5 Breakable Habits to a Better Marriage

For a guy who spends the better part of his day focusing on clients, listening with intent to every word they say, and giving them some feedback that ensures they are being heard, I have a bad habit at home. You guessed it. Sometimes when I’m focusing on something I don’t hear a word my wife says. It’s a bad habit that sometimes irritates Marian. I get annoyed when she leaves an arsenal of shoes in the foyer. It looks like Nordstrom’s half yearly sale! Okay. Deep breath. Truth be told, we have a better marriage in part because we work on breaking bad habits. Here’s what we discovered. It doesn’t take too much time or energy to listen or pick up shoes. We remember a small effort matters in a big way to the other person. Every couple can have a better marriage by changing at least one of these 5 breakable habits.
Breakable habit #1 – Doing things you know irritates your spouse
Leaving clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink or other messy habits stresses out your spouse. Or maybe your the one who makes everyone wait. Your bad habit can ruin the event for both of you. Bad habits add stress to a marriage. Why not change one? Breakable solution #1 – Do the opposite behavior for 21 straight days.  Put your plate and glass in the dishwasher. Get ready 5 minutes earlier for the event. Do this for 21 days in a row and you will form a new habit.
Breakable habit #2 – Keeping score
This is a bad habit most couples get into from time-to-time. Keeping score on the things your spouse is doing wrong. Keeping score on the things you are doing right. No one wins using this strategy! Here’s a win-win solution. Breakable solution #2 – Keep score of the things your spouse is doing right. Did you know people are more motivated to repeat an action when they get positive feedback? Turn a complaint into a compliment. This is what works in our marriage. When we both agreed to work on breaking a bad habit, we cut each other some slack. Instead of complaining, we complimented each other when the new action was performed. “Thank you for putting your shoes away. It de-stresses me when I walk through the door.” “Thank you for stopping to listen to me. It makes me feel important.”
Breakable habit #3 – Habit of blaming
During conflict couples can get caught up blaming each other. Being defensive and turning the problem back on your spouse is a bad habit that can wreck your marriage. It also reflects some insecurity within you about owning your stuff. Here’s a better approach. Breakable solution #3 – Own your faults.  Nobody is perfect, including you. Embrace this and it will make a big difference in your marriage. It’s as simple as saying, “You’re right. No excuses. I shouldn’t have said/done that…”
Breakable habit #4 – Habit of jumping to conclusions
This bad habit gets spouses into trouble time and again. Assuming you know what your partner is thinking. Rushing to judgment about his/her motive. More often than not these are misassumptions. I see this often in my work with couples. Try this habit on for size. Breakable solution #4 – Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.  Rather than assume you know, why not check it out first? Ask clarifying questions like “Help me understand what you meant by what you said.”  Marian and I will “check-in” with each other if we sense something is wrong or one of us is upset. It goes like this. “Hey I want to check in with you. Is everything okay with us?” Doing this with a respectful tone works well every time.
Breakable habit #5 – Habit of putting your marriage on the back-burner
In my opinion, of the 5, this is the worst of all. Sadly, it is the most common bad habit I see today. Nonetheless, it is a breakable habit. I understand the pressures of work, raising kids, and managing a household. Been there – done that. It’s challenging. I’ve heard (and made) all the excuses too–tired, no money, take a rain check. [Tweet “Forming this one habit made a huge difference in my marriage.”] Breakable solution #5 – Give your marriage some front-burner time. Front-burner time doesn’t take too much effort. Here are some simple ways to get moving.
  • Start and end the day by connecting – morning kiss, ask about your day, cuddle time, etc…
  • Do a “check-in” during the course of the day to see how it is going
  • If you are spiritual, pray with or for each other
  • Establish a regular date night on your calendar as a repeating event (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)
  • Plan on couple overnight or weekend getaway
  • Make a list of things to do this year and place it in a visible area

Now it’s your turn

Think about one breakable habit you want to change this year. Enter the starting day in your calendar and commit to the new habit over the next 21 days.