It’s important to define the true meaning of what a ‘habit’ actually is. It is an act or behaviour that is learned, done with repetition, ease, without difficulty, and with little conscious thought. A 2002 study conducted by the habit researcher, Wendy Wood, UK-born psychologist and Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Southern California, found that “43% of everyday actions are habitual.” There are all kinds of “dirty habits” that we can acquire over a lifetime.
The list of dirty habits can be long and, quite frankly, alarming! These habits are not just dirty, but they can actually pose a health risk to the person with the habit and others.
If you find your partner has some of the listed habits or others not mentioned, here are a few things you can do:
Schedule a time to talk with your partner: Be prepared for your meeting. It helps with clarity about the issues that are concerning you. This is not an ambush, so come into the meeting with an open heart and mind.
Create a safe space to talk about what’s concerning you: Make sure that this space is free of distraction, and scheduled at a time where you can both focus on one another, and choose a place where you can both be mentally present. You may want to take this to a public setting, but find your own quiet corner to talk to.
Be honest, but not hurtful: This is not about blame or anger, this is about resolving issues. You can start the conversation by letting your partner how much you care about them, and that you felt it important to bring the issue to their attention to support the relationship. With you both valuing honesty and the growth of the relationship, it is important to be clear about what is concerning you. It is a fine art when you can show compassion and understanding while addressing your issues.
Listen to your partner without judgment: That’s because your partner may not even be aware of this particular behaviour or that this is a concern to you. You want to make sure you are responding reflectively. Reflective listening is where you exhibit and embrace a real understanding of what your partner has to say. Allow your partner to talk, reflect on what they have said, repeat the main themes of what your partner expressed, ask clarifying questions, and give time for your partner to respond. Try not to interrupt one another during this process. Reflective listening allows for you to better understand your partner, to get really clear about the issues, and it gives your partner confidence that they are being heard.
Understand what triggers your partner’s behaviour: During the conversation, you can ask about what might be a roadblock for your partner when it comes to changing the behavior, understand their triggers, and ask if they can think of ways that will minimise those triggers to overcome the dirty habit. Being conscious of triggers can be very helpful in minimising the behavior and finding healthy behaviors as replacements to reduce those triggers.
Let your partner know you are ready to help them break their dirty habits: It can take time to create a habit, so know that it will also take some time to break a habit. Be patient, allow some space for the change to take place, trust your partner, and do not badger them or devalue their attempts. You can re-strategize with your partner if you see that progress is not being made. Schedule another talk and see if you can both develop other methods to support the change in your habits. If this is a relationship that you value and has longevity, you may want to invest your time, effort, and energy into supporting one another through these unique challenges.
Creating healthy habits can support wellness, improve intimacy and communication, and make for a healthier relationship!
(The article has been written by Summer Watson, MHS, PhD and Jen Fontanilla, Certified Money Coach, co-hosts of “The Life, Love & Money Show with Summer & Jen”.)