Do you have bad relationship habits? Of course you do. Who doesn’t? That’s why we asked over 100 YourTango Experts the following question: What are the most effective ways to overcome toxic relationship habits?
The top three picks were: replacing them with more positive behaviors/habits, attending couples therapy and attending individual talk therapy. But those aren’t the only ways to overcome bad habits. Here are 12 additional, expert-endorsed strategies you can try:
1. Get past your past. Very often, without realizing it, your toxic relationships repeat patterns from your childhood. Look at the pattern that you are replaying. Now consider what from your past you is still “working out.” Once you deal with the real, root issue, you’re unlikely to get involved with a relationship that’s toxic in the future. -Dr. Karen Sherman
2. Take stock. Too often in relationships we wear “love goggles” that don’t allow us to look clearly at who a person really is. Take a sheet of paper and make two columns. On one side, list the things you had hoped for in a relationship. On the other side, list the reality of what the relationship is like. Keep this list in your wallet for emergencies! -Dr. Karen Sherman
3. Imagine. Nothing works as well as visualizations for the future. Start by seeing the best of you — how you walk, hold yourself, manage yourself in all your empowered strength. Next, visualize a partner who respects and appreciates you. After all, you become what you imagine. -Dr. Karen Sherman
4. Female pow-wow. Form new emotional bonds and have daily conversations with female friends working through similar breakups and transitions. These supportive conversations can warm your aching soul. -Dr. Eryn Oberlander
5. Body care. Take good care of that body that’s going (temporarily) untouched and unnoticed! Exercise, massage and self-applied body butters and perfumes are good substitute sensual treats.-Dr. Eryn Oberlander
6. New ideas and voices. Gift yourself some new books or magazines to fill in the void of this in-between time. Learn new ideas and concepts, which can even be sprinkled into new date conversation. If your ears crave those masculine tones, listen to audiobooks read in baritone! -Dr. Eryn Oberlander
7. Identify. You can’t overcome habits that you have not yet identified. It’s okay to have bad habits; we all do. Take an honest look at yourself in relationships; see what habits you have that contribute to tension or dis-ease in the relationship. It’s easy to blame him, but it takes two to tango. No matter what he is doing you are responding in a way that is at least fanning the fire of toxicity. -Amanda Jennings
8. Become aware. Sometimes we know what our toxic habits are, but we don’t realize we are engaging in them until it is too late. A way to become aware, in the moment, is to notice the feeling you get when your toxic habit is triggered. Keep it in mind. Then, if you find yourself feeling that feeling, maybe a sinking pain in the pit of your stomach, you know that your behavior may begin to get toxic. -Amanda Jennings
9. Take control of yourself. Once you have identified the habit and become aware of the feeling, it is time to take control of that habit. No one can make you behave in a way you regret. He may trigger this response, but you have control over whether you are going to go toxic. Find a different way to communicate your feelings, one that is kind and more productive, both to you and to him. -Amanda Jennings
10. Stop fussing with your partner and take a break from the action. Most of us go through life on auto-pilot. Realizing how many times we drive somewhere without remembering the journey is startling proof. Changing a bad relationship habit means you have to realize you’re screwing up in the first place. Get used to paying attention to thoughts, feelings and behaviors about ordinary things before you tackle the harder stuff. -Kathe Skinner
11. Look at your partner’s body language. What do you suppose your body language is saying about you? The truth is, most of our communication is done non-verbally. No matter what we say, our pose gives us away. If your partner’s words say “I don’t care” but tears are falling, what’s really going on? By focusing on solving this contradiction, your anger will probably slip away. -Kathe Skinner
12. Listen to what your partner is saying, not to what you think is being said. The bad habit of being reactive comes from an interpretation of what’s being said, not necessarily from what is actually being said. Ever play the “Pass It On” game where one person whispers something to the next person and so on until the last person reveals what they heard? Be sure you know what your partner is saying by reflecting back what you’ve heard. Otherwise, you’ll be building an argument based on the assumed truth of “the last whisper.” -Kathe Skinner
Written by Amanda Jennings, Dr. Karen Sherman, Dr. Eryn Oberlander, and Kathe Skinner for YourTango.com.
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