Bad habits can chip away at the strong foundation of a relationship, weakening it and eventually making it crumble and fall to pieces. It’s a good idea to regularly take an inventory of your own negative habits — laziness, neglect, nagging, teasing or sarcasm, blaming, inappropriate anger, jealousy — it’s a long list to choose from!
You may not have many bad habits, but there’s always room for improvement, and any efforts you make will be appreciated by your partner and will pay big dividends further down the road.
The first way to break your bad habits is to figure out what they are! Knowing and naming them makes you more aware of them, and that consciousness alone is an important weapon against them.
And What Bad Habits Are Yours?
How do you figure this out, though? Well, you probably already have some good ideas about what your worst habits are. Perhaps you are lazy about doing your chores, or you leave your clothes lying on the floor instead of putting them in the laundry basket.
Maybe you don’t keep a clear track of money, or perhaps you use sarcasm as a weapon against your partner when you feel defensive or angry.
The list of possible bad habits is endless, and the only way to really make sense of it is to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Write it down, or type it down. Get it there in black and white, so you can read it.
Don’t use this exercise as an excuse to humiliate yourself – everyone has bad habits, or we wouldn’t be human – but also don’t do a slipshod job. Be thorough.
Think about the things that you do that irritate your partner. What have you had arguments about, or what things has your partner complained about?
If you can’t think of anything at all, you’re either a saint with a shining halo above your head, or you didn’t try hard enough.
Just writing down a list of your bad habits – or character defects, as some people prefer to call them – puts them “on your radar” so to speak, so you are aware of them and are more likely to catch yourself when you do them.
The next step is to analyze your bad habits – again on paper. If you’re serious about changing your attitudes and your behavior as a way of improving your relationship, then write down your bad habits and the consequences of your behavior.
And the Consequences
For example, if you regularly fail to do the chores you’ve agreed to do around the house, write that down, and then list the consequences, such as “forces my partner to do my chores as well as their own,” or “frustrates my partner so we have an argument.”
Be sure to consider less obvious but important consequences, too, such as “sends a message to my partner that I don’t value their time or our relationship” and “makes my partner feel I take them for granted.”
Now, turn the situation around and ask yourself how you would feel if your partner treated you that way. Again, it’s best to write this down. Putting it right there on paper where you can see it (or on your computer screen) forces you to focus on it.
Writing something down helps you remember it and think about it. Try to develop empathy for your partner – actually feeling what they feel. This can help you better see the consequences of your bad habits and will encourage you to behave differently.
Swearing by Swear Jars
A third way to break bad habits is very different – use a simple, mechanical reminder or process, like an old-fashioned “swear jar.” In some families, mostly in earlier generations, people would put out a big, open jar and put money in it every time they said a swear word.
This kind of system has the double advantage of reminding you when you do something that you are trying to change, and also of creating a stock of money that you can later spend on something fun – like a dinner with your partner, or some other enjoyable outing.
Be creative when it comes to your “punishment.” If you want to get in better shape, then agree to do 10 or 15 push-ups every time you break your rule. I guarantee you’ll either drop the bad habit quickly, or you’ll end up with some seriously big muscles!
A fourth way to improve your bad habits is to work together with your partner. It takes a lot of guts to sit down and ask your partner to honestly tell you what your worst habits are, what you do that really, really annoys them, but if you handle it with some grace and a sense of humour, you can really benefit.
Some fun but effective things you can do with your partner include “switching places” for a day or some other finite period of time. Perhaps you’ll trade chores, which means you’ll each get a chance to see the other side of your bad habits.
Consider “trading” bad habits with your partner. I don’t mean you will adopt one of their bad habits, though! What I mean is this – you’ll both sit down together and discuss your bad habits.
Agree on the things that annoy each other the most. Perhaps you’ll agree to work on your two worst habits – the ones that drive your partner craziest – in exchange for your partner working on the ones that drive you craziest.
You’ll never be able to do this perfectly, but making it a joint exercise to break bad habits can turn it into a more lighthearted, humorous exercise.
Each of you will know the other one is trying to improve, and that will deepen the connection between you. Progress, rather than perfection, should be your goal.