Why Relationships Go Bad


Back when I played golf professionally, I would play a practice round on the tournament course before the event. The most important reason for the practice round was to identify the places where disaster lurked. I wanted to know where I could NOT go if I wanted to win the event.

Think of your relationships, at home or at work, like a golf course. We want to “win,” meaning, we want high-functioning and fulfilling relationships. And just like any golf course, our relationships have “hazards” too, places where disaster lurks. One such hazard, a place you simply can NOT go, is the hazard called broken agreements. Making and keeping agreements is essential in any relationship because it either creates trust or it destroys it.

The truth is, though, that all of us have either broken our word, or had someone break their word to us. And we are familiar with the anger, drama and pain it creates. To ensure high-functioning and fulfilling relationships, I want to look at making agreements in part one and keeping our agreements in part two.

Making Agreements: Hearing and Heeding Your Inner Voice

Most of us get into trouble because we agree to things we should never have agreed to in the first place. Why? Well, it could be a desire for approval, an inability to say “no,” or maybe it just sounded good in the moment. Honestly though, what I find in my own life, and in my coaching practice, is that we simply do not know how to make a decision, as crazy as that sounds. We do not know how to hear and heed our own voice. And without that, we end up making decisions from approval, weakness or impulse.

Our voice resides in our bodies. If we take the time to ask our bodies what we truly want to do, we will rarely go back on our word. This is called getting a full-body “yes” to an issue. Your inner voice speaks in feelings. If your breath deepens, if your muscles relax, if your energy rises, that is a “yes.” If your head aches, if your stomach tightens, if your energy deflates, that is a “no.” Put differently, when you feel more alive, energetic and vibrant, that is a “yes” feeling. When you feel d-words like down, distant or disinterested, that is what a “no” feels like.

Sometimes it will not be immediately clear. In that case it is automatically a “no.” No exceptions. Maybe you will get a full-body “yes” later. Fine. But until it is a full-body “yes” it must be “no.” The point is that your body knows what is right for you. Ask it.

Most of us have been trained away from our intuition, our bodies and our feelings, especially men. So if this seems hard at first, if it seems like there is no voice in your body, it is only because it is new for you. You may have to sit in silence for a time (especially with major decisions) and allow all the other noise in your life to quiet down so your inner voice can be heard. It will not scream its truth to you. It whispers. Our attention has been turned outward our entire lives, we can not expect to be fluent in our body’s language overnight.

You may disappoint people as you follow your voice. You may lose their approval. They might not like to hear “no.” They might even get angry. But you will be at peace knowing you are being true to yourself and you will build trust in your relationships because people will learn that when you say “yes” to something, you mean it and you can be counted on to follow through.

One final thought. It is perfectly acceptable to change your agreements. Things come up, circumstances change. People know that. But ask yourself, “Is this redo a response to honest circumstances or did I not hear and heed my inner voice in the first place.” You may be surprised at the answer.


In part one we said that our relationships, whether at home or at work, are like golf courses. Just as a golf course has hazards, places where disaster lurks, so too relationships have hazards, places where disaster lurks. One of those relationship “hazards” is broken agreements. It is impossible to create high-functioning, fulfilling relationships if agreements are made and then broken. We saw that hearing and heeding our inner voice is the key to making agreements.

Here in part two we focus on keeping agreements, and at first glance, this seems rather easy. If you heard your inner voice, if you had a full-body “yes” when you made the agreement, then you simply follow through. Simple enough, right? Well, not always. There are three issues to pay attention to in the area of keeping agreements.

First, we break agreements because we forget to write them down. We are, in fact, human and our memories are not perfect. So we have to make allowances for being human. Never commit to anything unless you are looking directly at your scheduling tool, at the moment of commitment.

Secondly, we break agreements because of miscommunication. Have you ever agreed to something only to discover the other party thought they agreed to something completely different? It is really frustrating. The solution is to confirm both verbally and electronically. For example (verbally), “Pam, you and Tom are coming to our home for dinner, Friday night, September 26, at 8:00 pm. Is that right?” Then follow up electronically by sending a message stating exactly what you agreed to. Ask if they saw it the same way. This two-step process should end miscommunication and broken agreements.

A Woman’s Prerogative

The final part of keeping agreements is directed at us men. I know it is frustrating to hear the phrase, “It is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.” It seems unfair because we are expected to be “a man of our word.” There seems to be a double standard for men and women and it can create a great deal of conflict unless the nature of the masculine and feminine are properly understood.

While each person has masculine and feminine aspects, men are usually more identified with the masculine and women are more identified with the feminine. The masculine, in men or women, speaks and makes agreements from the head or mind; the feminine, in men or women, speaks and makes agreements from the heart or mood. The masculine-mind speaks unchanging truth.

The feminine-mood speaks present-moment awareness. Neither is right or wrong; neither is good or bad and both men and women can operate from either place. However, men almost always speak from the masculine-mind (most men are still not in touch with their feminine sides), but women, who are generally more balanced, frequently speak from both.

For instance, if a woman agrees to pick the kids up from school, that is coming from her masculine-mind, and you can bank on it. But when she says something from her feminine-mood, it is to be enjoyed in the moment – but not to be counted on to be true in the future. For example, you and your partner have a fun, flirtatious morning while getting ready for work. The sparks are flying but you do not have time to make love, something you both desperately want. Instead, your woman looks you in the eye and says, “I am going to tear your clothes off the moment I get home from work tonight!”

Fast-forward eight hours. (Us men thought about that comment all day and made damn-sure to get home from work early!) So there you are, waiting at the door like a dog with your tongue hanging out! But when she walks in you can tell her mood is completely different. She may have had a bad day or the traffic was horrible. Either way, she is not the least bit interested in sex. You are disappointed. Why? Because you believed what she said earlier that day would still be true now! Did she lie or break her agreement with you? No! She told you her deepest truth, in that moment. But this is a different moment.

Therefore, the enlightened man enjoys his woman in each and every moment, but he does not attach to anything his woman says when he knows it is coming from her feminine-mood voice. He realizes what she says is an authentic expression of her mood in the moment but also that it will probably change. He wisely lets go of any expectation and simply loves this woman who surprises him, enchants him and drives him crazy!

Understanding the difference between mind and mood agreements will keep your intimacy alive and growing.

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