Personal Habits That Affect Relationships

1. Do I have any personal habits that get on your nerves? If so, what are they?

Whether it’s leaving clothes on the floor or forgetting to put the lid down, we all have habits that can be irritating. Most of these habits are benign, but it’s these little things that can add up to bigger conflict. In sharing these habit frustrations with each other, be aware that most of our personal habits are unconscious, not intentional. Be gentle and understanding in asking for a behavior change and in reminding your partner when he or she forgets.

2. How should I let you know about a habit of yours that bothers me?

Rather than nagging or getting frustrated, you can find out how your spouse would prefer to be reminded or made aware of an irritating habit. Humor often diffuses the frustration, but sometimes a single word or kind request is all it takes. Discuss together how each of you can avoid reacting defensively or passive-aggressively to a request to address a personal habit.

3. Do you have any bad habits you feel you must hide from me?

If you smoke, drink more than you should, take recreational drugs, or have any other habit you know would upset your partner, you might feel the need to hide this from him or her. Hiding this from your partner is not only stressful for you, but also it can seriously damage the trust and intimacy in your relationship. Now is the time to come clean and to ask for support from your spouse in revising this habit. If you are the partner hearing about this habit for the first time, try to understand and be kind. This situation might require the support of a professional relationship therapist.

4. What positive habits could we work on together?

Discuss together goals you each have related to health, fitness, productivity, mental health, personal growth, learning, etc. Working together to build positive habits will make it more fun and provide built-in motivation and accountability. Having a common goal also strengthens the bonds of your relationship.

5. What bad relationship habits have we developed that need to change?

As we become more comfortable and settled with each other, it’s easy to fall into bad habits that don’t serve the health of the relationship. Maybe you automatically watch too much TV rather than talking or neglect to say “thank you” to each other. Maybe you’ve settled into routines that are separate, rather than seeking time together. Discuss these bad habits and what you both need to do to change them.

6. What parenting habits have we developed that negatively impact our relationship?

If you have children, it’s easy to allow them to become the center of your attention and time. When you put your children ahead of your relationship together, you are actually doing a disservice both to your children and your marriage. Allowing children to stay up past bedtimes, interrupt your conversations, or demand your time in other ways takes time away from your adult interactions with your partner or spouse. How do you both need to change your parenting habits so you can improve your connection and provide better boundaries and structure for your kids?

7. How are we positive role models for our children, family, or friends with our habits?

Your habits and behaviors reflect to the world what’s important to you and what kind of couple you are. Are you choosing to be positive role models to the people important to you through your habits? What messages do you both want to send to the world by the habit choices you make together and separately?

8. Do I have emotional habits that drag you down or make you feel bad? If so, what are they?

It’s easy to get stuck in thinking and emotional habits that are self-defeating and negative. The longer we allow negative, looping thoughts to have free reign in our minds, the more entrenched these thoughts become. These thoughts lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger. Sometimes we can’t see this pattern in ourselves, but the person closest to us is the daily witness to our emotional and mental habits—and he or she can become infected by them. How could you be infecting the one you love with your emotional habits, and what can you do to break the cycle?

9. Are you comfortable with my hygiene and self-care? If not, what makes you uncomfortable?

When we first fall in love, we do everything we can to put our best foot forward with our appearance and hygiene. As we get more comfortable in the relationship, we also feel more comfortable “letting our hair down” and letting some things go. It’s hard to tell your loved one that you’re offended or uncomfortable with some aspect of his or her personal care. However, if it’s undermining your sexual desire, affection, or respect for your spouse, it needs to be addressed in a kind and loving way.

10. How can we be more accepting of areas of incompatibility with our habits?

There will be some personal habits one or both of you are unwilling to change. You can’t be completely compatible in all your behaviors, and each of you need to feel the freedom to have independent habits that are important to you. Maybe you’ve always read before bed, but your spouse wants you turn out the light. You might love playing video games, even if your partner finds it a waste of time. Discuss together how you both can be accepting and respectful of these areas of incompatibility. Go one step further, and invite your spouse to join you in your habit to see if he or she might enjoy it on occasion.

Follow-up: Are there any behavior adjustments you’d like to request from your partner related to personal habits? What specific action steps will you both take to improve your habits together and change habits that need changing? Write these down and determine how and when you will initiate these changes or actions.

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