Merriam Webster defines a habit as “a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior” or “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.” Between the two definitions it’s clear that a habit is something that a person does often and it’s done without one even realizing it. In a relationship, there can be positive and negative habits. Good habits and healthy relationships go hand in hand. You want to create such great habits in your relationship that you will practice them unconsciously.
In our current day, couples are developing bad habits that weren’t even thought of before the age of technology. Couples are watching television instead of talking to each other, comparing their relationships to those seen on social media sites, and they are even texting their exes and deleting the evidence. It’s easy to pick up bad habits without even realizing what’s happening.
Before too many bad habits are created, let’s take a moment and evaluate the good and bad in our relationships. What habits are good for a relationship and help to cultivate a loving environment? What habits are creating distance between partners?
Here are 10 habits of couples in healthy relationships and 10 habits we should ditch.
20Do: Go To Bed At The Same Time
While going to bed at the same time as your partner might seem like a silly rule, it’s been proven to keep relationships healthy or even get a relationship back on track. According to Psychology Today, “couples whose wake and sleep patterns were mismatched reported significantly less marital adjustment, more marital conflict, less time spent in serious conversation … than matched couples.”
The idea itself is pretty simple. If both partners go to bed at the same time, they are spending more time together. This time can be spent talking about your day, working out frustrations, or even watching a movie — as long as it’s together.
19Ditch: Trying To Avoid A Fight
It doesn’t sound exactly right, but fighting in a relationship can actually be healthy — if done in the right way. Some think that avoiding a fight with your partner means you care about them when in fact not fighting is indicative that one or both partners have mentally checked out of the relationship and don’t care enough to make an effort.
Clinical psychologist Deborah Grody says that married couples who don’t have any conflict are often the ones who end in divorce, Time reports. However, not all fighting is constructive. Healthy fighting techniques include calling a timeout, asking your partner questions, and making requests instead of complaints.
18Do: Show Affection
It probably comes as no surprise that affection is an important factor in any healthy relationship. According to Dr. Sean M. Horan, affection is the number one reason why couples seek therapy, as Psychology Today reports.
He compared affection to a thermometer allowing a person to gauge their partner’s interest. Horan found that the affection given to and received from your partner is directly related to commitment and satisfaction.
So, if you are in a committed relationship and are satisfied in that relationship, you’ll want to show affection to your partner. Affection is a super-important aspect in any relationship and should be given in both good and hard times.
17Ditch: Holding In Your Feelings
You know the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Well, that doesn’t apply to healthy relationships. Some might think it’s easier and healthier to hold in your feelings rather than raise an awkward or difficult conversations. But, a study by Kansas State University discovered that younger couples were less stressed when they discussed their issues together.
If you hold in your feelings when it comes to the little issues, you aren’t going to be able to discuss the bigger issues. Learning to express your feelings, whether good or bad, is a healthy part of every relationship.
16Do: Give Without Expecting
A good habit to get into is to give without expecting anything in return. Get up early and make your partner a cup of coffee, wash the dishes even though it’s your partner’s turn, or plan a date night doing all of your partner’s favorite things. This can help your relationship in several ways.
The first thing it does is stave off complacency. After a while, it’s easy for a relationship to enter a routine. Offering a gesture, whether big of small, is a great way to bring spontaneity back into the relationship. It’s important to remember not to expect anything in return. If you always expect something in return, your partner will stop getting excited about spontaneous gestures.
15Ditch: Trying To Change Your Partner
Trying to change your partner is an extremely toxic habit and it is not going to end in your favor. In all reality, most people can’t be changed. However, there is a difference between growing as a person and trying to change who someone is. When you want to change your partner, you spend so much time focusing on them and criticizing their actions. Instead, try focusing on yourself and your actions. It takes two people to make a healthy relationship.
It’s healthier to shift your focus away from trying to change your partner to figuring out how to fix your relationship together.
14Do: Utilize Love Languages
If you are unfamiliar with love languages, there’s a book by Gary Chapman in which he discusses how everyone has a primary love language. Chapman says to imagine that everyone has a tank inside them. When their love language is used, their tank fills up. A person’s love language is how someone feels loved or appreciated. For example, some women get excited when they receive a gift, while other women feel loved when their partners spend time with them.
Some men will be filled up by hearing words of affirmation, while others feel appreciated by physical touch. Everyone feels love and speaks love in different ways, so finding your partner’s love language is vital to figuring out how to make them feel loved.
13Ditch: Competing With Each Other
When we talk about not competing with your partner, we aren’t talking about playing a board game or a friendly game of one-on-one basketball. A little healthy competition can even be fun and keep the spontaneity alive. However, when both partners are more focused on being right than working as a team, this habit of competing can quickly become toxic.
In a recent Bustle article, marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis addressed this idea of being too competitive with your partner. She cautioned that if you have trouble being genuinely happy for your partner’s success, you are probably being too competitive. It’s important to focus on working together as a team.
12Do: Give The Benefit Of The Doubt
Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt is an important part of any relationship, but it’s not always easy. For example, if your partner says they are working late but a friend of yours spotted them out at a restaurant, it would be easy to get upset. If you automatically assume they were lying, you are telling your partner that you don’t trust them. It’s hard to be completely trusting of another person.
But, if you want a healthy relationship, you need to assume the best about your partner. At the end of the day you chose your partner and you need to trust yourself that you chose well.
