When my boyfriend and I moved in together just over a year ago, I was nervous. Gone were the biweekly sleepovers where we’d excitedly catch up about our crazy weeks over wine, focusing on little else but each other. Real life was about to settle in, and I couldn’t help but panic, ‘Will he be okay with all my quirks, and will I be okay with his?’. By quirks I mean bad habits. And by bad habits, I mean squeezing the life out of a shared toothpaste tube or leaving 11 bottles of nail polish lying around the lounge at any given time.
As I write this, I’m sitting on the balcony of what is a very calm home. Boyfriend forgives me my toothpaste death grip and nail polish addiction, and I forgive him his nightly throat-clearing. We do this because we know annoying or bad habits are normal. But when does normal tip into the land of ‘too much’? According to an article in Psychology Today by psychologist and author Guy Winch, Ph.D., there are five bad habits that commonly tip this scale and force a partner to pull away from their relationship.
Here are 5 bad habits in a relationship that aren’t quirky, they’re just bad
1 Being extra with criticism
‘The golden ratio for communication is that 80 percent of what you say should be positive or neutral and only 20 percent should be critical or directive,’ explains Winch. However, in some relationships, this ratio is flipped on its head. ‘When one member of the couple constantly voices small (and not-so-small) dissatisfactions and complaints, it can be completely demoralising for the other, who then begins to feel as though they can do nothing right, and as a result, they begin to drift emotionally.’ I guess the key is to know when to pick your battles, and to remember to acknowledge the things you appreciate, too.
2 Being a better communicator (read ‘arguer’) than they are
There’s nothing more satisfying than saying the right thing at the right time, however when it comes to arguments, there’s more at stake than landing the perfect zinger or rebuttal. The way we argue matters, and if one partner feels completely unmatched, it’s not ideal, says Winch.
‘When one member of the couple is a far better communicator about emotional issues than the other, it gives them an unfair advantage during arguments and conflict. The partner who does not communicate as well or who cannot express their thoughts and feelings as fluently is likely to lose most of the arguments as a result, even when they are in the right.’ Over time, this leaves your partner feeling reluctant or unable to raise their concerns and results in them shutting down or withdrawing. It’s not always easy to remain sane and rational during an argument, but try to focus on the bigger picture. You’re likely fighting over something you want to fix in the short-term, but should argue in a way that safeguards your long-term.
3 Not showing enough empathy
We’ve all felt let down by a loved one at times. But consistently failing to show compassion or empathy when your partner is in emotional distress can have devastating results, Winch warns. ‘We expect our partner to be the person we rely on most for support and compassion during challenging times, and when they repeatedly fail at this task, it is common for the unsupported partner to withdraw and seek to fulfil those emotional needs elsewhere.’
4 Ignoring important complaints
While it’s pretty kak to be with someone who you feel constantly complains, it’s important to know when to take them seriously. To avoid making them feel dismissed or neglected, we need to understand which of their complaints are ‘meaningful’, says Winch. ‘One of the most common examples of this dynamic occurs when one member of the couple raises concerns about feeling unsatisfied sexually or frustrated by a lack of intimacy. People tend to voice such complaints only so many times before feeling too rejected and too hurt to try again. And by that point, the damage may already be done.’
5 Technoference: The mother of all bad habits
Raise your hand if you’ve been personally visctimised by a partner’s obsession with their phone.
It might seem that in 2020 the norm is to be glued to our phones, but Winch warns that when technology creeps its way into moments we should be sharing with our partner, it can affect your relationship. ‘When phones are continually looked at or used during dinner, while watching shows together, in the middle of conversations, and yes, even during intimate moments, it can have a dramatic effect on the mood, happiness, and relationship satisfaction of your partner.’ Instagram can wait. Give your partner some undivided attention.
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