Presuming you’re not new on this planet and have had your fair amount of human interaction, you’ve had your share of all of these relationships.

There was this study on the longevity of marriages which turned a B&B into a backdrop to study interactions among partners. It found something interesting – that the longevity of a relationship and its quality (how safe, valued, loved and seen partners felt in it) was directly linked and predicted by the attention they paid each other. It doesn’t matter what it was. Your spouse could just want to show you something out of the window and the way you react in an infinite number of small seemingly insignificant interactions paints a picture of the whole relationship. You may not be particularly into whatever it is they want to show you, but it’s the acknowledgement, even if what they find fun, interesting or noteworthy is lame to you. You respect their fascination and the fact they wanted to share it with you. How you react in these tiny instances through the day is important. You may stop what you’re doing, go to the window and comment on the thing readily. You may mumble a bit and roll your eyes but do it anyway (not as good as the first option but still not disastrous), or you could blow up and have some snide comment or, worst of all, ignore them.

Silence is the worst one which starts the degeneration into a bad relationship. If the behaviour continues it accumulates sadness, resentment, a feeling you’re not seen, important or valued and things go downhill. This can still be reversed, and if it is not, you migrate to a sort of sticky, heavy, suffocating toxicity where the chances of good things growing are basically zero. By this point you’re usually too far gone to care about fixing and you let it rot and stay in the relationship just because it’s easier, it’s the bad you know so it is somehow… perversely comfortable.  Due to the resentment build up it moves to mean things said or done out forthrightly or some passive aggressive tear downs. You’re all fake smiles and niceties into each other’s face but everything inside is numb. A smile with no eye crinkles is actually a predatory thing. It’s the showing of the teeth as weapons and not an expression of joy. The interactions become fake, there is no real emotion of affection or it is buried so far beneath resentment, anger and the burn out from having to fake a real connection, which it may be too far gone to ever get back. If most fun you experience in a relationship is obsessing about little tricks, revenges or coming up with sharp darts of some remark that will sting, that’s where you are. It’s toxic, it drains you and all you feel after any interaction is more fatigue and emptiness. Anything below five positive interactions to one negative or more than eleven positive for one negative won’t work or be fulfilling in the long run. In the first case  there is just not enough good to go on, in the latter there is no challenge if one of you is just complacent. Only a narcissist or a sociopath would like you to just do what he wants from you all the time. A normal psyche needs a collaborative partnership (romantic or platonic) not an obedient slave.

If this toxicity continues you enter something else. It’s not only toxic and poisoning your mind, spirit and body (the body knows before you do – it triggers cortisol release, increases the heart rate and perspiration, because you’re not enjoying, you’re fighting – although through fake smiles or without them) then you can descend into real hell. And it is bottomless because no matter how bad it gets one of you or both can find a way to make it worse. Our ingenuity here is infinite. This is when making the other miserable becomes the centrepiece of your day, consuming most of your energy. Here your only mission is to do the most damage possible and it will loop back on itself and amplify in time with every unkind thing you do to each other, until the wheel breaks or one of you is no longer here to fight with for any reason, be it leaving you or the planet.

Relationships are alive things that need care. They’re not frozen in time, but grow and change as people do. If there is a problem, an issue bugging you – talk, work it out. Most relationships which fall apart will do so by the lack of just talking with a common goal where you agree on wanting the solved. No one wants to be with a persona that can’t speak up and tell what they want and need and how they feel. Most of us are not afraid of getting old and dying, it’s just vanity of not being able to imagine a world without us in it.  What we fear is leaving this place without ever really been deeply known by someone. No one can know you if you don’t speak yourself into being, if you don’t act like you and live your truth. Silence is a recipe to breed resentment and drift away. Most things can be fixed if not ignored for decades and plastered over by meaninglessness. Pay attention to the people you have relationships with.Talk (fighting and bickering counts if it is not mean). Relationships are to be built and maintained and, if done well, they are one of the most beautiful and rewarding parts of our journey here.journey here.