your partner "feel the pain you feel." At the core, retaliation comes from a place of desperation and a feeling of powerlessness. It can be explicit or covert (passive aggression). Either way, it destroys the feeling of trust and goodwill in a relationship.

  5. Withdrawal--this losing strategy differs from responsible distance taking which Real offers as a tool in the book when conflict gets heated-- as it stems from a place of resignation or retaliation. It can masquerade as mature acceptance when in fact it triggers feelings of abandonment and creates distance in the relationship.

Self-reflection is one of the most powerful tools we have in life if we desire to embrace a growth mindset. We welcome feedback and different perspectives as we consider our experiences and relationships the places where we best practice becoming who we desire to be.  On that note, which losing strategy do you most identify with? How does this strategy backfire in your relationship and keep you from desired intimacy with your partner? What is the fear your losing strategy strives to protect you from? I would love to hear your insights!