Bad habits — we all have ’em. But many of us don’t even realize how our little quirks and gestures are negatively affecting our loved ones. That being said, habits are seriously hard to break.
How many times have you tried to eliminate the word “like” from your vocabulary? Or how about the number of times you tried to ditch caffeine for good? Been there, struggled through that.
When it comes to your relationship, Patti Wood, body language expert and author of SNAP Making the Most of First Impressions Body Language and Charisma, and Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of How to be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together, agree that habits — the good kind! — are essential to its longevity. Of course, there are also a handful of subconscious habits — eight to be exact — that do more harm than good.
First impressions are everything — even if your several years deep into a relationship. “It’s as simple as how you leave the house for work in the morning,” says Wood. “Avoiding touch, contact, or even an interaction with your partner can have a serious impact.” A pre or post-work kiss goes a long way. If your schedules don’t match up or you constantly find yourself rushing out the door, Woods suggests finding little ways to show your partner that you’re thinking of them — long after you walk out the door.
2. You use work to avoid your partner
In this digital age, it’s become increasingly difficult to separate work from home life. Enter a disagreement with your partner and you might as well continue burning that midnight oil instead of spending time with your loved one, right? Wrong. “Consider problems at home to be just another task, like jobs at work,” suggests Tessina. “Your mate is your team partner, and you need to create a strategy for working together to solve them.”
3. You aren’t actively listening
Next time your spouse is summarizing their work day or dishing the latest neighborhood gossip, count how many times you utter “mhm,” “hm,” and “oh.” “These filler words are indicators that you aren’t actually listening,” says Wood. “It may appear to your partner that you’re listening but in fact, it’s actually telling that you don’t really care about the subject matter.”
4. You’re uncomfortable talking about money
No matter how much money you have to your name, it’s crucial that you discuss it openly and honestly with your partner, whether you share an account or not. “Financial planning is very important for a happy marriage, but financial nagging and haranguing aren’t the ways to go about it,” says Tessina. Instead, she recommends that couples talk about money in a businesslike fashion rather than as a personal issue.
5. You clear your throat (a lot)
We all have little things that we do when faced with uncomfortable situations. The most telling of them all: clearing the throat. “A lot of people clear their throat as a response to something they’re saying or hearing that isn’t going down well,” says Wood. “This can get particularly dangerous if transforms from a nervous habit into a common behavior during communication with your partner.”
6. You absentmindedly disregard their needs
Think about it this way: If you were to go to the kitchen to grab a glass of water, would you ask your partner if they wanted one? “In a healthy relationship, both partners should try to fill each other’s needs as well as their own,” explains Woods. In short, if you’re thirsty, there’s a good chance your partner is too.
7. You fight in times of stress
You can’t chalk up a full-blown argument to stress. That’s just not how healthy relationships (key word: healthy) work. “Whether it’s bad night’s sleep, trouble at work, or lack of intimacy, there isn’t a good excuse for fighting,” says Tessina. Acting defensive instead of with reason and compassion can damage your partner’s perception of you. “If you let your partner know you’re having a difficult day, that gives him or her a chance to be more thoughtful and considerate than usual.”
8. You let them fend for themselves
There’s nothing wrong with independence in a relationship.”However, it’s important that partners find ways to come together and lean on one another, literally and figuratively,” says Woods. Sharing resources is something Woods cites as being vital in happy relationships. “Say you’re watching TV with your partner. Do you hog the blanket or share it with them? Or do you make sure that you each get a blanket of your own?” It may sound simple but this little gesture indicates that you are both equals in a relationship.