We asked Marsha Berniker, a Toronto-based psychotherapist, to let us in on some of the worst habits a couple can develop, as well as where they stem from and tips on how to deal with them.
Bad habit No. 1: Blaming the other person
While it can be tempting to shift blame onto your partner when problems arise, this is not the most effective course of action, Berniker says. "Both people are part of the problem so it cannot be resolved unless each partner looks at their contribution," she explains. Blaming the other person may prevent your own self-esteem from taking a blow, but it likely won't help you move past whatever hurdle has come up. "Focus on yourself and your contribution to the problem to move forward," she says.
Bad habit No. 2: Arguing to win
No one likes to admit that they're wrong, but doing so can greatly improve your relationship. Focusing on getting the last word is a bad habit, and one that can chip away at your relationship.
"If you always think you're right, your partner will be filled with anger and resentment," says Berniker. Instead of arguing to win, focus on the other person's needs, not your own. Remember that arguing with your partner is meant to move the relationship forward and help you come up with a solution or compromise that allows both of you to feel heard and understood.
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Bad habit No. 3: Poor communication
Good communication is the key to a lasting, healthy relationship. "In order to feel close you need to be able to share what is going on inside your head and your heart -- particularly your feelings, both positive and negative -- with your partner," says Berniker.
If you feel that you are being misunderstood or that your partner doesn't listen to you, there is a greater likelihood that problems will arise. To help break this pattern, be open and honest, she says. Ask your partner what it is about how you are communicating that isn't working. Ideally, this will open a dialogue about how to improve your interactions with one another.
Bad habit No. 4: Not accepting differences
Even though you may have fallen for your partner because of your similarities, keep in mind that everyone is different and those differences should never be called out as negative or wrong.
"If differences are not allowed each person cannot be their unique self and each person's needs cannot be met," explains Berniker. Accepting that there is more than one way to cope with a problem or see a certain issue is paramount to relationship success, she says. "Understand that we are all different and there is not one right way to be or feel."
Bad habit No. 5: Name-calling
It may have worked on the playground, but name-calling is a relationship habit that needs to be stopped if you want to move forward with your partner in a positive way. "Name-calling diminishes your partner's self-esteem, makes them defensive and creates a toxic environment," says Berniker.
This bad habit is often learned in the home where you grew up. When the habit runs this deep, Berniker says it means you may have underlying negative feelings about yourself and project these feelings onto your partner (for example, calling your partner stupid when that is how you feel about yourself). She suggests asking your partner to stop you when you name-call so that you can be more aware of your behaviour.
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Best relationship habits
As a contrast, Berniker shares what she feels are the best relationship habits to cultivate as a couple:
• Always be considerate of your partner. Deal with issues rather than sweeping them under the rug.
• Avoid name-calling or doing anything that lowers your partner's self-esteem.
• Resolve issues instead of having them come up over and over.
• If you can't overcome your negative habits, seek professional help with a certified psychologist or family therapist.
Bad habits happen to even the most diligent couples. But if you know what to look for, putting a stop to potentially harmful behaviour becomes much easier.
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