Silent Killer of Loving Relationships

It seems everywhere we turn, we see and hear about miserable people and their unhappiness stems largely from what they feel is missing in their intimate relationships. Tensions are higher than ever as stressed couples are forced to spend more time than ever together and silently stew, in this current pandemic. We overhear complaints about relationships from people who confide in us and when we are hurting, we may confide in others as well. Sample soundbites that you may instantly recognize are:



“She is totally selfish!”

“He never gets it!”

“He’s so obsessive and picky, he even likes his jeans ironed!”

“It is always about him!”

“She always believes her opinion is the only one that counts!”

Years ago, on a warm beautiful day, I climbed Squaw Peak in Arizona. There I was, getting directly in touch with Mother Nature, hiking up this scenic mountain when, to my astonishment, I heard some hikers complaining about their spouses and significant others as they passed by! There’s no escaping relationship angst—even in the wilderness. And, more recently, almost twenty years later, while hiking in Valley Forge Park near my office in Pennsylvania, I witnessed a young couple, seemingly in their thirties, arguing. Even from ample social distance, I could hear the woman emphatically exclaim that her male partner was “totally dense”, while he looked off before screaming at her that she was “nuts.”

There is a lot of walking wounded out there. These are the scores of people who feel unfulfilled, or worse, emotionally neglected or abused, in their intimate relationships. It seems that everywhere we turn, we unfortunately see and hear about people who are unhappy and emotionally hurting, often severely, in their quest to feel loved.

I know in the heat of the moment people believe, really believe in their heart and soul, that they are telling me the truth: “She is so lazy!”, “He really doesn’t listen,” “She always talks too much,” “He’s inconsiderate beyond belief…” Such distorted thoughts shine like beacons of truth amidst the sea of frustration that people in poor, problematic relationships feel they are drowning in.

But hold on. Really think about it. It’s virtually impossible that your partner never listens to you or never performs a considerate act. It may honestly seem that way to you at times, but I have yet to meet a person who never, ever listens, or who is incapable of being considerate. Of course, when one partner accuses the other of “never listening,” he or she reacts and sends the couple off on a whole new tangent that usually goes something like this: “That’s not true. Just last night I listened to you for two hours…” Or “Well how about what you did…”

I don’t know any mind readers. I also don’t know any blameless people. I don’t know anyone who can handle being told, “You’re nuts!” or “You’re the worst nag,” or “I have never met anyone as difficult as you!” Yet, these were the kinds of toxic thoughts (e.g., exaggerations, labels, all or nothing beliefs) being verbalized to me as if there wasn’t a doubt they were true. And the emotional damage resulting from these toxic thoughts is huge.

In my more than thirty years as a psychologist, I have repeatedly seen that if couples can manage their toxic thinking toward each other, a tremendous obstacle to communication, empathy, trust, and all the good relationship stuff was suddenly removed. Only then were they in a position to work through their problems together.

Over the last thirty years, I have seen that the nine specific types of relationship-sabotaging, destructive thoughts I discovered have emerged again and again with most individuals and couples who see me for relationship counseling. Some couples had three different toxic thought patterns at work in their relationship, others had six or seven, but one thing was for sure. Every couple had at least one.

Below is a list of the 9 primary toxic thoughts (as featured in my book, Why Can’t You Read My Mind?)

How many of these toxic thoughts do you or your partner struggle with?

The All-or-Nothing Trap: You see your partner as either always doing the wrong thing, or never doing the right thing. (“He always has to be right!”)

Catastrophic Conclusions: One partner exaggerates negative actions and events concerning the other partner. (“She bounced that check and now we are definitely heading to the poor house!”)

The “Should” Bomb: One partner assumes the other will meet one or more of his or her needs—just because he or she should know that need. (“You should know how much I hate my job, even though I tell everyone what a great opportunity it is.”)

Label Slinging: You unfairly, and negatively, label your partner and lose sight of his or her positive qualities. (“You are so lazy!”)

The Blame Game: You unfairly, and irrationally, blame your partner for relationship issues, or bigger issues. (“My life only sucks because of you!”)

Emotional Short Circuits: Emotional short circuits occur when one partner becomes convinced that his or her partner’s emotions can’t be “handled. (“No one can possibly ever reason with her!”)
A 97-year-old silent film once thought lost forever was recently rediscovered amidst a collection of old film reels donated by a Peoria man to the Chicago Film Archives.

This June, staff at the Chicago Film Archives found a complete copy of the 1923 feature film, “The First Degree” hidden among the mostly agricultural and industrial reels donated by Charles E. Krosse of Peoria in 2006. He died in 2016.

Krosse was a marketing director of films at Caterpillar who amassed a collection of more than 100 films produced or distributed by C.L. Venard Productions of Peoria, which was in business from around 1916 through the early 1980s. He reportedly stored the reels of 16mm and 35mm films in a closet next to a hot water heater, according to CFA volunteer Carolyn Faber, who drove to Peoria to pick up the films.

“Honestly, it’s sort of a miracle the film survived at all,” said Yasmin Desouki, collections manager for the Chicago Film Archives. “It’s incredibly rare for silent films produced during that time to have survived.”

Many films of the era were on nitrate, a notoriously flammable format.

“Nitrate films are very touchy,” said Desouki, noting many of the films were lost to fire or explosions.

Only about 25% of films from the silent era still survive. Even fewer silent films produced by Universal Studios like “The First Degree” have survived, due to that studio’s intentional mass destruction of most of its silent film archive in 1948. Desouki estimates only around 15% of Universal’s silent films are still in existence.

She said the print of “The First Degree” the CFA holds is in fantastic condition.

“The First Degree” was directed by Edward Sedgwick, who later directed many of the films of silent-era movie star Buster Keaton. Desouki describes the film as a “rural melodrama.”

“It’s kind of a niche part of the melodramatic genre,” she said. “We don’t have too many other surviving examples of that in film history, actually.”

The movie starred Frank Mayo as “Sam Purdy,” a banker-turned-politician-turned-sheep farmer who fights with his brother “Will” (Philo McCullough) for the love of “Mary” (Sylvia Breamer).

“It’s sort of has this Cain and Abel retelling of a sibling rivalry,” said Desouki. The film is based off George Pattullo’s 1914 short story, “The Summons.”

The film is now in the public domain. Desouki said her colleague Olivia Babler digitized the film for preservation. She said while the Chicago Film Archives would generally showcase such a discovery, the COVID-19 pandemic complicates any public exhibition plans. In the meantime, she said the group plans to stream the film somewhere in the near future and upload it to its website.

Desouki hopes the discovery brings more attention to the mission of the Chicago Film Archives that seeks to find, collect, preserve, and show off films highlighting the Midwest.

“We really are hoping that people look at our work more, and just discover what we do, and become more interested in regional film archives,” Desouki said.

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