10 Minutes That Can Destroy Relationships

And impact your entire life

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”
Katharine Hepburn 

Strange, isn’t it?

Here we are, engaging with the person that is most important in our lives, the person we would walk barefoot over broken glass to protect, and yet, so often, we allow one vital part of our relationship, our communication, to be a victim of bad moods and poor attitude.

Like most, I’ve had my share of relationship challenges. I confess it took me a long time to become aware of the real power of communication in a relationship, and even longer to learn how to use it effectively.

Happily, I improved my possibilities of having a happy and stress-free relationship after I realised that I needed much more skill than the basic levels we learned in our early life, and then rely on for the rest of it!

If we want to enjoy balanced and harmonious relationships we need to learn and develop much better than average communication skills.

Sure, we all want the best results, but ‘stuff’ gets in the way. All to often our intentions get lost in the process and the outcome is dependent on the chance!

The chance that both are in a good mood. That both are feeling physically well, have nothing worrying them, and can/will make allowances for anything that is affecting the other.

Most of us are just too busy to have the time and patience to communicate really well. We can easily spend up to half our lives apart from our partners, during which time our attitudes and moods are influenced by people and events we have little control over, but which in turn, control our abilities to be happy, careful and considerate, when we are with our favourite person.

The most important 10 minutes of our lives.
There is one event that makes a massive impact on most relationships, that time when we come back together after a separation. A day at work can throw so many elements into the mix for both partners. The entire day is a mixture of outside influences. Other people’s stresses and pressures, frustrations and challenges all impact on the mood each partner will be in and let’s face it, there’s every chance at least one will be in a negative mood.

So, how do we prepare for that meeting? How do we start afresh in this new, critical arena? How do we ensure we don’t allow the day’s influences to boil over into our interactions and destroy our best times?

It’s so easy to get it wrong……...

Has something like this ever happened to you?


Jim is running late after a bad day in the office. He promised he would be home by 6.00 and it’s now it’s almost 7.00!

Sue’s worked all afternoon creating a special meal and a nice relaxing evening. She figures Jim will be a bit late as usual, so she plans the meal for 6.30.

Stuck in a traffic jam, Jim’s bad mood is getting worse. Finally, after what seems like forever, he gets to the front of the queue and sees that the hold up was caused by ”‘an idiot” whose car had broken down in the road.

At this point, Jim’s negative internal communication hits overload. “Why can’t people look after their cars properly — I bet he doesn’t get his car serviced regularly, he’s an idiot and he’s made me late, all because he’s too stupid to look after his car.”

Jim has reached ‘fuming mad’ level!

Do we bring our moods home?
SO finally, Jim walks up the path to his front door at 7.35, very late, in a bad mood, and very defensive.

Inside, Sue is also in a pretty bad mood. The food is overcooked and the evening she planned is spoiled.

As soon as Jim comes into the room, she let’s rip!

“Where the hell have you been? You promised to be home over an hour ago”.

“Look, don’t start screaming at me — I’ve had a very miserable day! I don’t need you going off at me as well”.

“Don’t you think I am entitled to ‘go off’ as you put it? I‘ve cooked all afternoon to make us a special meal and you have ruined it. You always let me down!”

“No, I don’t. You never make allowances for what I have to go through. It’s ok for you, you only have to look after the house, I have problems you can’t even imagine! Anyway, you should have told me you were planning something, how am I supposed to know, it’s not my fault”!

“It was meant to be a nice surprise”.

“Well, not telling me was stupid, typical of you, you never think I have other things going on”.

Things get out of Control!
They are now in one of those no-win arguments. Both sides say things they don’t mean and afterwards wish they hadn’t said. The next few days are full of tension that neither wants but both seem powerless to do anything about.

Something similar to this happens in many households every day, and each time it does, there’s another chip out of the love they feel for each other!

How can we allow such terrible communication to happen? Do we try to avoid it? Do we even know we can prevent it? Do we believe we are responsible?

Of course, it doesn’t end there. What happens in our personal life runs over into our working lives. When things are bad at home it affects our mood and our interaction with people outside, keeping the bad mood alive and ensuring it lives on for the next evening, and then into the next day, and so on.

Perpetual mood motion!

It affects everything we do.

When we study the series of events laid out above it’s obvious how the breakdown in communication could have been prevented.

If we are aware that the events at work can leave us in a bad and unresponsive mood, we can make an effort to avoid it impacting on our interaction when we arrive home. Preparation to control our mood before we get there, determination to be patient, careful and considerate will give an opportunity for both to start off in the right way and avoid kickstarting a series of events that stretches out like ripples in a pond.

Concentration at this potentially challenging time can help the rest of our lives to be more balanced, more productive and more successful.


The most vital of skills
This small, but crucial part of our interactions spotlights the impact our ability to communicate has on all of our lives, all of the time.

Probably the most underestimated, understudied and under-utilised of all human skills, our ability to interact and communicate effectively underpins our entire lives and determines our success, domestically, socially and in our careers.


Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplas

“If All My Possessions Were Taken From Me With One Exception, I Would Choose To Keep The Power Of Communication, For By It I Would Soon Regain All The Rest.”

Daniel Webster


Will Offen is an Interpersonal Skills Coach & Consultant, helping individuals and businesses achieve maximum positive results from their interactions with others.

You can find him at [email protected]




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