4 Illegal Moves to Avoid in Relationships


Avoid Illegal Moves In Relationships You Care about


I will never forget being knocked out in the WTF (World Tae Kwon Do Federation) Colorado State Championships from an illegal move that I did not see coming. How many times in your life have you been knocked out, metaphorically speaking, from an illegal move you did not see coming? What’s an illegal move in a relationship? Any move (word; thought; action; lack of action) that does not honor the highest good of all concerned.


Just as with any established sport, rules are created which maintain sportsman like conduct; supporting a healthy structure; bringing honor; safety and respect to the sport. So too, relationships require rules and regulations which support healthy connection.


Can you imagine having a referee jump in some of your discussions, blowing the whistle and throwing a yellow flag: “15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct!” How many times in the relationships you care about have you pulled an illegal move? Have you ever metaphorically grabbed the facemask of someone you care about? A word, behavior or action, which does not support healthy connection and contradicts your ultimate goal of healthy connection? I’m sure those penalized for face mask moves on the field didn’t intentionally set out to participate in an illegal move yet in the heat of the moment they end up sabotaging their ultimate goal due to ugly behavior.


Perhaps you are tired, overwhelmed; hungry; angry or tired, whatever the fuel is in the animal planet moment remember you are the gate keeper of what comes out of your mouth, what you think about in your mind and your choice of response.


4 illegal moves, unsportsmanlike conduct you want to avoid in relationships you care about:


  1. You Always or You Never Statements: these are universal quantifying conclusions, which generalize a specific behavior allowing no room for identifying behavior, which contradicts the generalization. For example: you never listen to me. Really? Never ever? This kind of illegal move programs the brain to delete any positive behavior, which would contradict the undesired behavior there by imprisoning your partner by your conclusion. Authentic love seeks out the best in others. Practice seeing the people in your circle of trust (personally and professionally) for who they desire to be rather than for how their behavior depicts. Is that not how you desire to be seen? Release the urge to verbalize victim statements, which hold others captive to your unhealthy conclusions.


  1. Upping the Ante: This is a very popular illegal move in relationships, which renders any good intention for sharing ones truth null and void. When one partner is sharing a frustration, an illegal move, which sabotages healthy connection, is this: “well you do that too” or “well you do THIS.” A healthy solution which helps release the “up the ante” reactive response: choose a day of the week and commit to sitting down with the person they desire to connect with on a deeper level and share with the following rules in place: take turns sharing 1 or 2 positive observations, something you appreciate about that person specifically. Next take turns communicating a specific situation when you felt unloved; under appreciated or mis-understood (an opportunity for growth and better connection). Now the key to this vulnerable exchange lies in the ground rules. Once the person, who is sharing their vulnerable feelings, expresses their frustration and “when you did this, I felt this” statements, the person listening cannot respond for 20-30 minutes. This experience is of waiting 20-30 minutes is similar to the structure of pulling an emotionally spun player off the field to cool off and regroup. The part of your brain responsible for solution based thinking literally shuts down when you feel threatened or attacked. This 20-30 minute chunk of time allows for any primal brain flare ups to calm down, allowing for executive thinking skills to kick in. The illegal moves of defensive behavior; ugly talk and stonewalling are kept at bay when you have this sportsmanlike conduct infrastructure established. Once you have time to reflect on the information from a place of observation rather than reactive behavior you gain the ability to choose a healthy response which honors your ultimate desire to create a bridge of connection rather than a wall of separation.


  1. Passive/Aggressive Antics: too often in relationships we have more than one program running at the same time, which confuses the delivery of information and those around us. Two popular programs which fuel passive/aggressive antics are “the disease to please” and “honest planet.” It looks like this: outside voice: “sure we can go out with your friends tonight” and inside feelings: “I’m exhausted and need to rest and refresh before heading into a new week.” The problem comes when we communicate messages to one another, which do not align with our truth. Too often our desire to please overrides what we are truly feeling as well as healthy self care systems which allow us to do what we do. Passive aggressive behavior looks like this: I will communicate what I think I should say and do what I think I should do and then get resentful and angry towards you because of my choice to do what I think you want me to do. This is a huge “yellow flag” foul in relationships because the person on the receiving end has no idea how to respond. From their perspective they move forward with plans only to be confronted by ugly behavior and a passive/aggressive disposition, which completely contradicts their partners initial willingness to participate.


  1. Trigger Phrases: every one has their own set of trigger phrases which are usually linked to past pain or false conclusions we made about ourselves as a result of a negative experience in life. Often times we will respond with statements like: “I don’t know why I over-reacted like that? Why can’t I let this go?” Trigger statements will literally flip you back to the age of when the trauma and false beliefs  anchored in your self image. As a result, we will respond with over the top reactions which usually do not align with the present situation or phrase which triggered an emotional outburst. In close relationships it’s important to first know the phrases which trigger you and know the phrases which trigger your partner. Once you have this knowledge agree together to leave those phrases on the table and consider them an illegal, move which does not support your collaborative desire for effective dialogue. A negative trigger phrase is a statement that instantly throws you into an animal planet moment: basically the straw that breaks the camels back. For example one of my trigger phrase statement that my husband knows is off limits is any statement that starts with “you always…” This phrase instantly throws me into a defense mode as well as feeling defeated and trapped by a restrictive judgmental conclusion placed on my behavior. The solution? Specifically pointing out the incident that he is referencing.


A healthy solution: resurrect your ability to clearly honor and speak your truth rather than getting spun out of your truth by the disease to please and the drug of approval. Slow down your responses to invitations and give room inside your interior castle to see if the requests, on your time and attention, honor your desires and self-care so that you can authentically give of time and presence out of overflow verses overwhelm.  Much of the internal anger of the person who is mucking around in passive/aggressive behavior flows from frustration around ones own lack of ability to communicate their truth and set healthy boundaries. Assumptions also play a role in this unsportsmanlike conduct. Ask for clarity rather than assume you know what the other person is thinking and/or feeling.


Be present, act in love, speak the truth and detach from outcome. Honor and respect your “teammates” in life. Step away from unsportsmanlike conduct and illegal moves. Set healthy boundaries so that you step away from resentment, usually fueled by saying yes to those things, which you really don’t want to do. When you give what you have decided to give in your heart, the energy of your giving refreshes rather than restricts others around you. Be the kind of person you want to encounter in relationships. Be open to identifying and adjusting those thoughts and behaviors, which do not align with your goal for healthy and sustainable connection in the relationships you care most about. Love evokes more love; kindness evokes more kindness. Elicit behaviors you desire to experience.


Any time we can flip a serious situation into a place of levity we instantly ignite the part of the brain which allows us to seek healthy solutions and we are in a position to reboot our thoughts and actions into a space which honors the person we are committed to being. To lighten those heavy moments when you or the person you care about are spun into an “illegal behavior” agree to carry a yellow flag in your pocket and throw it up in the air when you identify any of the unsportsmanlike conduct described in this article. Flag throwing is also a fun activity to do with teams in the work place after the rules for effective communication are agreed upon.

Check Out More Relationship Support: How to Connect in the Midst of Disconnect CD


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