Sometimes we learn what works by experiencing what doesn’t. Here are some behaviours that de-stabilise or ruin relationships.
The emphasis here is on romantic relationships or marriage, though the same can be applied to all sorts of personal and work relationships.
Proceed with kindness
Before reading the list, please bear in mind that we all make mistakes from time to time. So don’t feel guilty if you’ve only done something once or twice. It’s when some of the following become a habit that the problem starts.
There is no need to beat yourself up even if you have done some the following often. The purpose of this post is not for you to despair, but to identify which behaviours you’d like to drop.
Even more important, there is no call to blame your partner or demand that they change. We are not our partners’ keepers. They will change when they want to, not when we want them to. Be kind to your partner as you read this.
Let me count the ways…
Many of these are things I’ve done, though I’m too embarrassed to tell you which ones. You may recognise some of them too!
1. Expect the worst to happen. Visualize yourselves quarrelling and breaking up, and this will eventually happen.
2. Say hurtful words when you’re angry. You can apologise all you want later, but the damage has already been done.
3. Break your promises. This works especially well when the promise is very important to the other person.
4. Find fault with everything you don’t like about the other person. Do this often and loudly.
5. Humiliate your partner in public by teasing them about their weight or their inability to do something correctly.
6. Forget to call when you say you will. Let the other person wait by the phone seething or sobbing all night.
7. Keep your partner waiting while you finish your shopping, your lunch with friends, or whatever you’re doing.
8. Give low priority to the relationship. Say yes to everything else, and fit the relationship in only when you have scraps of leftover time.
9. Reveal secrets that your partner asked you never to tell. Blame your best friend for telling ten other people if you need a scapegoat.
10. Badmouth your in-laws in front of your spouse. If your spouse asks you not to, defend yourself by pointing out that he said exactly the same thing.
11. Refuse sex often. Tell your partner that you need to be ‘in the mood’ and you aren’t now, just like yesterday and the day before and last week.
12. Have no patience. Expect all your demands to be met at once, and throw a hissy fit if you are kept waiting.
13. See things from only one point of view. Yours, of course, since that is obviously the most important, if not the only, consideration.
14. Forget birthdays. While you’re at it, forget anniversaries too. Count on your partner to remember since it’s such a big deal for them.
15. Pretend to listen when your partner is pouring their heart out. Keep your eyes open while you mentally rehearse tomorrow’s work presentation.
16. Gossip about your partner. Tell your friends all his bad habits. After all, he’s not there and can’t be hurt by what he doesn’t hear.
17. Refuse to apologize. It takes two hands to clap, doesn’t it? So it can’t possibly be your fault.
18. Say “I told you so” every time she makes a mistake that you warned her about, just to jog her memory a little.
19. Burst into tears whenever you feel wrong, slighted, neglected, ignored, injured, or otherwise unattended to.
20. Aim to win all arguments and disagreements. Insist on having things your way because you know best.
Focus on changing one behaviour
If you recognize any behaviour you’ve been practising, don’t panic. Don’t panic even if all 20 behaviours are normal for you. Just pick one that you can work on this week. You can always come back to this list for more later!
For example, if you have consistently refused to apologise, find opportunities to say “sorry” this week. Keep it simple, like saying “sorry I was home late and kept you waiting for dinner”. The small “sorry”s will help you say the big ones when the time comes.
Focus on the behaviour you want
You are better off reminding yourself of the behaviour you want, rather than the one you don’t. Tell yourself “I will remain calm” rather than “I won’t burst into tears” so that your brain has a mental image of what you want and can reproduce that behaviour.
Remember to go easy on yourself and your partner! We’re all trying our best and there are no bad guys. Just people in need of practising good relationship skills!
* Thanks to Barbara Swafford for the idea for this post, because she suggested writing from an opposite viewpoint.