Today’s post comes from psychotherapist Christina Steinorth, who teaches us how to deal with the unwanted behaviors of our partners before they drive us crazy!
Anyone in a love relationship can probably list 3-5 irritating behaviors of his or her partner without skipping a beat. For example, she leaves coffee mugs all over the house, or he wears the same socks for days in a row. Grrr!
Research shows that such minor but annoying behaviors become more irksome over time in love relationships (read more about the study here). And because they do get worse, they have the potential to drive a wedge between two people if not discussed openly.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to neutralize the effect of behaviors that get on your nerves. All you have to do is talk about them with your partner. Learning to do so in a healthy way will make your relationship happier, stronger, and more loving.
Here are five tips to help you get into a new pattern with your partner so you can express your feelings instead of avoiding prickly topics.
Tell your partner what makes you happy.
Instead of saying, “I hate that you leave your wet towels on the floor,” explain to your partner that you love walking into a bedroom and bathroom that feels clean and orderly. You might say, “It’s a small thing, I know, but when you hang up your towel it makes me feel as though you’re being respectful and considerate of me, and I really appreciate that.”
Ask what irritates your partner.
Nothing levels the playing field as much as letting your partner know that you’re willing to make small behavioral changes to please him or her too. Hold a “clear the air” session in which you allow your mate to air his or her pet peeves. Promise your partner that you won’t get defensive or take it personally. Such conversations often end up with a mutual agreement to do better.
Find the right time to talk.
Constantly complaining and nagging about his or her annoying behavior isn’t going to help the relationship. You need to have a real conversation–at a time when you can both give it full attention. Don’t try to squeeze it in before work, and don’t talk when either of you is in a bad mood. A good way to have an undistracted conversation is to take a walk together (with cell phones turned off).
Catch your partner doing things you like.
If you compliment your partner generously and genuinely, you send a powerful message that has more impact to change his or her behavior than criticizing. For example, if your partner has issues with hygiene or appearance, tell him he smells really sexy after he’s stepped out of the shower. Or tell her you really notice those five pounds and she looks terrific. There’s nothing quite as motivating as a partner who notices, values, and appreciates you.
Ask yourself how important it is, really.
If your beloved were gone tomorrow, would you really care that he often stole the TV controller from you, or that she chronically forgot to turn off the outside lights before bed? Of course not. Think about which behaviors are truly impinging on your happiness and which ones you can either learn to live with, or find a way to avoid (such as having a TV somewhere else in the house for “your” shows, or installing an automatic timer for the lights). Such compromise is the essence of true love.
Christina Steinorth MA MFT is a psychotherapist and a popular relationship expert on radio and in print. Her advice has been featured in publications such as Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Woman’s Day, Fox News Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune, among many others. Her critically acclaimed new book is Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships (Hunter House, 2013).