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Stop punishing your partner

A positive approach to conflict can transform your relationship

When we get upset in a relationship, it really comes from a place of fear – fear that someone or something isn’t going according to plan. So we react by trying to regain control of the situation. And one of the most common – and also most damaging – ways that we do that is by punishing someone in a relationship.

But here’s the Catch-22 of doing that: Punishment then exacerbates the disconnection and pushes you even further apart. Which, in turn, makes you feel even less in control.

When you start to punish your partner, you risk creating a deep level of injury. There is no love in punishment – only hurt, pain and neglect. Being punished in a relationship makes the individual feel even more alone and more misunderstood. And when punishment is used over and over again, there can be a serious break in trust, so that even if both of you stay in the relationship, there will be a massive emotional, psychological and even spiritual divide.

The partner being punished will put up a wall to protect him- or herself from enduring more pain. But what is the alternative to punishing in a relationship? How do you express your disappointment and ensure that your partner learns from the experience? It comes down to one key ingredient – pleasure.


If you really want to transform your relationship, you must understand the power of what Tony calls “the jackpot.” It stems from a research study on the way dolphins are trained. Dolphins are inherently sensitive creatures. They are highly social, but if something happens that breaks their state, they can fall into a deep frustration.

Now, research has shown that when a trainer wants them to step out of that frustration and perform for them, but chooses to do so with force and anger, the dolphin feels that energy and retreats even further. However, when the trainer implements “the jackpot” – I.e., taking an entire bucket of fish and dumping it on the head of the dolphin – the dolphin becomes so overwhelmed with pleasure and joy that it is able to break out of its depressive state.

And when the dolphin begins to perform the way the trainer wants, the trainer immediately reinforces it. They never punish; they only reinforce. And when there is nothing there to reinforce, the trainer only seeks to create a little spark that ultimately guides the dolphin in the right direction.

This is not meant to minimize the complexity of humans, nor to be condescending. It’s simply meant for you to open your eyes and see that there is always a choice of how to approach a problem. Take potty-training as another example. Should you punish your child when he or she doesn’t use the toilet correctly? Or do you reward and reinforce the good behavior? Any modern parenting handbook would recommend the latter. It goes even further – sometimes, you reward even attempts or intentions of good behavior because if you waited for perfect behavior to give a reward, you’d be waiting a very long time. So you reward their effort, even if it doesn’t result in a complete success.


The jackpot is all about creating an opening in the relationship. When you open up, even during the difficult times, when you’re scared and hurt and angry, and choose to say “I love this man or this woman, and I don’t want to cause more pain,” that is when you are really fighting for the relationship.

As you focus on kindness and positive reinforcement instead of punishing someone in a relationship, you also open the way to creating a healthier bond. By approaching your partner with kindness and compassion, you are encouraging them to do the same for you. This allows you to better communicate with your partner, sharing their struggles instead of viewing them from a distance. You’ll feel and be closer to them.

Kindness is not a fixed trait in a relationship. Think of it rather as a muscle – something that must be worked on every single day if it is to develop. And when we treat each other with kindness and compassion, we are essentially training each other on how we should treat each other.


Women are highly sensitive beings – they feel everything all the time. And choosing the path of reinforcement doesn’t mean repressing feelings or emotions when your partner does something that upsets you. In a relationship, both partners should be able to share anything, anytime. The key is to approach it while in a beautiful state.

Shifting to a beautiful state means adopting an abundance mindset. When you are in a beautiful state, you are conveying and receiving with love. Express how you feel without attaching stories or making accusations. And listen with absolute compassion with the sole goal of helping your partner feel understood and cared for.

This not only facilitates communication – it also helps keep the masculine and feminine energies in the right balance.

When a feminine woman begins to punish, she becomes masculine. And if the man succumbs, he becomes more feminine – and polarity will vanish. Likewise, if a masculine man punishes a feminine woman, she puts up walls and retreats, becoming more masculine, and again, polarity disappears. (Take this short quiz to discover if you carry more masculine or feminine energy.)

It’s important to understand that women often put emotion into everything, so they have a profoundly detailed memory – because information paired with emotion makes an indelible mark. Men, on the other hand, don’t couple emotion with everything. It’s not that they don’t care;it’s that masculine energy is about breaking through and then letting go. Feminine energy is not about letting go. It’s about filling up and gathering up. And sometimes talking is just a means of getting that energy out of the system.

So learn how to treat each other kindly, and when you find yourself starting to punish the other, make the decision to choose reinforcement. Because you always have the choice – to punish your partner and create more resistance, disconnection and polarization or to open up to reinforcement and learn how to build an even stronger bond.

Header Image © Shutterstock / VG Stock Studio

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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