Are you doing some spring cleaning at home? While you’re in that mindset, why not also clear out some bad relationship habits? When you toss what’s not working, your relationship will feel more pleasant and full of possibility.
Consider ridding your relationship of the following damaging habits, and try out some new ways of relating:
1. Micromanaging. When your husband loads the dishwasher, do you redo it because he loaded it “the wrong way? ” If he said he would plan the activities for your upcoming trip, do you constantly check to see whether he’s actually done so, or offer suggestions on how he could do it better? Although you may not realize it, micromanaging sends the message that you don’t trust your husband or believe he is competent. He feels insulted, which is why he seems touchy or flies off the handle when you make “helpful” comments.
Try this new habit: If your husband is handling a job, stay out of it. The dishes will probably turn out just fine, even if he doesn’t load the washer your way. And, your husband will definitely feel better about taking on other jobs in the future if he is not constantly being “supervised” on-the-job.
2. Uncontrolled expression of feelings. No doubt about it: Authenticity is vital to intimacy in your relationship. But constant, intense expression of feelings, without any filtering, can overwhelm your husband. For some of us, it feels good to get it all out with a tirade or a good cry over our daily frustrations. But if your husband is always on the other end of your venting, he may feel as if he is getting pummeled. You know you’re just blowing off steam, but he may assume the situation that has you upset is worse than it actually is.
Try this new habit: Have empathy for your husband, and consider how your venting affects him. If he’s not someone who is comfortable with intense emotion, let him know you’re just venting or tap friends and family for emotional support instead.
3. Communicating indirectly. Do you simmer in resentment when you’re upset with your husband? Perhaps, you show your displeasure by being sarcastic, giving him the silent treatment or slamming doors, hoping he’ll get the hint and ask you what’s wrong. In all likelihood, you’re seething, and he’s genuinely confused about what’s going on.
Try this new habit: Be direct. You may think it’s impossible for him NOT to know you’re upset and why, but that’s a dangerous assumption. Your husband really might not be deciphering your message clearly, so practice being transparent about what you need. Of course, always communicate in a way that shows compassion and respect, without resorting to blame.
4. Focusing on the task, not the person. It’s easy to get awfully single-minded when there’s something that needs to get done. Because you are so close to him, with your husband, it’s easy to forget common courtesy, and just start issuing directives: “Don’t forget to go by the drugstore! Check on the kids while I finish this!” To your husband, this behavior can feel dismissive, or like he’s your subordinate, not your partner. Even if men don’t react outwardly to this kind of behavior, they often feel resentful and may emotionally detach from you.
Try this new habit: Remember the basics of being kind: “Please,” “Thank you,” “Do you have time to …?” Manners and thoughtfulness shouldn’t disappear just because you’re married!
5. Having an endless “honey-do” list. Does this sound familiar? You tell your husband it would make you happy if he cleaned the garage. Then, after he gets done with the garage, you throw in, “Oh, and could you also do one more thing?” After that, you make your next request. If there’s no pause for gratitude and acknowledgement, your husband may start to feel that he will never be successful at making you happy because you are always focused on what is not right. Of course, your intention is to simply get everything on your list done, so it may surprise you when his enthusiasm starts to wane.
Try this new habit: Be intentional about pointing out the positive, and let your husband know how his accomplishments make you happy. Pause to notice what’s he’s done before putting your head down and moving onto the next thing.
If you know someone really well, it’s easy to take them for granted and to assume you know them like the back of your hand. Commit yourself to bringing the two of you closer by trying out some simple new habits, and watch your love bloom!