11Ditch: Keeping Score
What exactly does it mean to keep score? Well, if you bring up that time you went to three different stores to get your partner the exact item they wanted every time your partner doesn’t want to do something for you, you’re probably keeping score. And if both partners are keeping score, all you’re doing is trying to out-score the other.
It’s a vicious cycle that is unhealthy for any relationship. Both partners have to choose to focus on the future. Yes, it sucked when your partner did that thing, but it has no bearing on the future. Talk it out and move on!
10Do: Pay Attention
Paying attention is one of the most vital parts of a healthy relationship. It could also solve half of the problems in most relationships, especially in this day and age. We are paying attention to so many things — work, our phone, the television, the basketball game, and our kids’ activities. When are we paying attention to our partner?
When we learn to properly pay attention to our partner we also learn to listen, we learn how our partner is feeling without asking, and we learn what interests our partner the most. Everyone has the desire for their partner to pay attention to them, whether we realize it or not.
9Ditch: Allowing Jealousy To Take Over
Jealousy is a natural trait and some have to work harder than others to avoid being jealous. So what, exactly, are examples of jealousy? Getting upset when your partner is texting another woman or not wanting your partner to go out on her girls’ night because she’s going to be around other men.
While you might think that those actions communicate that you love your partner, they really don’t. What displays of jealousy actually communicate is that you don’t trust your partner. You don’t trust them to keep texts at a friendship level, and you don’t trust them to fend off a man’s attention during girl’s night. Instead, learn how to trust your partner.
8Do: Spend Time Apart
Once both partners learn to manage their jealousy, spending time apart is an important aspect of every relationship. While spending time apart might seem counter-productive, being without your partner for short amounts of time is very healthy for a relationship. There are two people in every relationship, and learning to be you without having your partner will strengthen your relationship. It might even deepen your love for each other once you’re no longer spending every minute together.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, either. It can be as simple as reading a book by yourself in the other room or going to a movie by yourself.
It’s pretty common knowledge that comparing has no place in a healthy relationship. Whether you’re comparing looks, how much someone else’s partner does around the house, or how happy they are, comparing is going to become toxic. It can cause you to become resentful or to have unrealistic expectations. It can even cause you to start taking your partner for granted.
Plus, you have to be even more careful if you’re getting your information off social media. Half of the things you see are skewed by editing software. Put simply, comparing makes you dissatisfied with you actually have in front of you.
Communication is key! After being with my partner for over 10 years, when people ask me my best advice for a relationship I always tell them it’s communication. You can learn so much about your partner’s wants and needs by just communicating. You can ask your partner about their day, what goals they hope to accomplish in the future, or even what happened in their favorite television show.
Surprisingly, communication is about more than simply talking. Actively listening is an important part of communication. Don’t think about the items on your to-do list or what’s happening this weekend. Actually listen and respond when your partner is speaking.
Lying has absolutely no place in a relationship. If you tell your partner you’re working late when you’re actually going out with the guys, that’s a lie. Lying does several things. First of all, it’s indicative of other problems in the relationship. You told your partner you were working late because you didn’t think they would let you go out with the guys, which needs to be addressed. Secondly, the minute your partner finds out you’ve been lying, it creates a slew of trust problems that may or may not be able to be solved.
If you feel like you have to lie, ask yourself why you feel this need, and then fix the underlying problem in your relationship.
4Do: Be Honest
Yes, being honest is very different from not lying. You know the saying, “I didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell you the whole truth?” Well, being honest means telling your partner the whole truth, even if they didn’t ask for it. If you ran into your ex-boyfriend at the coffee shop and talked with them for an hour and you know your boyfriend doesn’t like him, you need to tell your partner about your interaction.
They didn’t ask about it, but wouldn’t it be better to tell your partner about it now before they find out from someone else? It makes you look guilty if you don’t say anything. And if you do tell your partner first, they know they can trust you.
3Ditch: Holding Grudges
Holding a grudge might come natural to some while others can easily forgive without much effort. A grudge is when you believe someone wronged you, and that you were right in that situation. When you hold a grudge you start to take on a “poor me” mentality which is toxic in a relationship. You need to learn how to address it properly with your partner so you can eventually forgive them and move forward.
This is where other healthy relationship habits can come in handy, such as being honest and communicating. Being honest with your partner and communicating how you’re feeling can help release you of a grudge.
2Do: Ask For What You Need
Your partner is not a mind reader, so it’s important to learn to ask for what you need. You might think that after reading the other healthy habits on this list, such as paying attention to your partner, your significant other should know what you need. Well, it’s also important to remember that no one is perfect.
Asking for what you need doesn’t make anyone the weaker partner. In fact, it takes courage to ask for something without knowing how your partner is going to react. On the flip side, if your partner has gathered the courage to ask for what they need, be sure to listen and not dismiss their feelings.
1Ditch: Being Controlling
Someone can be controlling in a variety of ways, so it’s important to pay close attention and make sure neither you nor your partner are trying to control the relationship. Some examples of controlling behavior include your partner telling you who you can or cannot hang out with, freaking out if you don’t text or call them back immediately, or dictating time spent with your family or friends.
Of course, every relationship is different and what is true for one is not true for another. Some ways to ensure you aren’t controlling is to suggest rather than order, be sure to spend time apart, communicate your stress, and to accept your partner.