Let’s face it. Relationships are complicated. Many of us engage in negative behaviors that we believe are acceptable, but in reality are detrimental habits that chip away at the foundation of a viable, long-term relationship. The good news is, we can replace these habits with healthier choices.
Here are six common tendencies that, thanks to movies and television shows, many couples consider normal, but that will in fact erode your relationship.
1. Keeping Score
BEHAVIOR: By constantly keeping a running tally of who did what or who made what mistakes, we are using past wrongdoings to avoid focusing on current issues. This behavior uses guilt and bitterness to manipulate, rather than trying to solve the problem at hand.
SOLUTION: When we choose our partner, we accept his or her prior actions and behaviors. But instead of keeping a relationship scorecard, let the past stay in the past; focus instead on communicating and resolving present issues. Note: Of course, if past mistakes are repeated or are emotionally or physically harmful, that’s a different situation altogether.
2. Passive-Aggressive Behavior
BEHAVIOR: Instead of stating clearly what we want, we drop hints, asking our partner to decipher our cryptic message. Being passive-aggressive is always unhealthy and is guaranteed to whittle away at mutual respect and appreciation.
SOLUTION: Openly state your feelings. Both people should feel safe in communicating their anger or insecurity. When we let our partner know how we feel without placing blame or obligation, we can ask for their support and foster understanding.
3. Holding The Relationship Hostage
BEHAVIOR: By using a simple criticism or complaint as emotional blackmail against the relationship as a whole, we create unneeded drama and constantly make our partner feel that we have one foot out the door.
SOLUTION: Every little blip is not a relationship crisis. It’s perfectly okay not to like everything about your significant other; after all, we're only human. When we choose to communicate criticism compassionately, without judgment or a sense of emotional blackmail, we foster a deeper, more solid relationship.
4. Blaming Our Partner for Our Emotions
BEHAVIOR: We all have bad days. But by lashing out at our significant other when he or she doesn’t give us extra support or sympathy, we are blaming them for our own emotions. This subtle form of selfishness results in blurred personal boundaries, creating codependent tendencies so that partners feel responsible for making each other feel better. An expectation that one partner's life should revolve around ensuring the other person’s emotional wellbeing breeds resentment, the tendency to disguise feelings, and manipulation.
SOLUTION: We should take responsibility for their own emotions and expect the same of our partner. Of course, having a supportive, listening ear and a hug when we’ve had a bad day is wonderful but when the rubber meets the road, we are in charge of how we feel, not our significant other.
5. Displays of "Loving" Jealousy
BEHAVIOR: Getting upset and jealous when our partner speaks to, touches, or talks at length with others, and trying to control their behavior, is a demeaning habit that creates unwarranted drama and disagreements. Jealousy is actually a sign of our own insecurities and perceived lack of worth, turned against our partner.
SOLUTION: Trust your significant other. It’s acceptable for them to speak to and spend time with others and doesn’t mean they love you any less.
6. Buying Solutions to Problems
BEHAVIOR: A partner who tries to "smooth over" a relationship issue by giving their partner a gift rather than addressing the problem head-on, can set an unhealthy precedent. Not only does this non-solution sweep the problem under the rug temporarily, it causes an unconscious incentive for the partner to find ways of causing rifts, and releases both partners from accountability or resolution.
SOLUTION: Deal with all issues head-on. Open communication is key to a healthy, solid relationship. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to give your partner gifts as a way of expressing love and affection, but not as a way of solving problems.