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Relationship Killers 2.0: The Silent Killers

What you don't know, can hurt you.

We're all aware of those big relationship killers. The big, loud, dramatic events where emotions run high and the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. It seems everywhere you look you can point to obviously miserable people in dysfunctional relationships. Maybe they suffer from jealousy, lack of trust or poor communication. The obvious signs of a relationship killer are what we would call red flags 🚩🚩🚩. Now after a relationship has died and dissolved, both parties are usually able to look back in retrospect, play the blame game, and start pointing fingers, either at themselves or their former partners. But sometimes...a person may wonder, "how did we get here"? Everything seemed like the relationship was going great, but the next thing you know something has changed, and the dynamic is on its head. If this is the case, you may have fallen victim to a silent killer. About a year ago on CLCI we talked about Relationship Killers and the damage they can cause. This year we sat down with Brooke Adair Walters (M.C.P.C.), Jerome LeDuff Jr (M.C.L.C.), Anthony Lopez (M.C.P.C.), Lisa Finck (A.C.C.), and Sam Gozo (A.C.C.) and discuss the silent relationship killers. The things people unknowingly do in a relationship that slowly strangle the life out of them.

With this knowledge under your belt, you might not just be able to save your dying relationship, but bring it back from the dead.

The Silent Killers

"20 CC's of pure assumptions, is enough to kill 100 relationships"


All Over the Place

"They shouldn't act this way" "They should've just known that's what I hate" "My partner should just do this without me asking"

Many people come into a relationship with certain (reasonable or not) expectations on how their partner should behave, act, and think. What's more interesting is that while partners will initially be attracted to the differences that make them stand out, it's also the differences in behavior and thought that cause someone to "should" them. In essence, "shoulding" happens when there is a dissonance between your subjective assumptions and the behavior of those around you. Here's an example you might be familiar with, courtesy of George Carlin:

Have you ever noticed when you're driving that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

When you "should" a partner, you are making a criticism. And whether it's warranted or not, nobody likes a bare criticism. Here's the alternative. Instead, you could openly and directly state your expectations and collaborate to empower one another. This also means accepting the differences and idiosyncrasies between yourself and your partner.

There's No "I" in Team

Ask not what you relationship will do for you - ask what you can do for your relationship

There is a lot of power in using "I-statements". Using "I" means that you take ownership for your thoughts, feelings, and actions in a relationship. This form of ownership is especially important when we feel the urge and point the finger by saying "YOU".

Compare the "you-should" vs. an "I-statement".

  • "You should be grateful for the things I do for you"

  • "I feel unappreciated in this relationship"

One is an attack, while the other opens the conversation for further discussion. While "I-statements" can be great, they can also be silent killers. An overuse of "I" can isolate a partner and give the impression that you are only concerned with yourself and the state of your own emotions. "We" can be an effective way to communicate that the relationship is a team that can sometimes supersede the individual wants of the persons in the relationship. By using "we", you take into consideration the relationship in its entirety.

Slippery Slopes

The slippery slope is when someone believes that a relatively small event will start a chain of events that end in some significant effect. There may be times when you or your partner sees negative attributes as for sure signs that things will go sour. Another term for this is catastrophizing On the opposite side of the spectrum, good things may indicate that things will continue to be good forever or that you will always get the conclusion you want.

Both examples all demonstrate an all-or-nothing mentality. Either things are really good or really bad. And if they aren't, then they definitely indicate the best or worst possible outcome. The best way to combat this relationship killer is to be in the moment and stay specific. What do these thought mean in the here and now? If you have a partner who tends to fall down the slippery slope, give them time and then put some coaching skills into practice. Ask your partner questions and see if it really does inevitably lead to whatever outcome is being proposed. Often times there are many conclusions we do not account for because we may have a bias toward a certain set of outcomes.

The Solution

Don't let the silent killers stay silent. Drag them out in the open, talk about them, don't ever let an assumption run wild. Often times we know when we are letting the silent killers run the show, but we feel ashamed that we are letting them direct our actions and by proxy, our relationships. By taking the time to address these issues with your partner, you stand a far better chance at having your relationships thrive into the future.


ACTO is Accepting Applications for Student Scholarships Now!

The Association of Coach Training Organizations (ACTO) is pleased to open the application for its annual (2022) Coach Training Scholarship.

As in years past, two Scholarships will be awarded – each in the amounts of $2,000 USD – to the individuals who best meet the established criteria of the Scholarship Award.

This opportunity is open to both new coaching students, as well as students currently enrolled in an Accredited Coach Training Program to complete a coach training program from one of the ACTO member participating schools.

The criteria for the ACTO Scholarship Award are narrowly focused as follows:

  1. Applicants must express a commitment to pursue a career in coaching, ultimately credentialing through a recognized professional body. The award must be accessed (but not necessarily completely used) within a one-year period and training completed within two years.

  2. Applicants must express a clear and specific intent to use their acquired coaching skills to positively impact society by working with underserved and/or historically excluded populations. (Examples of underrepresented people and communities include, but are not limited to: Black, Brown, Indigenous and other people of color, ethnic or religious minorities, lower socio-economic or caste status, LGBTQIA+ persons, youth, elderly, economically or educationally disadvantaged, incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals, immigrants or migrants, etc.)

  3. Applicants must share a credible expression of financial need for this award.

Completed scholarship applications must be submitted to ACTO by April 1, 2022. Scholarship Awardees will be announced at the 2022 ACTO Conference (June 15-17, 2022).

Important Dates

January 1, 2022 – Scholarship application process open

April 1, 2022 – Completed scholarship application submission deadline

June 15-17, 2022 – Scholarship Awardees will be announced at the 2022 ACTO Conference


Thank you,

Lisa Finck, Brooke Adair Walters, Jerome LeDuff Jr, Anthony Lopez, and Sam Gozo!

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1 Comment

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Nick Chernick
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