What are we all taught growing up?
If we do something bad or something against the law, or against the rules, we will be punished.
It starts with parents, and then schools and then we discover the law of the land, and then our employers’ have rules, essentially rules, and laws are everywhere.
So if a rule/law is broken there is usually a punishment of some kind.
We have no choice, but to accept much of this or accept the consequences if we don’t comply.
This has meant punishment is a model many people use in their intimate relationship as they try to correct each others behaviours.
Punishing your partner & making them wrong
So if rules and punishment are an accepted norm in our society how does it affect intimate relationships?
In truth, it’s a disastrous model for anyone to practice.
It’s disastrous for the punisher, their partner, and their relationship because the exchange creates no love, no connection, no security, and no growth.
So disconnection and resentment is where most couples that practice this end up.
Look at what happened to this couple.
But it’s not black and white and this is where couples are getting stuck
I remember a session where a couple were sharing an upsetting experience.
His wife had been harsh with a waitress in a restaurant.
The husband embarrassed by her behavior decided he would call the waitress back over and ask his wife to apologize to her.
It’s a punishment model he learnt growing up.
In this instance, the husband became either the parent/boss/judge of his wife and at that moment their connection died, he was not focused on this only his moral high ground.
Arms folded and glaring she refused to apologize and an awkward few seconds passed for them all.
The husband had a rule that you must never be rude to people, his parents taught him this.
There is no question that it’s not nice to be rude and there is no question this lady would agree, but as an adult, it was her responsibility to deal with this situation as she saw fit – she never got the chance.
So instead of the husband finding out if his (normally kindhearted) wife was okay, he decided he would punish (humiliate) her in front of the waitress to stop her from doing this again in the future.
He did not create a win-win relationship outcome.
He set up a win-lose model and it left them eating in silence and quickly exiting the restaurant separately and it left them both upset and suffering over the next few days.
She couldn’t believe he humiliated her that way and he couldn’t believe she was so rude to the waitress.
So what had happened?
Is his wife just a rude woman to people that serve her in restaurants?
She had 3 children under seven one just 6 months old she was exhausted by a lack of sleep, plus she had to get all three children to the restaurant on her own across town and her husband who joined her from a meeting was running late.
The kids were making a lot of noise and people were frowning and so she was flustered.
When he eventually sat down, stressed she barked at the waitress who had come over to take their order.
Know your partner
The key to this story is to know your partner, don’t kick them when they are down, help them, know when they are not themselves and don’t be their judge.
Don’t make the rules more important than what you both value.
He didn’t like her rudeness but to get his point across he disconnected from being a loving, kind, empathetic husband.
Good hearted people are not thinking past their rules
Maybe the rules need to change, or maybe getting to know what the rules are and if they are inflexible would be good to understand.
Remember: If someone is upset it’s because their rules have been broken in most cases people are not even aware they have these rules they are just upset automatically.
The more rules a person has the more upset they are likely to be.