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Constructive and Destructive Relationships

Constructive and Destructive Relationships

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this lesson, the learner will understand that relationships may be supportive of their parties' needs and goals or run counter to parties' needs and goals

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Are the relationships within our lives supportive? Do they help us meet our needs and goals, or do they hinder us? I'm Marlene, and in this tutorial, I'd like to look at constructive and destructive relationship patterns with you. So we are all involved in a variety of different kinds of relationships, relationships at home, with neighbors, with friends, at work.

And any one of those relationships-- any relationship could be either constructive or destructive. So let's define constructive relationships first. A constructive relationship is a relationship characterized by flexibility of role, mutual concern for members needs, as well as other factors. So in a constructive relationship, the people involved are concerned with one another's needs.

It's not just self-centered, the person's own needs. Typically, you'll find good communication, open communication, and a lot of flexibility. Should a situation arise where one party needs help, the other party would jump in and help. So there's flexibility, and there is a wanting to share responsibility and to help.

Typically, there is trust, and there's affection. You know that there's caring in this relationship. You can see that it's visibly shown whether it be friendship, or be a partner, or even be a coworker. You like one another. And there's trust.

Now, let's look at a destructive relationship and the differences here. A destructive, sometimes known as nonconstructive relationship, is a relationship characterized by inflexibility of roles, unequal concern for members needs, and other factors. So when in a destructive relationship, there is not this mutual caring.

One person is perhaps more self-centered, and in fact, that person may be demanding total loyalty. So there is a lot of suspicion perhaps or even jealousy. It's rigid loyalty to me and what I want and what I need without a regard for the other person's needs. Typically, there is not a lot of affection in a relationship like this, and probably very poor communication, little or no communication.

Oftentimes, a destructive relationship may turn out to be one that could actually be harmful to another, to the other party, involved in the relationship on either a physical level, or if not physical, an emotional level. So we might ask why would someone stay in a destructive relationship? Obviously, their needs are not being met. Why stay?

There are a lot of reasons why people do stay in destructive relationships. One might simply be the comfort zone. This is what I'm used to if I'm in this relationship. A person gets used to this, and moving a lot of that relationship, unsatisfying or destructive as it is, unhappy as the person is, may bring up fears.

The person is afraid. And sometimes quite literally, the person might be afraid because they're really feeling physically frightened by what their partner might do should they try to leave. So they stay in the relationship. They might also stay in the relationship because they genuinely love the other person, and they're believing and hoping that person will change. You think hope springs eternal, and at times, despite all the evidence, people hang on to hope that something will change.

So there are a variety of reasons why people will stay in a destructive relationship that is not supportive to them and that is not meeting their needs. However, conflicts will arise not just within these destructive relationships, but also within constructive relationships. So we have conflicts in both kinds of relationships because there are on unmet needs.

Obviously the destructive relationship, it may be more obvious and more consistent. But even within a constructive relationship, parties may find that, from time to time, their needs aren't being met.

The difference is in how these conflicts and the unmet needs are handled, how they are addressed. Typically, within a constructive relationship, there's going to be more open communication, a willingness to sit down and talk about the issues, listen to the other party, perhaps take responsibility for something on your part that you did that you may have helped cause a conflict, a dispute, a misunderstanding. So those communication patterns are positive, and they could be helpful in resolving a conflict and getting needs met for both parties.

In a destructive relationship, where the communication patterns are poor and where there's a lack of trust and perhaps not a concern for the needs of the other person, in many cases, coming to a conflict resolution process, over whatever the presenting issue might be, can be very helpful in addressing the underlying emotional relational needs here that are creating a destructive relationship. The parties can learn to communicate better, basics in terms of speaking and listening to one another, feeling heard, perhaps coming to recognize a bit about how their own behavior can be impacting the other party.

So when two parties in a constructive, destructive relationship come into a conflict situation, if they come in in good faith, truly wanting to work on something, they can learn the communication patterns and the relational patterns that might be impeding them in whatever the conflict is that's presenting. So conflict resolution process can be helpful in meeting unmet needs whether they be in a relationship that is destructive or with parties who come in a constructive relationship.

I've enjoyed being part of this tutorial, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Constructive Relationship

A relationship characterized by flexibility of role, mutual concern for members' needs, and other factors.

Destructive (Non-Constructive) Relationship

A relationship characterized by inflexibility of roles, unequal concern for members' needs, and other factors.