Spot those who will destroy otherwise perfect relationships – and discover what drives them to act in the way they do.
There are some people who never seem to make a success of any relationship. This is the destructive type who compulsively destroys whatever is good in a partnership. They meet a new partner who seems absolutely right for them – and then they make sure something goes wrong so that they break up.
There are other, similar people who do manage to sustain a permanent relationship but at great cost. It is perfectly clear to outsiders that the relationship is some sort of living hell and that the destructive partner is eroding the happiness of both of them.
Destructive people come in various guises. Few of them are really cruel, or even conscious of the destructive elements in their behaviour. Many of them long for a happy, peaceful relationship and are quite unaware that they are the cause of misery in the relationship.
The main types of destructive partners tend to fall into definable and easily recognizable categories.
Whatever men may prefer to believe, nagging is not the sole province of a women. Men nag just as long and efficiently, although they may prefer to call it reasoning or talking sense. Male or female, the habitual nagger destroys the peace of mind of his or her partner and their children, and creates an unpleasant atmosphere in the home.
Classically, the nagger takes an issue large or small and goes on and on about it, never content to drop it. The constant reiteration shreds everyone’s nerves and makes a happy relationship almost completely impossible. One of the most destructive things that one habitual nagger did was go on and on about his wife’s weight.
‘I wanted to diet,’ she said. ‘But being told over and over again how fat I was, and being asked what I thought I was putting in my mouth all the time, somehow completely took my willpower away. It seemed to be his problem even more than mine. I just found myself thoroughly miserable and eating more and more.’
Like most naggers her husband suffered from the delusion that by nagging he was actually doing something constructive. He insisted that he had to keep on at his wife or her weight would go up drastically. Yet his nagging achieved nothing.
Many nagged partners subconsciously assert their power by never doing what they are nagged to do – although this makes them unhappy too. As one reformed nagging mother says, ‘All I really wanted for my children was that they should do well at school. I nagged constantly about their homework and revision. Both are bright boys, but failed abysmally. I eventually had to see that my “help” was the destructive element.’ Sadly, naggers rarely come to see what they are doing as clearly as this.
When naggers get bees in their bonnets they go on and on relentlessly, refusing to let the subject drop, even when it is obvious their partners have reached the point they can stand it no longer.
The selfish partner
The selfish partner comes in many forms. What they all have in common, however, along with supreme selfishness, is the inability to see their selfishness for what it is.
Selfish partners, however, are not always destructive – provided that they have the kind of partner who likes giving, looking after, and cherishing. Often a long-suffering partner positively revels in the selfishness of the other. But that is pure luck and quite incidental.
One woman who got married before she had time to realize how chronically selfish her partner was recalls that her husband enjoyed wooing women. That’s why it didn’t occur to her before their wedding that he was very selfish. He saw himself as being good at romance; in fact he was an impossibly romantic suitor who wooed to please himself rather than his girlfriends.
His attitude changed almost as soon as he was married. Then, he expected his wife to wait on him hand and foot.
His wife could cope with that because she was the sort of person who likes to look after a man. What really annoyed her is that she was often made to feel that she did not exist for him as another person. Her husband never consulted her about anything. All her confidence went. She felt that if she left him he would not miss her at all, only his creature comforts.
The insecure partner
Sometimes, very insecure people are attracted to others who are brimful with confidence. As partners, the meeker ones often operate very much as quarrellers do, picking at a relationship when it seems to be going well, simply because they cannot believe that anyone can really love them, and that the relationship will stand the test of time.
They are programmed to destroy any relationship because subconsciously they need their uncertainty to be brought to an end.
Other insecure people destroy relationships by coming on too strong too soon. They dare not be anything but pleasant and anxious to please their partner because they fear that if they relax and let themselves behave normally, they will be found out and their partner will not want to stay with them.
One girl with this problem is usually rather a brash, abrasive person, but with men she becomes submissive. Deep down, she is convinced that she is not lovable, so she gives in all the time in the hope that it will make her so. She virtually begs for affection, and wants to know that a relationship is important before it has even begun.
The unforgiving partner
The unforgiving partner has a very hard time throughout life because of an inability to forgive and forget anything that their partner may have done. This kind of person makes a particularly destructive partner, because no relationship develops without problems, bad behaviour and hurtful episodes. Each one lodges in the mind and heart of the unforgiving partner – and if he or she is not going to forget it, then the partner is certainly never going to be allowed to.
One woman was utterly crushed by her partner’s inability to forgive. It seemed to her that however much she tried, the good things she did never seemed to weigh in her husband’s mind against her misdemeanours in the past. She was so unhappy that at one point she considered having an affair with a man she liked at work, but she knew that if her husband found out there would be no going back. She decided against the liaison but still feels that living with someone who bears grudges perpetually makes her think there is almost no point in trying to please him.
The silent partner
Some people find communicating their feelings and thoughts to someone else extremely difficult, Men, who are not encouraged to be verbal or to show emotions, often have this problem more than women do. The silent partner who is destructive, however, is different from the silent partner who is merely inarticulate or shy of expressing feelings.
One such silent martyr was normally extremely articulate. But she would not talk about her feelings as she felt they made her vulnerable, and that frightened her. Her silences became quite deadly and expertly contrived. Her husband usually gave in rather than suffer from her silences, but the relationship was doomed. He began to feel less and less affection for her, partly because she was uncommunicative, and also because her fear of showing vulnerability made him realise that she did not trust him.
When a relationship reaches the point where someone uses silence as a weapon and makes your partner feel angry, frustrated and insecure, it is worth asking if both would be happier if they decided to split up.
The emotional sadist
The emotional sadist is the easiest type of destructive partner to spot. There is rarely any physical violence (which implies lack of control) but the sadist indulges in mental torture, which is ultimately more hurtful. Unlike many other destructive partners, the sadist is usually quite aware of what he or she is doing.
In most long-lasting relationships where one partner is an emotional sadist, the other one usually holds him or herself in the same disregard as that in which they are held by their partner. Such couples usually have few friends, because people cannot bear to see the meeker partner’s abject misery and the dominant one’s quiet pleasure in their unpleasant relationship.
One observer of such a relationship said, ‘The husband doesn’t lay a finger on his wife, but I would not be surprised if I opened my paper one day and found that she has suddenly snapped and taken revenge on him.’
This kind of destructive partner usually has an obsession or addiction that pushes the relationship into secondary place. Often, alcohol is the problem, especially when the drinker refuses to recognize his or her addiction. Usually, the drinker’s partner comes to suspect the problem and tries to help, which can make things even worse. The experience of one reformed alcoholic is typical. She could not cope with the need for alcohol and the deception involved in keeping it from her husband. She loved and needed the drink more than she loved and needed him, which destroyed the relationship from her standpoint. The growing apart that the deception caused was the final death blow to the relationship.
The first thing to do to save a relationship in which one of the partners is being destructive is to identify the way in which he or she is doing it. If the couple are unable to sort out the problem on their own, and they want to stay with each other, they will need professional help. Relationship counselling is widely available.
Some couples find it useful to air their problems in group therapy sessions led by trained counsellors who encourage frank and open discussion among everyone in the group. But many find this prospect too daunting to contemplate.
For those in a relationship with someone addicted to drink, Alcoholics Anonymous can help drinkers to come to terms with their addiction and quit the bottle.