If one were to guess the common pitfalls of romantic relationships, it would be easy to point to things like communication, dishonesty, lack of trust, and not making the relationship a priority. But there's another behavior that can wreak havoc on a relationship—and it often falls below the radar. Relationship expert Margaret Paul, PhD, explains in MindBodyGreen that the one thing that "erodes intimacy" in every relationship is a subconscious tendency we often don't even realize we're engaging in. That tendency is judgment—both self-judgment and judgment of others—and she asserts that it's one of the major causes, if not the biggest cause, of relationship problems.
"The programmed part of us, our ego-wounded self, often believes that self-judgment and judgment of others motivate change," notes Paul. "But if you examine the results of judgment, you will see the opposite is true." Paul describes the resulting outcome as becoming unloving in relationships. Whether you're judging your partner or judging yourself, the recipient of that judgment will feel insecure, anxious, and shamed, closing off their ability to offer themselves freely and be open to love—thus eroding intimacy. "Even judgmental thoughts have a negative effect because they affect your frequency," explains Paul. "It's your frequency (which I like to think of as the place from which you react to yourself and others) that determines whether or not you can lovingly connect with others." Judgment, either outward or inward, shuts us off from sharing in positive emotions.
So what should one do to avoid judgment and nurture their relationship? Paul suggests becoming more mindful of your thoughts. "As you become conscious of your judgments, you then have the choice to shift your thinking to acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness," says Paul."Whenever you are accepting of yourself and others, and you have compassion for yourself and others, and you forgive yourself and others for making mistakes and being human, your frequency is high and your heart is open." It is in this headspace that you'll be able to lovingly connect with yourself and your partner.
The happiest relationships have this in common—does yours?