3 Obstacles to Love & How to Transform Them

“Relationship skills do not come with genes, they come with practice.”
— Harville Hendrix


In my work with clients and in my own relationships, I’ve seen over and over again the destructive power of these three behaviours:

1) Criticizing
2) Comparing and
3) Capitulating

These three obstacles to love and romance can side-line and erode any relationship. So let’s explore the nature of each one, along with some suggested antidotes to their negative power.


All of us tend to complain (sometimes even affectionately!) about the behaviors of our partner which irk us.

· “I hate it when you back-seat drive!”
· “I wish you wouldn’t leave your wet towel on the bathroom floor!”

However there is a big difference between complaining about something our partner has done and levelling a criticism that assassinates their character.

· “You are such a control freak!”
· “You’re an inconsiderate slob.”

A criticism attacks the essential nature of a person and fails to distinguish between a person’s innate worth and their behaviour. As such, it is shaming and blaming in nature. Criticism is corrosive and it can destroy the feeling of safety and acceptance which is crucial to intimacy. And who feels romantic when they’ve just been shot down?

An antidote to criticizing:


If you’re unhappy with something your partner does, make a request for a behaviour change. Own your triggers and examine the interpretations you jump to. For example:

“If she back-seat drives, then she must be trying to control me.”
“If he leaves his wet towel on the floor, then he must take me for granted and think I’m his maid.”

Your assumptions may be incorrect. So don’t corrode your relationship with the destructive power of criticism. Make a request! Although your partner always has the right to decline, asking for what you want may be the most direct route to getting it. When you make a request, you avoid the minefield that criticism opens up.


How often have you been at a social function and secretly compared your spouse/partner to the other spouses in the room? Ever assess who is best looking? Funniest? Wittiest? Most thoughtful and considerate? The best cook? The best athlete? The most successful?

Ever wish that your spouse was more like so-and-so? Wonder if others were happier in their marriages than you are? Wonder if you’d be happier with someone different?

I think we are all vulnerable to this line of thinking. However comparisons – whether directed at our partners OR ourselves — really rob us of satisfaction and love. And usually end up making us feel bad or critical.

Comparison can ONLY result in winners and losers. And it usually leaves the “compare-er” feeling either inferior or superior. Neither of these states contribute to a genuine sharing between equals – or being fully present to our loved one, in all their uniqueness. And it definitely KILLS romance.

An antidote to comparing:


When we judge and compare, we assume that there is a standard to which we (or our partner) must measure up. Often that can be rooted in an impossible perfectionism. We seek to be perfect so as to avoid the criticism or judgment of others.

Give yourself and your partner permission to be human, fallible and imperfect. Because you are!! We ALL are. Expecting perfection is at best, an illusion – and at worst, a destroyer of love.


Do you have a tendency to give up or give in when you and your partner want different things? Does your desire to keep the peace cause you to sacrifice things that are important or even essential to your well-being? Do you give up pursuing or doing things that really matter to you because you don’t see how they can work for your partner? Do you become impatient with “working-things-out” and agree — just to get the conversation over-with?

When we’re in partnership, there can be many situations in which our desires might conflict with our partner’s. This can be as small as choosing which movie you’ll go to — or as large as how to juggle the demands of two careers.

As tempting as capitulation might be in the face of conflict — if something really matters to you — capitulating is dangerous to the health of your relationship. Capitulation and resignation are breeding grounds for resentment. A stockpiling of resentments erodes your positive feelings for your partner and can be the “death knell” for a relationship.

An antidote to capitulating:


Take a stand on finding a win-win solution to any situation that you and your partner face, that matters to one or both of you. Commit to keeping a topic open until you have arrived at a solution which feels like a WIN for BOTH of you.

This requires some patience – and it may mean revisiting a conversation as many times as needed, as you both consider and reflect on what you each need in the situation.

This also requires a tolerance for not knowing (in advance) what the solution will look like. My husband and I have worked through many seeming conflicts around travel plans, career desires, child-care responsibilities, etc. by sticking with the conversation until it “pops” – and we both feel good about the solution that has emerged. Sometimes we need to keep drilling down into what is truly important to each of us, for the elegant solution to emerge. Bailing on the conversation prematurely can only result in a “win-lose” or a “lose-lose”.


Criticizing, comparing and capitulating in your relationship will set you on a fast track to unhappiness! So avoid these common pitfalls by:

1) making requests
2) giving yourself and your partner permission to be imperfect and
3) committing to find the WIN-WIN in decision-making.

These 3 strategies help create the climate of love, acceptance and respect that we all deserve and desire.

Invitation to action

Pick one of the 3 C’s (criticizing, comparing and capitulation) and watch for it over the coming week. When you catch yourself engaging in it — STOP. Try applying the appropriate antidote suggested above and see what happens. Notice how that affects your feelings of love for your partner.

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