I’ve read my fair share of books out there on habits.
This article will draw on this reading and my own personal experience as a relationship coach to offer you some simple strategies so you can upgrade the habits impacting your relationship.
Table of Contents
Relationship habits are deep-rooted patterns of behaviour and many of them are subconscious, automatic and in some cases hard to identify.
Relationship habits are by their very nature, easy to do and satisfying. That’s why we do them.
Your brain is constantly looking for small rewards throughout the day – the dopamine hits – and it always prefers the path of least resistance in it’s motivation.
You are wired to be innately lazy and you’re looking for the maximum reward for the minimum effort.
However, your brain is also satisfied and motivated by a long-term target, so if you can tap into this ambition to become a better version of yourself, then you will be motivated to change.
What better motivation and purpose can you have than for the benefit of your relationship?
Relationship habits are a lot easier than you think to change when you follow a simple 3-step process.
1 The first step is awareness,
2 The second is strategy and
3 The third is consistency
There is still much dispute as to how long it actually takes the brain to form a new habit. The University College London research confirms an average of 66 days, but the range of time can vary widely based on how often you actually repeat the habit. Some researchers think just 21 days is enough so there isn’t really a one size fits all.
What I do like about the way Robin Sharma presents habit change is that:
“All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”
Firstly, become aware of the relationship habits that are creating a disconnect with your partner.
This could simply be something you say or do that gets a negative reaction.
Every time you notice a disconnect with your partner, ask yourself the question:
Is this habit healthy for my relationship?
Here are a few examples to get your started…
- Do you criticise your partner and constantly try to ‘improve’ them?
- Do you walk away from every confrontation?
- Do you only half-listen to your partner?
- Do you give your partner the silent treatment?
With the right strategies and consistency, you only need to make small daily changes over a long period of time to see massive results.
You can change anything you want. Most people tend to believe that it’s willpower that is the most influencing factor, but it’s actually the environment you surround yourself with rather than willpower alone that will have the greatest impact.
In the extreme example of a drug user, you can fully rehabilitate that person in a specialist clinic only for them to return back home and be surrounded by all the same temptations that led to the habit in the first place. This is unfortunately why so many return back to using the drugs again so quickly.
Back to your relationship, how much easier would it be to fully listen to your partner if you got into the simple habit of putting your phone down when they speak to you?
One bad habit often leads to another and the reverse is also true of good relationship habits.
That first conversation you have when you finish work for example, sets off a chain of events which lead you down the path of having a great evening, versus sitting in separate rooms.
How would things change for you if you counted to 5 before criticising your partner?
All you’ve done is altered the trigger/response slightly and made it harder for you to react instinctively. You’ve altered the automatic response to react and given yourself time to say something more considered.
James Clear talks about the four laws of behaviour change which are:
Make it obvious;
Make it attractive;
Make it easy and
Make it satisfying.
“Sometimes a habit will be hard to remember, so you have to make it obvious. Other times you won’t feel like starting, so you’ll have to make it attractive. In many cases, you’ll find a habit will be too difficult, so you’ll have to make it easy. Sometimes, you won’t feel like sticking with it, so you’ll have to make it satisfying.” James Clear
I’m not going to attempt to simplify Atomic Habits in one small quote, because his book offers so much value. However, the principle of the four laws is very powerful and very easy to implement.
To alter the behaviour pattern of a bad habit, you simply invert the laws.
Make it unobvious,
Difficult and make it
Brendon Burchard, currently recognised as the world’s leading high performance coach, believes there is a process to creating six key lifelong habits that will lead to high performance in all areas of your life.
It starts with purpose – in this case having a purposeful relationship. You then need to have daily habits that give you energy, that reaffirm your ‘why’ and increase your productivity. To take you to the next level Brendon then believes you need to develop influence over others and finally demonstrate consistent courage.
“The good news is, no one ‘innately’ lacks any of these habits. They simply deploy the habits more consistently than their peers. That’s it. That’s the difference. You have to work at them all the time.” Brendon Burchard. You can read more on his high performance habits by clicking HERE.
It’s definitely true that we all have to consistently work on our relationships if we want to remain happy and connected.
You will start to recognise distinct patterns as you become more aware of your relationship habits.
You might even begin to attribute some of these to the behaviour of your own parents when you were growing up. Some of these habits might have served your parents better than they are serving you now.
Maybe you can see the long-term effects of some of the habits your parents adopted and you now see the value of making a change for the benefit of your relationship.
Habits are a work in progress throughout your whole life.
No person will have ONLY good habits.
All you can do is aim to upgrade the habits that best serve you and your relationship, so that today’s are marginally better than yesterdays.
Just 1% is all you need.
Your habits will one day become your children’s too so switch out the bad for the good in as many areas as you can.
Across the course of the next day, notice 3 of your bad habits – those that aren’t serving your relationship well.
Ask yourself the honest question to help increase your awareness:
Is this habit helpful for my relationship?
Pick 1 of the habits that you’d like to upgrade.
- Change the environment related to this habit so that it’s harder for you to automatically do.
- Then, choose a different habit in its place that you feel will better serve you in the long term.
This small shift of just one habit will naturally lead to other good relationship habits forming.
Make a daily note of the habits you’re changing and look back in a few months to see how far you’ve come.
If you liked this article you may find this one on critiscism helpful and how to break the habit, click HERE to read more.