Loss of Respect – A Relationship Felony

This week we are jumping back into the dysfunctional relationship pool and discussing the common ‘relationship crimes’ people commit to destroy and undermine their relationships. Most people would think that the worst relationship crime would be infidelity. However, the truth is that infidelity is actually part of a larger set of behaviors that hurt relationships. Yes, infidelity is painful and horrible but the problems that lead to infidelity are the real crimes that, if addressed early enough, can actually be mitigated to the point of strengthening the couple.

Be nice

The behaviors that can result in infidelity and other relationship felonies usually start with the petty crimes of an instance of disregarding the feelings of your partner and competition. These crimes over time become worse and cause long-term damage to the individuals of the relationship. When we decide that a marriage is adversarial and the goal is to win at any cost, we commit the relationship felonies of Competing and Loss of Respect.

This is a common storyline in TV sitcoms, shows and movies. One-upsmanship in a relationship is so common that we find it funny. We love the one-liners, snide remarks and sarcasm is the basis of communication. Couples who communicate in this manner set up low bar of respect in their relationship. Even when one of you decides to not be defensive or offensive and shares real emotions, the other will quickly bring them back to the unhealthy communication pattern. Vulnerability is dangerous and met with swift, offensive comments to remind the individual that perceived weakness is fair game.

“All’s fair in love and war” is probably the ugliest saying of all time. There are rules to war just like relationship. Any talk of torture or killing of innocents brings up even the hackles of war-mongers. In relationships, insults do not get the same reaction as physical abuse. However, ‘all’s fair’ doesn’t seem to cover that, does it?

When we disrespect our partners we also belittle our relationship. When we belittle the relationship, the tethers of the commitment weaken to the point that infidelity is not a crime but a means to have needs met. If I do not respect you and I believe that I must look out for my own needs then having sex with someone else is not a crime against our relationship but simply a physical transaction that I deserve. Entitlement is not borne of arrogance but of justifications.

When we watch crime shows we usually see the detectives review the criminal records of the suspect. Very few people on these shows start with murder. They work up to capital crimes. When we look at the psychological history of a sociopath we look at whether they hurt animals or people in their childhood. All of these histories help us see the behaviors that lead to the crimes of the present. In relationships, it is no different. Being blindsided by a divorce or infidelity is neglecting the previous transgressions. There is never a time that an insult or lack of respect should be allowed without a discussion and reestablishment of boundaries. A one-liner today is just the gateway behavior to cruelty in the future.


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