If we’re in a dysfunctional relationship I have many ways to control you.  There’s nagging, criticism and open conflict, obviously.  But there’s also the sigh, the smirk, the long silence, the sulk, the raised eyebrow, the sarcastic aside, the body language that shouts Stay Away.  These are powerful weapons, ways to punish you for doing or saying stuff I dislike and coerce you into falsifying yourself.  It’s a kind of domestic terrorism.

3 responses to “Terrorism

  • Shankar

    Domestic terrorism: As a counsellor how to make the couple realize their self-harming indulgence.. I find in my society (India) well-educated, high-end and individualistic people in marriage experience this problem.

    • Steve Hauptman

      There are several ways. Usually I encourage them to talk to each other in session as if I weren’t there, then offer feedback about the patterns I notice. I also encourage them to identify the habitual dysfunctional “dance” they enter when in conflict or stressed (“Who starts the argument usually? What happens then? How long does it last? How do you feel afterwards?”) and then find ways to interrupt it.

      But of course all this is usually symptomatic of deeper problems in a relationship: unexpressed feelings, unfinished business (often from childhood), unmet needs, and a lack of respect and empathy.

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