Is your relationship suffering from a negative influence

Is your relationship suffering from a negative influence...
by Jennifer Good

"Well-intentioned" people; nearly every couple knows at least one. In fact, we could all probably rattle off a few names in a matter of minutes. They are the ones that are constantly advising you about your partner's habits or lifestyle in the most well-meaning of tones; the ones who can't help but comment on some misfortune you've had or who mysteriously appear when they need something from you. And, they are the ones who are slowly, and not so silently, zapping the life and happiness from your relationship. The worst part is that you may not even realize it is happening!

The good news is there is a way to limit their effect on you and your relationship. It just takes a few conscious changes and an agreement as a couple to put those changes into effect.

The first step is to realize there is a problem. So, to start you'll need to understand how they are harmful to your relationship. Before taking any action, decide what it is about that person that is a negative influence. Do they make harmful comments? Do they fail to be supportive? Do they fail to contribute equally to the friendship? Do you find yourselves feeling better or worse after spending time with them? Are they draining you emotionally or financially? Really take a look at the overall effect the person is having on your life. Do they call you constantly to rattle off their problems, but never help you with yours? Have you offered countless solutions to help them out, but they never seem to take any advice? Do they continually visit without notice? If you have children, are they setting the type of example you want your children to view and uphold?

Once you've determined to what extent they are a problem, you'll need to figure out a way to dissolve the effect they are creating. The most effective way is to remove them from your relationship completely. That means no more communication, unless it is completely unavoidable. Unfortunately, you can't go around breaking off ties with every person you or your partner may find disagreeable. This is especially true if the trouble source is a family member, co-worker, long-time family friend or part of some other integral aspect of your life. In such cases, you will need to apply a more realistic approach.

First, you will need to cut off communication for as long as you possibly can. View this period of time as one of getting back to what's important…without the distractions. You need this time alone to remember what it's like without the interrupting influence and, to be honest, to unwind. You may only need a weekend or you may need a few weeks. You'll know when the time is right to make contact again. If you can't remove them, find a way to remove yourself for a short time as this alone time for you as a couple is extremely important.

Secondly, you and your partner should talk about what expectations and feelings you have about this situation. Agree to some common ground rules. These could be anything from agreeing to only seeing the person once a month, or making sure you change the subject anytime they start to talk about something mutually unpleasant.

When you are ready to initiate contact again, find ways to limit their effect on you. For example, make the time you spend together limited, such as going to a movie, dinner or other social function. Meet them at the destination, and make sure they know ahead of time you need to leave when the function is over.

Keep your contact in controlled environments such as the ones mentioned above. Don't invite them to your home unless absolutely necessary. In the event it is necessary, arrange to have another friend or family member there to avoid unwanted communication. I wouldn't recommend telling the other person why they are there. The point is to have a neutral person (or people) there to limit any outbursts or behavior you do not desire.

Come across as a unified front. Make sure the person knows that if they are harassing one of you, they are harassing the both of you. Support each other first, and do not take sides. If you really disagree about something, do it in private where you can both talk about it openly and comfortably.

Lastly, realize that the only way someone can have a real negative effect on you is if you let them. Sometimes just knowing that you don't need to take what they say or do personally is enough to make the time spent with that person more pleasant. Remember to find the strength in each other to combat outside forces. Your relationship and your family unit should always come first.

Please Note: This article does not take into consideration roommates, friends or family members living with you. These topics will be covered in a future feature.