Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Bad relationship habits, difficulties and pain happen to all of us. They are impossible to avoid, which is why we need to learn about the time-proven principles which are available to address what typically happens in all relationships. The following list of bad relationship habits is a humorous look at some of the things we sometimes do. But it’s “funny” how blind we can be to these habits, especially if we don’t make conscious efforts to resist engaging in these annoying behaviours.
Habit #1: Smart-Aleck Behaviour
Let’s get this straight. You are the boss and it’s vital that you frequently remind your partner that you’re more intelligent, more gifted and quicker than them. Let them know that you can deal with their responsibilities and behaviours better than they do.
For instance, if you’ve been cleaning the house since you were a young thing, feel free to tell your partner exactly how they should be approaching this task. Point out all the things that are not done according to your standards and especially highlight where they haven’t been using your methods.
Similarly, if you’re good at managing money, it’s entirely appropriate to tell your partner how much to spend on what. In fact, you should probably get into their online bank account and manage it, purely to show them that you have their best interests at heart.
If you for one moment allow them to entertain the notion that you’re not more intelligent and better than them, they’ll assume that they can clean the house and manage their budget reasonably well. You don’t want that! They must always be reminded that you’re smarter than them. That way they won’t get above themselves.
Breaking this habit
Resist pointing out what you believe are inadequacies in your partner’s behaviours or how they manage their responsibilities. Calm yourself down first, thank your partner for doing the job and then arrange a suitable time when both of you can have an honest discussion about your different approaches to tasks. Work towards negotiating acceptable differences in your methods and remember that this will be an ongoing process. You can always renegotiate if something’s not working for either one of you.
Habit #2: Managing Your Partner
Relationship experts keep repeating the message (yawn) that teamwork and sharing of power is important, but the bottom line is that the only important thing is you maintaining control. Relationships are all about power and control, and if your partner is glum about that, well, it hurts you more than it hurts them.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t be concerned about your partner’s morale. Make a point of elaborating, in minute detail, why their morale is of crucial importance to you and the rest of the family. Even better, repeat this message often, to ensure they know what you’re going to say even before you start. In addition, be certain to inform them when they’ve gotten a bit sloppy and don’t appear totally enthusiastic about being with you.
Breaking this habit
Just like in dancing, if you’re always leading your partner’s only option is to follow. An excellent dance duo can only come about with both contributing equally and doing their best as individuals to move in harmony with their dance partner. This requires exquisitely fine-tuned teamwork and the sharing of power, with sometimes one leading the dance and other times gracefully relinquishing the lead to the other. Negotiating power is part and parcel of all human relationships, so power and power imbalances are inescapable. Like dance partners, it’s about restoring your own balance first, then helping your partner adjust theirs to keep the dance fluid. You can’t help your partner if you’re off balance by always leading (or following).
Your partner’s morale is a possible indicator that something’s not right in their world. Take some time to inquire about their day, how they’re feeling and if there’s anything on their mind that’s concerning them. Make yourself available to listen and remember not to take it personally, especially if it’s something about you. They’re attempting to communicate feelings (which are not facts) and if you can listen without being defensive, this will go a long way to creating a platform for you both to have conversations about sensitive issues.
Habit #3: Resisting Change
Who said variety is the spice of life? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Make sure that the entire way the relationship is organised guarantees that you stay in power by resisting anything new. Given that you’re the boss, making sure everything stays the same is the only viable alternative. Why would you even think about making changes? Note: the only people who really like changing are babies with dirty nappies. For all the rest of us, maintaining the status quo is the way to go.
Even if everything isn’t going all that well in your relationship, at least it’s familiar and predictable. It’s important for you to be able to know ahead of time the ways you both interact and react to each other, the regular routines you’ve established, and the predictable triggers for arguments. Why bring anything new into this picture? It might make you uncomfortable to have to adjust in any way.
Breaking this habit
Remember that if neither of you change the patterns of interaction between you, what you get is a dull and boring relationship. Without nurturance, diversity and novelty, relationships die. Influence between people in relationships is mutually dependent and reciprocal. You react to your partner and your partner reacts to you, and on it goes. This cycle can be broken at any point. If you change your behaviour and responses consistently and noticeably, your partner’s reactions will change, which in turn changes your reactions. This gives the relationship a way to stay vibrant and alive.
Habit #4: Lies and Put downs
Making sure that your partner hates their friends and relatives is a foolproof way to maintain control. For best results, you also want to make certain that your partner’s friends and relatives are full of resentment and offence – all aimed at your partner and not you.
There are many ways to do this. First, make sure that you tell everyone involved a different version of one story, so that when they talk to each other the seeds of doubt about who’s lying sprout in everyone’s mind. Never say what actually happened or tell the same story as your partner. You are totally in charge of what gets said.
Second, use every possible opening to set your partner and their friends and relatives against each other by passing on harsh things they’ve said about one another. Tip: if nothing’s currently going on, use your imagination and start a rumour.
Third, at all times blame someone else if there’s been a mistake. Remember you are squeaky clean, so you should make sure everyone gets a go at being the scapegoat, that way all of them have the experience of feeling really bad. This gives them the chance to blame the next sucker who’s in the spotlight.
Last, but not least, it is imperative that you at all times have the last word in an argument, naturally to “keep the peace in the family.” Doing this means you get all the accolades for a job well done.
Breaking this habit
Honour your partner’s needs to have meaningful time with their friends, relatives and hobbies. Give each other room to breathe, as this will make you happier and enables you to bring new influences and ideas into your relationship. It keeps things interesting, just like in the honeymoon stage where you were both a fascinating mystery to each other and spent time exploring your differences. Allow for the fact that both of you, as well as your partner’s friends and family, each have unique perspectives and different ways of being in the world. Honouring and respecting this, even though you may not agree with their truth, goes a long way towards creating tolerance. Gossip, blame, avoiding the consequences of your own mistakes and having the last word are poisonous to relationships. Do your very best to avoid these whenever you can.
