The purpose of this glossary is to call attention to some key concepts and terms that I found to be very practical in the context of improving relationships. I began writing the glossary on Memorial Day, 2024 and decided to publish it as a work in progress, even though it began as a simple list of terms with very few definitions completed. On Memorial Day, 2014, I posted an introduction to The Relationship Glossary to explain my reasons for creating it and describe the big picture of its use.
air-time monitoring* — When you listen to two people during an argument or conversation, you can get a sense of the proportion of the total time that each person ‘has the floor’ and is talking. This is each person’s air-time. Air-time monitoring involves paying attention to how much this proportion deviates from 50% per person. It is often a simple, easy way to begin improving communication.
anger bonding — A dysfunctional pattern of feeling strangely close to an individual during a distressing interpersonal conflict. The concept of anger bonding sometimes helps explain why a person will start fights with people with whom they desire to be close. It seems to arise from a family-of-origin pattern of emotional neglect by parents, except when there is angry conflict that connects everyone emotionally.
anger management — A broad term related to learned actions and thoughts that can be employed at will to reduce the intensity of anger-laced emotions.
anger management worksheets — A document that involves filling in information about an angry situation in a way that steps you through a thought process of getting more control over your anger.
anger threshold* — The number of minutes that a person can be fully engaged in a tense interaction before losing control. People have different capacities for emotionally intense conversations. When tension or irritation begin to rise in a conflict, there is a usual number of minutes when the rising emotion maxes out and the person begins yelling or flooding with emotion. For a 13 year old girl it might be 9 minutes, for example, but it varies by personal maturity and basic temperament. For a seasoned union negotiator, the minutes before the point of losing control might be in the hundreds.
anticipatory anxiety — This is worry, tension, or nervousness caused by thinking about an upcoming event. It behaves differently from other types of anxiety. For example, a person who has prepared a speech may have very high anticipatory anxiety, but very low anxiety while giving the speech.
anxious anger — Anxiety and anger or nearly identical as far what is happening in your body. That’s why it’s easy for someone who is afraid to quickly switch into anger. The adrenaline rush is already in poised and ready.
arguing inside your head
autonomic nervous system
baiting — In a heated argument, one person may try to keep calm and the other may get them to lose control by making outrageous statements or insults. Many teens know how to bait parents so that they can cash in on the guilt that parents feel after they have taken the bait and become enraged.
bitterness — long-term resentment that has become detached from the original slight and takes on a life of it’s own.
borderline anger–preemptive strike while anticipating real or imagined threats of abandonment
breathing for relaxation — Breathing in a manner that is consistent with a relaxed state-of-mind, even though the person engaged in it does not feel relaxed. Some of the main characteristics of relaxed breathing are slower pace, even tempo, and filling the lungs with air. When I created a set of audio tracks designed for relaxation training I named it Breathing for Relaxation. The skill set surrounding breathing for relaxation helps to reduce anxiety, stress, and anger.
B.S. meter alarm
clean up your own mess* — Related to skill 11, Taking Responsibility, clean up your own mess refers to doing specific work of emotional and relationship repair after one has lost control of one’s anger
cognitive distortions — This is the most widely used term for what I call lens distortions. Popularized by Aaron Beck and other cognitive behavioral research psychologists, it refers to a list of common thought patterns which are seen to be dysfunctional. One of the most common cognitive distortions is often referred to as “All-Or-Nothing.” When someone evaluates a situation, threat, or person in terms of only two extreme options, they are engaging in the cognitive distortion known as “All-Or-Nothing” thinking.
collapsing emotions into anger* — A person is collapsing their emotions into anger if they get angry every time they feel lonely, sad, or another negative emotion. A small child might can feel a range of emotions, but may only have the vocabulary and knowledge to refer to each of the as simply, “bad.” The small child collapses diverse emotion into one, catch all emotion, “I feel bad.” Some adults who lack experience identifying their own emotions with a variety of terms, can collapse their feelings into anger.
common interests and stimulating differences
compulsions — Compulsions are usually fixed behaviors that a person feels pushed to do in order to gain temporary, immediate relief from the anxiety caused by worries or obsessions. Compulsions always have a corresponding obsession.
condescension — An attitude in relationship interactions that involves contempt or scorn. It is important because contempt is one of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” identified in the marriage research of Dr. John Gottman that predicts the downfall of a relationship.
conflict flow chart* — A flow chart similar to a computer programming flow chart that shows the sequence of emotions and reactions that a couple engages in during an angry conflict. The chart is useful because often it unveils a fixed pattern that repeats itself every time a couple argues.
elements of friendship
family anger style
family systems theory
fight or flight
friendship synergy and energy
has your back
heart rate monitoring
intermittent explosive disorder
narcissistic personality disorder
negotiables/non-negotiables — A technique for relationship decision-making and communication. For example, a parent may identify which rules are non-negotiable (“You may not play in the alley at night.”) and which ones are negotiable (“You may not have a snack before dinner”).
negotiate a fair deal
parasympathetic nervous system
post traumatic stress
progressive muscle relaxation
prosecuting attorney mode
sarcasm — Dry humor with a contemptuous edge. Using irony to insult someone.
scapegoat — In family systems theory, a dysfunctional family often unites around blaming the same individual in the family for things that go wrong.
sense of being known
shared experiences and memories
shooting the messenger
stages of maturity
state dependent learning
stream journaling — Similar to Julia Cameron’s concept of “Morning Pages,” this type of journaling involves stream-of-consciousness and continuous writing in order to tap into the subconscious and promote honesty with one’s self.
stress dilemma — When prolonged overwork wears you down so you have trouble setting boundaries precisely when you most need to set them in order to protect yourself from overwork.
stripping off defenses
summit triggers — putting someone over the top, related to vapor lock
sympathetic nervous system
talking over someone
topic surfing* — Rapidly switching from one topic to another during an argument, preventing any one problem from being resolved or understood. Very common among couples who have no training in how to argue constructively.
type a personality
under the radar anger — Stemming from the urge for revenge, this type of anger is similar to passive-aggressive anger but applies to a broader range of situations. The defining aspect of this type of anger is plausible deniability: the intentional harm is done in such a way that it could be explained as an accident or honest mistake. The person causing harm can deny that they had anything to do with it and this will be plausible in light of the facts of the situation.
walking on eggshells
watching his/her back