How Past Habits Can Destroy Your Relationship
I once met a couple who truly struggled with releasing past habits. One of the partners really had a hard time with name calling. They would use derogatory names as a way of pushing buttons.
The partner receiving the names would feel hurt, belittled, humiliated, and in many ways scared as to how the name calling may impact the future of the relationship.
I trust that no one wants a long-term relationship with someone who speaks to them in a negative fashion.
The strategies that I touch on are the same that I teach in the Relationship Building Course CLICK HERE to explore how it can help your relationship.
As a relationship counselor, my work is often directed at understanding how past habits are often tied to some sort of experience or event in our life. Something may have taken place during your adolescent years that impacts you today. Or an experience in the relationship could be the catalysis. Something as simple as watching one of your parents yell at the other. Or experiencing fear and worry when trying to engage in confrontation.
In this example, the couple had a rough history. A history filled with up and down cycles that continued to hurt the relationship.
Name calling started as a cry for attention. Then to push buttons. And finally, it hit home, as a habit. A learned behavior that slid past the tongue without recognition.
A habit like brushing your teeth. So easy to do.
If you are experiencing conflict or difficulties in your relationship due past habits or issues, let’s start a plan.
The exercise below is based on overcoming the negative habit of hurtful talk such as name calling. As you gain skill in understanding how to utilize the step by step sequence, you can focus on personal difficulties impacting your relationship.
The plan starts with the overall message of commitment.
In this step, we evaluate the questions below. The goal is to dig deep and find clarity.
- Are you committed to your relationship?
- Are you committed to your partner?
The answers to these questions should be YES.
- Yes, I am committed to my relationship.
- Yes, I am committed to my partner.
The reason that we have spent time on commitment is to incline your ability to work on the relationship. The more you think about being active and willing to commit the more likely you are to follow through.
Take time to evaluate each of the 6 questions below. If needed, have each question written down separately as a way to focus.
- What is the past habit that continues to hurt your relationship?
- Why do you do it?
- What do you think provokes or triggers it?
- How does the past habit make you feel?
- How does the past habit make your partner feel?
- How does your partner generally react to the past habit?
If you have found the origin of the past habit, great. If not, it’s okay. I do want to continue to encourage you to search for it. Identifying the origin can shed light as to why you do what you do.
Understanding why we do something leads to not doing it anymore.
This is really a simple principle. Consider, the habit of brushing your teeth. I really like this one. It’s one that most people tend to learn at a very young age. Today, if you ask yourself, why do you do it. The answer should be because it helps with oral hygiene or to freshen my breath.
Again, if we can increase education then we too can increase awareness.
Sit down with your partner and engage in the following question:
- What can you say in place of the past habit?
Ask your partner for replacement terms to use.
The goal is to create a new habit. A new way of communicating with your partner that is healthy, not harmful, and supportive.
It is very important to remember that old habits die hard. Just like it takes time to teach a dog new tricks.
This means that you are going to struggle with using the healthy habits versus the unhealthy. It is important for your partner to be involved in the process as they will be your support system through the good and bad.
There will be days or occasions in which you will slip up. It is vital to focus on the commitment you have for your relationship and partner.
In this step, we focus on ways in which your partner can support you during the process of releasing unhealthy habits and taking on healthier ones. As well as strategies to increase your ability to utilize healthy habits.
Check out the video that can you learn how to build the healthy habit of code words to reduce conflict. One small habit can really go a long way.
Common ways your partner can support you:
When you slip up, your partner can be there to support you. Support can be displayed in any of the following ways:
- Accepting that mistakes will be made.
- Acknowledging that this is a new learning process and mistakes are bound to take place.
- Reflecting on the occasion that took place and working together to find a healthier way.
- When healthy habits are used. Reward your partner by expressing how the healthy option makes you feel versus the unhealthy.
Strategies to increase your ability to utilize healthy habits:
- Give yourself a few reminders on your phone of the goals you are attempting to achieve.
- Place sticky notes in your room or around the house to help you stay on task.
- Section out a time each day to reflect on the changes you are working to make.
- Review the progress.
- Spend time once per week reflecting on your partner on progress made. Focus on how the progress is in any way small or large supporting the relationship and each other.
Over time you and your partner will notice the beautiful impact of change. In my counseling practice, I encourage the implementation and utilization of healthy habits. The habits will replace those that create disconnect and tension. The commitment will continue to grow and empower the relationship.