“We become what we repeatedly do.” ― Sean Covey
1. INTERRUPTING: interrupting your partner demonstrates that you are NOT listening.
How can you listen well if you aren’t letting your partner finish their thought? Wait for them to finish speaking – take a deep breath – and then respond.
2. TIT FOR TAT: You do it so, why can’t I?
Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they? When your partner is attempting to discuss something that is troublesome and we point out that they do it too, we are triggering a spiral escalator that often ends up in a place no one wanted to go. If you partner is attempting to address something that is problematic for them, hear it through – resolve it – and then bring up your own issue. Remember, one thing at a time.
3. LACK OF APPRECIATION: Who cares?
Over time, we typically learn to ‘expect’ and fail to acknowledge the effort that people put into daily living. Does your husband always have his check deposited into a joint account to pay bills? Be appreciative! Does your wife transport the kids from one activity to another day after day? Be grateful! Gratitude is free! And there are hundreds of ways to express it so make it a daily habit to find something that you can appreciate in your significant other.
4. TOO MANY ASSUMPTIONS: Don’t be a mind reader.
Over time we learn to make assumptions based on prior history. If Tim always like his mother’s meatloaf, it doesn’t mean that he wants it every Sunday. If Mary didn’t want flowers when you were on a tight budget, it doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like them occasionally now that things are better financially. We tend to generalize our knowledge without checking in with our partner to validate what we think is true. Even if there is no doubt in your mind – from time to time it is important to ASK and VERIFY.
5. “YOU….” STATEMENTS. Playing the blame game.
Whenever anyone hears a sentence that begins with ‘YOU’… they are going to call up defenses. We tend to start sentences with “you… “instead of sharing what is happening for us by using “I” statements. Expressing oneself by accusing another person for what is wrong or frustrating is rarely a solid communication skill. Change “why don’t you ever help?” to “It’s important to me that we share the responsibility”.
6. FORGETTING THAT YOU ARE A “WE”; Failure to consider your partner
Too many times I hear partners in crisis mode talk from the perspective of ME instead of WE. It is ‘my’ child instead of ‘our’ child, or ‘my house’ instead of ‘our house’. Failure to think of yourself as one part of a whole may lead to your partner feeling as if they don’t matter.
7. FAILURE TO PRIORITIZE TIME TOGETHER: How do you spend your time?
Yes, our lives are busy. Raising a family, working, and taking care of a home are all time-consuming activities but when you make a commitment to share your life with one another, it means dedicating at least some attention to growing that relationship. Think of your relationship as a plant – if you don’t’ water it a little every week – it WILL die.
8. CRITICISM: Focus on mistakes.
Constructive criticism can be helpful but frequently pointing out mistakes will erode even the most fortified self-esteem over time. “That shirt is too wrinkled.”, “How could you forget to pay that bill?”, “Seriously, you’re doing that now?” If you must point out something erroneous – use love and compassion. “Sweetheart, can I iron your shirt for you?”, “Don’t worry babe, I’ll sit down and go through the bills to make sure everything is on time.”, “Honey, can we do that later?”
9. COMPLACENCY: Failure to compliment.
Think about how easily we hand out compliments when we first meet someone… “You look nice.”, “I love your beard”, “You work so hard.”, etcetera. Let’s face it… we all enjoy compliments and whomever is dishing them out the most consistently will get our attention. Make sure it is YOU.
10. DISTRACTION: Failure to be attentive.
Even if you are home a lot, don’t say much, and share household duties it’s possible to starve your relationship from true emotional connection. We are constantly connected to the world via the internet on our phones, tablets, laptops, and the television. When we can’t disconnect our attention from the outside world and direct it specifically to the people we love, we are failing to nurture the emotional vibe that keeps us wanting to be with one another. It doesn’t have to be dramatic to be effective; hold hands while you watch a TV showed of shared interest, look at one another while you describe your day, have a dedicated ‘no phone zone’ like your family room or bedroom.
This is by no means, an exhaustive list but eliminating these ten habits will most definitely provide a healthier environment for a positive and supportive relationship.
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