Each of us develops behavioral habits within our lives, some positive and some negative. For example, we may be in the habit of working out and exercising regularly, yet also habitually staying up too late and not getting enough rest.
The same is said for habits formed in relationships (especially marriages). While you might develop some good habits that nurture the relationship, others can be toxic to your marriage.
Dr. William Glasser, psychologist and father of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, terms the habits that destroy a relationship as “deadly habits.” These either completely kill a connection or, at the very least, cause it to become dysfunctional.
According to Dr. Glasser, the “Seven Deadly Habits” are defined as follows:
- Blaming: Pointing fingers and placing blame for the negative events in a relationship, rather than owning your part and taking accountability.
- Criticizing: Judging the other individual’s behavior or way of being and verbally expressing those judgments.
- Nagging: Consistently pressuring the other party to start, stop or continue doing something.
- Punishing: Removing a positive behavior or employing a negative one as a method of delivering a consequence to the other party for upsetting you.
- Threatening: Promising to employ a negative behavior or remove a positive one if the other party doesn’t comply with or accommodate you.
- Bribing or rewarding for control: Offering any favor, gift or flattery in an effort to manipulate and gain power.
- Complaining: Constantly focusing on negative events or maintaining a negative outlook via verbalized statements.
While it is clear that the seven deadly habits are destructive, they’re not all that uncommon. These habits are practiced by many individuals who typically don’t have the intention to harm. In many cases, they simply don’t know any better, learned these behaviors from their parents, or have merely developed bad habits in a few bouts with unhealthy relationships.
But, of course, there’s always hope.
Dr. Glasser defined “Seven Caring Habits” as well, which can be consciously substituted and practiced to successfully nurture a marriage:
- Supporting: Being available for the good, bag and the ugly, without judgment.
- Trusting: Knowing the other person is trustworthy and having faith they will honor your trust.
- Listening: Being present and attentive to the needs and experiences of the other party.
- Accepting: Realizing each of you is a different person and allowing your partner to be who they are without criticizing or attempting to change them.
- Negotiating Differences: Working through problems and talking things out, openly, rather than punishing, blaming, threatening or manipulating.
- Respecting: Holding the other party in high regard, and holding the relationship in high regard even when the other party’s behavior is less than desirable.
- Encouraging: Offering words of affirmation and inspiration in an effort to uplift and empower.
Breaking Bad Habits
Of course, replacing deadly habits with caring ones is often more easily said than done. After all, bad habits are tough to break.
As such, it’s important to do the individual work and couple’s work needed to prevent and/or intervene upon the deadly habits and create space for caring ones. Additionally, it’s always vital to remember that caring habits – like supporting and accepting – do not equate to enabling.
In a marriage, the vows of “for better or for worse” is not a call for either party to accept any harmful, toxic behavior or a free pass to stop growing or throw your emotional maturity level in reverse. Conversely, healthy marriages require growing habits, too; the kind that require each party to exhibit accountability, vulnerability, humility and a willingness to evolve.
You may also be interested in The Secret To A Successful Marriage