Your relationship could be in trouble.
Do you have bad relationship habits? Of course you do. Who doesn't?
That's why we asked over 100 people the following question: what are the most effective ways to overcome toxic relationship habits? The top three picks were: replacing them with more positive habits, attending couples therapy, and attending individual talk therapy.
But, those aren't the only ways to overcome bad habits. Here are 12 additional strategies for breaking bad habits before you end up in a toxic relationship or heartbreak.
1. Get over your past.
Very often, without realizing it, your toxic relationships repeat patterns from your childhood. Look at the pattern that you're replaying.
Now, consider what it is from your past that you're 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.
2. Take stock of your relationship.
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.
3. Imagine your future.
Nothing works as well as visualizations for the future. Start by seeing the best of you — how you walk, hold yourself, and manage yourself in all your empowered strength.
Next, visualize a partner who respects and appreciates you. After all, you become what you imagine.
4. Seek out comfort from female friends.
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.
5. Take good care of your body.
Exercising and massaging yourself using self-applied body butters and perfumes are good substitutes for sensual treats.
6. Learn something new.
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 conversations.
If your ears crave those masculine tones, listen to audiobooks read in baritone.
7. Identify all your bad habits.
You can't overcome habits which you've not yet identified. It's ok to have bad habits; we all do. Take an honest look at yourself in relationships and see what habits you have that contribute to tension. It's easy to blame him, but it takes two to tango.
No matter what he's doing, you're responding in a way that's at least fanning the fire of toxicity.
8. Become aware of toxic habits.
Sometimes, we know what our toxic habits are, but we don't realize we're engaging in them until it's too late.
One way to become more aware of bad habits 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, you know that your behavior may begin to get toxic.
9. Take control of yourself.
Once you've identified the habit and have become aware of the feeling, it's 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're going to go toxic. Find a different way to communicate your feelings, one that's kind and more productive.
10. Stop fussing 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 that you're messing up in the first place. Get used to paying attention to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about ordinary things before you tackle the harder stuff.
11. Look at your partner's body language.
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.
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's actually being said.
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.
Amanda Jennings is a counselor and therapist.
Dr. Karen Sherman is a relationship expert and has her own weekly radio show.