In 1944, the ClA wrote a handbook on how to sabotage an company’s productivity. This secret (now declassified) pamphlet was called “The Simple Sabotage Field Manual” and has several surprising similarities to how couples unsuccessfully communicate.
I’ve seen these in some of the couples I’ve worked with over the years. Often, I’m asked why a certain pattern or behavior is considered “unhelpful” (often by the person doing the behavior). In short, if the CIA thinks that this will effectively sabotage an enemy’s company or organization, then it’s not a stretch to call it a negative tactic.
Here’s a selection of the relevant items, rewritten to reflect how they apply to a relationship:
- Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length during conflict discussions.
- Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible when attempting to solve a different problem.
- Haggle over the precise details of what was said or done in the past.
- Refer back to compromises previously discussed and attempt re-negotiate them.
- Tackle the unimportant issues first rather than what is needed to be worked on in the relationship first.
- Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant areas.
- Give incomplete or misleading instructions (vague requests).
- Apply all agreements literally to the last letter.
- Complain that your partner is preventing you from doing your job in the relationship right.
- Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.
- Conveniently “misunderstand” agreements and compromises that the two of you have made.