were three or four; we just need to use the skills we have (and control
our negative feelings). If you don't have the social skills, see chapter
13 and, if possible, join a support group.
Sustaining a Long-term Relationship
Thus far, we have discussed some of the problems and skills
involved in finding and developing meaningful relationships. Keeping
an ongoing relationship alive requires additional work and different
skills because there are so many pitfalls. We have lots of barriers to
true communication; we take each other for granted; we come to feel
things are unfair; we have quarrels; we try to control and manipulate
each other. Some of these problems will be discussed in this section.
In the next section, we will deal with sex role conflicts and chauvinism
at school, work, and between countries. In the next chapter we discuss
marriage and other intimate relationships.
Why cant we communicate?
Science and wise people know there are several communication
barriers. First, other people won't hear you if you threaten them or
make them defensive. Many things are threatening or unpleasant,
including someone acting "superior," being ordered around, being
"evaluated," etc. Second, we often hear what we want to hear.
Especially in highly charged discussions (politics, money, abortion,
religion), we can't see the other viewpoint. Third, many of us are
sloppy talkers and listeners. We don't express our opinions clearly. We
become uninterested, distracted, or self-preoccupied and just don't
hear what was said. Fourth, one person in a conversation may be
"playing games," as discussed above. This stops honest
communication. Fifth, some friends or companions have decided
(without discussing it) that "we won't talk about that." Thus, this
forbidden topic is never dealt with. It might be a drinking or sexual
problem, money management, his/her flirting, or anything. Sixth,
there are all kinds of conflicts that interfere with communication:
competition, attempts to get one's way, argumentativeness, "if it
weren't for you" games, hostile humor, teasing, etc., etc.
Becoming aware of the source of the barriers in your case is
critical, so they can be stopped. Replace the destructive
communication with relaxed but active listening, clear expression of
feelings, and genuine empathy. Let's discuss some of these barriers.
Being taken for granted
A common event in a long-term relationship is taking each other
for granted. Friends may become less considerate of each other and