Habit #5: Not Seeking Help from Anyone
There’s a golden rule that fits all occasions: “If you want something done right, do it yourself!”
You know you can’t rely on other people for anything. As an achiever, take over and do the job right, by yourself! For example, if you’re the relationship manager, it’s always a good idea to jump in right away to whatever’s happening. Demand to be involved in everything your partner does and direct their actions. It’s obvious that you can’t depend on inefficient people to do anything, especially since you’re the superior person.
Next, wait until your partner’s just about to complete something then dive in and put on the finishing touches that will make the project top class. Isn’t it a manager’s duty to make certain that everything is done according to your plans?
Finally, don’t believe any rubbish about the importance of delegating. That’s just for wimps who can’t get things done. Ignore all that silly advice about sharing tasks and responsibilities or asking for advice from people who have specialised training in relationship skills. What would they know? Do achievers delegate? Of course not! They take charge and do it themselves.
A huge payoff from this habit is that sooner or later your partner may decide that they can do nothing without you. Now that’s security!
Breaking this habit
There’s another aspect to the golden rule that applies in relationships: “Would you rather be right or happy?” Insisting on being right in all circumstances makes you and your partner very unhappy. It’s smart to give up being right over small, inconsequential issues. Standing up for your values is important, yet doing so in a non-aggressive way is equally important. Allow your partner room to move, breathe and make their own mistakes. Offer to help, yet respect their need to do it in their own way.
In a healthy partnership, teamwork is of utmost importance. Just like in softball, the pitcher relies on the catcher to return the ball or to catch fouls. Each player has their position and skill-set and cooperates with the other players to make the team run smoothly. Teamwork means the two of you deciding together to delegate and/or take on tasks, provided each of you has agreed to take on that task for and by a specified amount of time. It frees you up to devote your energy to things you’re good at or have agreed to take on because they need to be done, trusting that your partner will do their bit. Remember you can always renegotiate until you find a way that works best.
Habit #6: Mind Reading
Making sure your partner never knows exactly what you’re thinking or doing is obligatory to keeping your partner in a state of alertness.
If you know you’ll be working back, don’t phone to inform them of this. If you plan to go somewhere with your friends, don’t mention it. If you know there’s no food in the house, never offer to go shopping. If your partner asks you to buy the milk on the way home, forget to do it. If your partner asks your opinion on something, your standard reply should be: “That’s still to be determined.” If they want a decision, be sure to answer: “I’m thinking about it” and don’t ever bring it up again.
When you ask your partner to do something for you, always be imprecise about what you’d like. This is a great way to inspire innovation. When they’ve finished and seek your feedback, say only: “That’s not it.” Then look upset, give your partner the cold shoulder, and say: “You’re not trying hard enough!”
The simple fact is, relationships are like poker, and winning at poker requires you to hold your cards close to your chest and be brilliant at bluffing. Excellent poker players never reveal their strategy to the other players.
Hold in mind: Staying in power demands that you keep your partner perplexed and bewildered. Think about it, why would they need you to manage them if they know what they’re supposed to be doing?
Breaking this habit
Having consideration for your partner’s time and needs is one of the most effective ways of getting your authentic needs met. Keep your partner informed about your plans and what you’d like to do. This is a clear way to ensure they keep you in the loop about their arrangements and makes them more likely to negotiate with you so that you both get the most out of your life together. Learn to share your opinions in an open-handed way, so your partner knows where you stand. If you’re not sure about your view, say so. Tell them you’d like to think about it overnight and that you’ll let them know tomorrow. Then follow through on what you’ve promised! Do what you say you’re going to do. Be clear yet considerate in your instructions when asking for something to be done. That way your partner has the opportunity to say whether they can or cannot do it.
Habit #7: Threatening to End the Relationship
This is your trump card! It means that you must always be ready to ditch your partner at the drop of a hat. Holding the “I’m out of here” card makes it easier for you not to care two hoots about what your partner feels. It’s good to keep them guessing about your intentions and commitment.
An excellent time to pull out this card is in an argument. This keeps them in line and teaches them never to express an opinion or need that’s different from yours.
Threatening to break up is a powerful form of emotional blackmail and cunningly manipulates your partner if they don’t do what you want. Its core message is: “If you don’t behave the way I want you to, you will suffer because I’ll be gone”.
Breaking this habit
If you sincerely want your relationship to work, make a promise to yourself never to threaten to end the relationship, especially in an argument. During fights, we often think, say and do things that we later regret. Once it’s done, we can’t take them back. What’s happening is that your emotional brain causes you to go into “fight or flight” mode which hijacks your thinking brain. Instead of thinking or acting clearly, you respond by going into an automatic response to keep you safe. But this is usually done in an unskilful way which you later regret.
All of us are biologically wired to keep ourselves safe and your particular family and relationship history will influence the way it plays out in you. Expect that this will happen and practice taking a healthy “time out” at the first sign of anger or fear, before the wave of emotion picks you up and dumps you. A healthy “time out” is where you tell your partner you’re leaving the room for at least half an hour to quiet yourself down and that you’ll be back to discuss it further when you’re calmer. Make sure you give a specific length of time (for example half an hour) and then reconnect with your partner at the time you told them. This builds trust that you’ll do what you promise. If you’re not ready to interact in a calm way, let them know you need more time, by saying something like “I need another half hour, and I’ll be back then to discuss this further”. This sounds simple, but it’s not easy! It takes lots of practice to rewire your brain to respond in a more effective way to strong emotions.
This article was adapted from business writer Geoffrey James
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