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Winning and Losing Strategies for Relationships

by | Jan 4, 2023

We all want to win, right?  Here are some super easy ways to win in your relationships (as well as come out a loser) according to Terry Real, internationally recognized family therapist, speaker, teacher, and best-selling author.

Let’s take a look at what NOT to do first.

Losing Strategies

Being Right


Finding out whose view is more valid or accurate.  Needing your partner to agree with your perspective. Arguing your case. 

The need to be right leads to endless objectivity battles. It also fuels self-righteous indignation, criticism, and contempt.

Solving an issue by figuring out who was right (and who was wrong) or who remembered it correctly doesn’t work! Stop using this approach.  It will not get you what you want in the end. 

Objective reality has no place in personal relationships— you both will always have your own opinions and perspectives.  Accept this. 

Creates defensiveness in your partner. 


Ask one another: 

How can we solve this in a way that both of us will agree with?  

How can we get back on track?  

How can we both feel heard and understood?  Remember, you don’t have to agree with your partner to validate them. 

Controlling Your Partner


Can be direct (bullying, “shoulding”) or indirect (manipulation, managing someone). 

Short of outright coercion, control is an illusion.

People don’t like being controlled. They will grow resentful. 

Payback is inevitable.

Men often don’t trust women because they feel managed, manipulated, or controlled by them.  

Fear is often underneath the need to control someone or something.  

We’re often blind to the damage control can cause in relationships.


Realize what is in your circle of control and what isn’t.  Focus on what you can control.  Have open communication about how you feel and what you need with your partner.  Accept your partner’s personality and shortcomings. Grieve and let go of what you will not get.  No one gets everything they want.

Unbridled Self Expression


Excessive sharing of thoughts and feelings, no matter the person, time, or place. 

You do not have the right to share your feelings with your partner at any time.

There is a false idea that all sharing is authentic and will increase closeness.

Unbridled sharing rarely engenders generosity in others.

Think of this as a “barf bag approach” to communication: “Here hold all of this; wow, now I feel better.  Don’t you?” (Hint: They don’t.)

You actually don’t have the right to go on for 30 min about how you feel. You can, but it won’t work.  This leads to beating them down into the ground, disconnection, and negative feelings. 

Instead of bringing up all your past hurts, stay in the specific present situation, and don’t go into trends or character.     

Character assassination is when you label your partner in a negative way. “You’re a ___.”  It’s not fair or accurate.  

Unbridled self-expression is about a lack of boundaries. Learn to use internal and external boundaries. 

Oversharing tends to use thinking errors, such as magnification— you always __, you never __.

Think about how you parent.  You don’t express every frustration and annoyance at your child, so don’t do it to your partner either.


Reflect on your own about what you’re thinking and feeling.  Journal it and sort through it first.

Decide what you must say, want to say, and shouldn’t say (for sake of the relationship).

Ask your partner when a good time to talk will be. 

Make sure you’re not flooded before you decide to share. 

Check-in with your partner and times during the conversation to make sure they aren’t flooded



Getting even, revenge, hurting your partner because you’re hurting.

There’s typically no shame or guilt in your actions because you put yourself in the victim position and they deserved it or did it to you first.

Trying to make them feel what you feel doesn’t work. 

Retaliation can be explicit (clear) or covert (manipulative), direct (aggressive), or indirect (withholding).

The cycle of violence lives here.  

Punitive measures will not cause accountability.

You can’t make someone more accountable or empathic or understanding by hurting them.


Use loving confrontation, soft power, and loving firmness to communicate.

Be mindful of how you want to communicate- is it harsh and abusive or is it vulnerable and connecting? 

Be sure to ask for what you want and need as you share your feelings. 



Stonewalling, ignoring, avoiding, refusing to engage. 

Withdrawal differs from responsible distance taking.

It stems from either resignation or retaliation.

It often masquerades as mature acceptance.

Giving up is not moving into acceptance.


If you are feeling resentful, move back into engagement.  Have a conversation.  Share your feelings.  Ask for what you need.

Tell your partner when you need to take a break and let them know when you will be ready to talk again. 

Winning Strategies

— Shift from Complaint to Request

– Move from a negative/past to a positive/future focus. Don’t criticize—ask!

  • Make your requests specific, behavioral, and reasonable.
  • Accept that you will not get everything you want to request.  Grieve this. 

— Speaking Out with Love and Savvy (rather than speaking with the losing strategies above)

– Contract with your partner to engage in the repair process.

– Remember you love this person.

– Stay moderate, sane, and on course. 

Use this helpful conversation template:

1. What I saw or heard

2. What I made up about it

3. How I feel about it

4. My part in it

5. What I’d like

6. Let go of outcome.

— Responding with Generosity

– Listen to understand (not just state your case/perspective).

– Acknowledge whatever you can.

– Give whatever you can.

  • Speak relationally. 
  • Lead with agreement, what you can do before you give any kind of rebuttal.

— Empower Each Other

– Acknowledge whatever the responder has offered.

– Acknowledge whatever you can and give whatever you can.

– Negotiate well. 

— Cherishing

– Remember abundance.

– Give your partner specific positive feedback.

– Nourish yourself and your relationship with time and energy.

– Inhabit your talents and gifts without owning or disowning them.

– Give back to the relationship.

– Prioritize one another. 

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About Kristi | View Profile

Kristi Schwegman is a psychotherapist specializing in helping couples develop healthy relationships, whether dating, engaged, or married. She also draws from her Christian-based approach to lead individuals in becoming aware of the limiting beliefs that can get them stuck.

We offer in-person and virtual services – contact us today to learn more!

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