We all have those habits that scrape at our relationships. These are the ones I am working on giving up, and you should too!
I love my husband. I try everyday to be not just a good spouse, but an exceptional one. I want to win “Spouse of the Year” awards. I want people to come to me from all corners of the earth, bow at my feet, and ask, “How are you such an amazing spouse?”
It’s silly, I know.
But I wasn’t an exceptional spouse to my first husband, and I’d rather drown in a pool than have a second ex-husband, which means I actively work to be the very best spouse I can be every single day.
It’s not always easy. My husband is human. He falls short just as much as I do, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to show him how much I love him on a daily basis.
Lately, I’ve been working on giving up some qualities that hamper our mutual happiness. We all have those little habits that scrape at the bonds we have with our partners, that we could replace with healthier ones that would buoy instead of sink us.
These are the ones I am working on, and I hope you’ll consider giving them up too.
Whenever my husband leaves a room, he leaves the lights on.
The other day, he got ready and then went to the store. When I later went into our bedroom, he had left the lights on in our bedroom, the bathroom, and the closet.
This was, of course, so so cute in the beginning. Awww, I thought. He’s just forgetful! Howwww cute.
Now it’s just annoying. Before we leave the house together, I go around and turn off all of the lights he’s left on because, hey, I like the environment and a lower utility bill.
For a while, I nagged him, but I thought it was okay because I was couching it with a pet name: “Honey, you left the lights on. AGAIN.”
He’d say, “Ugh, sorry!” and go around and flip them all off.
But this wasn’t leading to any sort of lasting change. He’s still the guy who leaves all the lights on.
So I could do one of three things: 1.) keep nagging at him, 2.) accept it and keep flipping off all the lights for him, or 2.) figure out a solution.
We’re getting timer light switches. End of story.
2. Talking about true feelings through text instead of in person
When my husband and I were dating, we attended a couples’ workshop. The moderator voiced several times the importance of using text messages for information and not communication.
The difference is this:
“I’ll be there at 7.” (information)
“Can we not go over to your mother’s house this evening? I hate how she always criticizes me and makes me feel like I’m somehow a terrible mother.” (communication)
There is so much lost when we text. Our partner can’t see our facial expressions or our body language, or hear how we’re voicing certain things. Without those things in place to flesh out how our partner should take something, they can fill in the gaps with awfulness and, what do you know, you’ve got an unnecessary squabble on your hands.
I’m the worst at this. I don’t like communicating my feelings in person. It makes me uncomfortable and vulnerable. I’m also a writer, so I prefer to write over talk, and I’m also impulsive, so if I’m feeling such a way, I want you to know now.
But if I want to communicate, what’s best for my relationship is to save those conversations for in person — whether I like it or not.
3. Being sarcastic
“Yeah, I love it when you talk about your ex-girlfriend.”
The first definition for sarcasm is “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt,” and it’s taken from the Greek word sarkasmos, which means “to tear flesh.”
Do I want to convey contempt for my husband? Do I want to tear his flesh with my words? God no.
We are often sarcastic when we are resentful or bitter. Yes, we may use it for a bit of playful teasing, but when we get into the realm of trying to communicate something without really communicating it, then we’re starting to hurt our relationship.
What could I have said instead of be sarcastic? “Hey, I don’t want to hear about your ex-girlfriend. Let’s change the topic.” That way, I’m being clear and communicating what I need.
4. Not saying you’re sorry
Sometimes saying you’re sorry can move an argument to a resolution while holding onto your sorry like it’s Gollum’s precious ring can lock you in a battle for days.
If you’ve done something wrong, own it, apologize, and ask how you can make it right.
Yes, admitting fault can make you feel vulnerable and — dare I say it — weak, but relationships are about relating, and if you’re perfect all the goddamn time and do nothing wrong, your partner is going to get sick of your shit and move on.
5. Having to be right all the time
“Ha! I was RIGHT!” I shouted after ignoring my husband for 10 minutes while scrolling through my phone to prove that the actress in the film we were watching had also been an actress in another one we’d seen previously.
What’s wrong with this? That I spent 10 minutes ignoring my husband so I could prove him wrong on something that doesn’t even matter.
Know what does matter? Love. Connection. Intimacy.
I’m an insufferable know-it-all some days, and the times when I can say, “Maybe you’re right,” and move along are exceedingly better times than those when I have to prove I‘m right to fluff up my own ego.
“You’re acting just like my ex-husband!” is literally a thing that once came out of my dumb mouth.
Whenever we compare our partner to someone else, we are making them lose. That foundation is unstably built because it’s dependent on the qualities or behaviors of someone else.
This even applies to if we are comparing them positively.
“Sara’s husband never helps out around the house. I’m so glad you do.”
Instead of just celebrating my partner’s accomplishment for what it is, I was only pointing it out in comparison.
Nobody deserves to be compared. Even if it’s good or bad. The best thing I can do is celebrate my partner’s good qualities and discuss his not so great qualities with him, but leave other people and what they’re doing out of it.
It seems counterintuitive to give up things to get things, but Deepak Chopra, Oprah, and lots of other banging people, say that we can’t receive if we don’t also give.
When you give up any of these nasty relating habits, you prepare yourself to receive something even better: a healthier, more joyful relationship.