How To Break Bad Habits In A Relationship Before They Get Worse

Photo: Gretchen Alley / Shutterstock
A young couple sit on back door stairs looking back to the camera

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 break bad relationship habits?

The top three picks were:

  • Replacing them with more positive habits.
  • Attending couples therapy.
  • Attending individual talk therapy.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Talk To Your S.O. About Their Bad Habits (Without Starting A Fight)

But, those aren't the only ways to overcome bad habits.

How to Break Bad Habits in a Relationship

1. Get over your past.

Very often, without realizing it, your bad relationship habits repeat patterns from your childhood. Look at the patterns you're replaying.

Now, consider what it is from your past you are still heavily influencing you. Once you deal with the root issue, you're unlikely to keep repeating bad relationship habits in the future.

2. Take stock of your relationship.

In relationships, we often 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. Keep this list in your wallet for emergencies and refer to it when relationship stress begins to overwhelm you.

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.

Try to form new emotional bonds and have daily conversations with female friends who are working through similar issues and life transitions. These supportive conversations can warm your aching soul and give positive feedback on breaking your bad habits.

RELATED: The Deep, Emotional Bond Only The Longest-Lasting Couples Possess

5. Take good care of your body.

Exercising and massaging yourself using self-applied body butters and perfumes are good sensual treats and can help soothe and relax you without you having to repeat patterns of unhealthy intimacy.

6. Learn something new.

Gift yourself some new books or magazines to encourage the development of new ideas and concepts, which can even be sprinkled into new conversations to help break old conversation. models and habits..

If your ears crave those masculine tones, listen to audiobooks read in the tone you appreciate. Consider it audio reprogramming!

7. Identify all your bad habits.

You can't overcome habits which you've not 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.

8. Become aware of when you repeat bad habits.

Sometimes, we know what our bad 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 habit is triggered. Keep it in mind, if you find yourself feeling triggers, know that your behavior may begin to repeat bad habits.

RELATED: What To Do When His Bad Habits Start Driving You Nuts

9. Take control of yourself.

Once you've identified the habit and have become aware of the associated feeling, it's time to take control. No one can make you behave in a way you regret.

He may trigger a negative response, but you have control over whether you're going to go toxic. Find a different way to communicate your feelings. 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. Have you ever realized how many times we drive somewhere without remembering the journey? That realization is startling proof of how auto-pilot we can be.

Changing a bad relationship habit means you have to realize 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. Instead, let their body speak to you and respond accordingly.

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 from what's actually being said.

Be sure you know what your partner is saying by reflecting back on what you've heard. Otherwise, you'll be building an argument based on the assumed truth.

Whether you are looking for your true love, or trying to preserve the love you already have, learning how to interrupt and redirect bad relationship habits is a vital tool for your future love.

RELATED: How Active Listening Actually Improves Your Relationship

Amanda Jennings, LMFT, is a counselor and therapist who works with clients to help them overcome various forms of trauma, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Dr. Karen Sherman, MFT, NCC, PhD, is a relationship expert with her own weekly radio show.

Eryn L. Oberlander, M.D., is a Yale and Columbia educated, Board Certified Psychiatrist with  private practices in Midtown Manhattan and Great Neck, Long Island.

Kathe Skinner, LMFT, MA, shares knowledge, skills, and tools that help.