Thursday posts are always links to other articles and while I tend to lean on first-person stories or scientific reports written up in mainstream publications, every once in awhile, I’ll stumble upon a listicle that has some really good advice.
This one, called “9 Toxic Behaviors That Could Be Ruining Your Relationship” could probably have been written by listening to me on the phone for one afternoon. These behaviors are so commonplace and yet so deleterious to a healthy partnership that it’s pretty amazing that people engage in them routinely. Just goes to show how good people are all a little bit messed up and can get in their own way, even when it comes to something as basic as kindness and compassion for a loved one.
Forthwith, here the 9 things, with some editorial commentary seen through the prism of my relationship and my coaching:
Stop Nagging Them or Being Overcritical – This is literally the #1 reason I married my wife. She was the only person I’d met (after 300 dates) who fundamentally accepted me as I was instead of constantly telling me all the ways I was disappointing her.
Stop Expecting That They Know What You’re Thinking – The old joke about men having to be mind readers to please their wives is a real one. Women, if you’re reading this now, there is nothing wrong with disliking or disagreeing with your boyfriend’s behavior. The answer isn’t to swallow everything or keep your mouth shut; it’s in expressing your feelings in a way that are positive and constructive.
Stop Letting Distractions Get in The Way When You’re Together – Guilty as charged. I’m an iPhone addict and it’s my default way of escaping when my kids aren’t listening to me and my wife is divulging every single detail of her day. Still, it’s disrespectful and not conducive to maintaining intimate connections if you’re more fixated on the news or your Facebook feed than your own partner.
Stop Avoiding Difficult Conversations – I know it sounds like an impossible dance: stop nagging, express your feelings so he knows what you’re thinking, don’t avoid difficult conversations, but it’s always about timing and tone. If you make a big deal about EVERYTHING, you’re probably nagging him or “crying wolf” as my wife wrote in Why He Disappeared. But if you’re letting this boil inside out of fear of expressing yourself, you have to learn how to have a relationship discussion that lets your feelings out without making him feel attacked.
“If you make a big deal about EVERYTHING, you’re probably nagging him or “crying wolf.”
Stop Letting Your Insecurities Get in the Way – Pretty much every reader question on this blog is the result of someone’s insecurities getting in the way. Staying with a man who never wants to get married? Unhappy with how he treats you but unwilling to leave? Afraid that he’s going to cheat on you because someone did in the past? All are signs that you’re letting insecurity run the show instead of carrying yourself with confidence and trusting that you deserve a good man.
Stop Getting So Defensive – You’re not perfect. Your partner’s not perfect. The best way to handle your respective imperfections is to own them, laugh about them and try to improve them, instead of denying that they exist. My wife jokes about my impatience, my inability to find anything that’s lost in the house, my refusal to try to fix anything with my hands, and my fragile body, which is 45 going on 95. She’s 100% right. Why get upset if something is true?
Stop Stonewalling – As a man who happens to be a dating coach for women, I wouldn’t say I make any fewer mistakes than other guys. If there’s anything I do that allows my relationship to thrive, it’s that I am quick to apologize when I screw up. So while other couples may have simmering anger that lasts for days, any disagreement in our household is usually resolved within 30 seconds with my apology. With my big mouth, it’s inevitable that I’ll ruffle some feathers, but I never let an issue simmer beyond the moment than it happens.
“If there’s anything I do that allows my relationship to thrive, it’s that I am quick to apologize when I screw up.”
Stop Looking at Things as Competitions – I think one of the best parts of being in a “traditional” marriage (where I’m the breadwinner and my wife is a stay-at-home-mom) is that there’s great appreciation for what we each bring to the table and no competition. The only competition in our household are when we play boardgames – we’re pretty even at Seequence and Taboo, she kicks my ass in any memory game, and I dominate at Trivial Pursuit. And even then, we laugh about it.
Stop Letting Your Needs Fall By the Wayside – My job ends at 5:30 each day. My wife’s never stops. Which is why I always encourage her to take care of herself. In March, she spent a weekend all by herself at the Four Seasons, sleeping in late, reading magazines and doing spa treatments. As I write this now, she’s in San Diego, visiting her high school friends for a 3 day weekend while I do the single dad thing. It’s not always easy or fun for me to fly solo, but I know it’s necessary to keep my wife happy and replenished, since she has the more demanding job between us.
Sorry, I know that was a little personal and self-indulgent. More importantly, check out the article, look at that list, and ask if your relationship is burdened by any of these toxic behaviors. What can you do to stop right now? (He says, putting away his phone…)