One of the enduring jokes of the 70s and 80s was that parents and teachers were so eager to punish children, that some would dish out punishment in anticipation of the mistakes!
No wonder Hitler was a common nickname for many parents and teachers those days.
Whether that joke was simply that or reality for some children, that generation of parents is credited with raising the current crop of leaders, so the military-like discipline must have worked for some.
My concern today is about relationships where couples have to tiptoe around each other because any minor mistake will cause a major eruption from their partner.
Why does this happen, and how does it impact our relationships?
To a great extent, how an individual relates to their partner has a lot to do with personality, which draws from our natural traits as well as environmental influences. The environmental influence here refers to learned behaviour, which has a bigger sway than our traits.
In most cases, it is what we have taught ourselves, what we pick from friends, from social media and a myriad of other sources that impacts our relationships.
In other words, we have within us the ability to modify how we relate, and do so effectively. It all starts with acknowledging the problem.
In relationships where outbursts are common, bonding, the buttress for every relationship, becomes impossible. Such partners create distance between themselves by having an off-limits personal space.
Ultimately, stonewalling becomes the norm in the relationship, effectively derailing progress into emotional intimacy.
Secondly, partners become highly secretive because sharing information consistently receives a negative response.
Important information in regard to property, bank accounts, personal health and other relationships is kept close to the chest.
In some unfortunate situations, some die with such secrets, leaving their families destitute or with huge loans to clear.
This happens when people are afraid to make mistakes for fear of what might happen if they do.
Many times, I have counselled men and women who are incapable of making decisions for fear of reprisal from their partners.
The ‘punishments’ include verbal lashing, ridicule (especially if one fails), denial of conjugal rights, and withdrawal of financial and other forms of support.
For those who have young children, the state of your relationship can affect theirs in future. Sometime ago, I was in a forum where couples were discussing the legacy they would like to leave their children with.
As I listened to couple after couple speak, it struck me that many of us hardly think of the kind of lovers we would like our children to be, yet their happiness is what motivates us to toil daily, with the aim of securing a good future for them.
Well here is an important bit of information—all that investment could go to waste.
They might become successful in everything else but lack happiness in their lives because they did not learn how to relate with others from you.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), this is not the kind of thing you sit down and explain—how to love or how to be loved can only be taught by example.
The starting point is to acknowledgment the problem; in fact, this might be all that this piece will help you to do.
How have you responded to mistakes from your partner and why?
If you can answer this question, the next step is to raise it with your partner and begin to break down the walls.
Ask for help if you need to, but please, do not be a Hitler in your relationship for one more minute, because it will not end well.
This story was first published in Daily Nation