In previous chapters of Save Your Marriage, I explained about the King and the Nitpicker mentality. This communication style can be very devastating for children and their future relationships and marriage. In this chapter of the series, I will explain how parents who abuse or bully, like the “king/queen” or the “nitpicker”, can raise kids who are constantly on guard. These kids try to protect themselves from pain and heartache and by that, they invite bullies and conflicts into their lives.
Growing up in a household where you feel constantly attacked and ridiculed, where one or both of your parents make you feel small and helpless, where you have no support and protection, where one or both of your parents nitpick, criticize, complain, are never satisfied and often angry, can make children alert and hypersensitive to any small signs that someone is going to hurt them.
This is actually a very natural reaction, in an attempt to protect themselves. But when taken into adulthood, into relationships or marriage, it can be very damaging. There is a phrase, the best defense is offense. These kids adopt this philosophy because they were attacked a lot. As a result, they sometimes see an attack when there is none. They are very sensitive to criticism and their emotional state is “I am not OK, You’re not OK” (see I’m OK, You’re OK Parenting series for tips on emotional intelligence).
Being in a state of “I’m not OK, you’re not OK” can be very unhealthy. It can ruin many good relationships. Children who were a disappointment to their parents, who were “not enough” will grow be sensitive adults. When their partners express discomfort, they will immediately consider it an attack (even if the discomfort has nothing to do with them). If someone criticizes them, they will criticize back. If someone complains about them, they will have a pile of complaints to use in return.
They usually won’t initiate conflict but when conflict happens, they will not hesitate to take it to the extreme. Their communication slogan is “you will never hurt me”. They see themselves as victims. They use the word “but” a lot and deflect every bad thing that is said about them to preserve some self worth.
Once bitten by a snake, he is scared all his life at the mere sight of a rope.
Here are some examples of a communication pattern that uses attack as a defensive strategy. If you see yourself in these examples, seek help. I have said that before. Self-help and awareness are terrific tools to begin to create change. Attacking with your eyes closed is a sign that something in childhood went wrong and needs to be changed.
When you are ready, find someone to help you break these habits. These communication styles are subconscious and can be very damaging in all relationship, not just marriage. Awareness can only go so far. It was never your fault that you grew up in a household that used parenting techniques that were damaging but you have the power to ensure your relationships are positive in the future.
- “I did it perfectly fine”.
- “This is what you have. Take it or leave it”.
- “Your problem”.
- “I don’t need your approval”.
- “I don’t need your help”.
- “What are you complaining about, you did the same thing last week”.
- “You can’t tell me what to do”.
- “I can do whatever I want”.
- “If you have a problem with my cooking, make your own dinner”.
- “I am not your servant/driver/cleaner”.
A person who is always on guard cannot relax and enjoy life. He/she is in constant fear of pain, a state which brings lots of pain.
In summary, there are 4 communication styles that can ruin every marriage.
- Into the shell
- On guard
All of these are subconscious. With help, you can overcome them. They all create many challenges in relationships and marriages. See if you can tackle them as soon as possible for a smooth and easy ride.
This post is part of the series Save Your Marriage:
- Self-Regulation in Your Marriage
- How to Save Yourself from Divorce
- Marriage and Divorce Statistics
- The Marriage Institution
- Marriage is the Foundation of Families
- The Unpleasant Side of Divorce
- How to Get Things Wrong in a Marriage
- Marriage and Self Talk
- More About Self Talk
- Facts vs. Meaning in Marriage
- All Men Are… All Women Are…
- When Two Do Not Become One
- Marriage and Money
- Be Your Partner’s Best Friend
- Relationship Between Two Onions
- The Greatest Gift: Stay Together
- Marriage of Singles
- The "Right" Trap
- The Intention Trap
- Best Marriage Quotes
- 10 Rules for Civilized Dialogue
- 10 Tips for Re-Building Trust
- The King and His Servants
- The Nitpicker
- Expressing Feelings in a Marriage
- Don’t Be On Guard
- Don’t Clam Up
- Have Good Sex to Save Your Marriage
- Trust (or The Boy Who Cried Wolf)
- Emergency Relationship Coaching Essentials
- Save Your Marriage with Better Time Management
- Choice Theory Can Save Your Marriage
- How to Have a Hot Relationship