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5 bad relationship habits to dump

May 14, 2011

SirNatural,

OK, so you used to be married and now you’re not. You may be out there happily dating, but are the habits from your wedded days dogging you? Consider the fact that when you’re married, you have the luxury of a long, indefinite “’til death do us part” future in which to settle into a comfortable routine or slowly work through issues with your spouse. On a date, though, everything happens in accelerated time, with equally accelerated consequences. An indelicate remark on your first rendezvous may forever put the kibosh on a second. In fact, there are five key behaviors left over from your married days that can wreak havoc on your current romantic forays. We asked Marty Friedman, author of Straight Talk for Men About Marriage, to discuss how to recognize — and get rid of — these bad habits so your love life can prosper.

Bad Habit #1: Never ending your arguments. One of the dubious perks of being married, Friedman says, is being able to “stomp out of the room, cool yourself down, and bring up the issue again a few days or weeks later — or let it fester forever.” While having a knock-down, drag-out argument with someone you’ve just started dating isn’t exactly a good sign, you don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking, “If I ignore the problem, it’ll just go away.” That just won’t cut it when you’re dating.
Tactic to try: The challenge now, says Friedman, “is to hang in there and keep the lines of communication open.” You want to work through the issue, not allow it to linger.

Bad Habit #2: Letting yourself go. When two people are married for a long time, they stop trying to impress each other — thus fueling the market for dumpy sweatshirts, socks with sandals, and New York Yankees baseball caps. This may be fine for a lazy evening at home, but it’s a sure-fire date repellent, according to Friedman. “It’s easy to say, ‘I just want someone who likes me for who I am,’ but truthfully, the way humans operate is to feel more comfortable with and attracted to someone who cares enough about appearance to look presentable.”
Tactic to try: Simply put, make an effort. There is such a thing as dressing up, and it’s worth trying when wooing someone.

Bad Habit #3: Under-communicating your needs. Most married couples have the ability to read each other’s minds: to intuit, from an imperceptibly cocked eyebrow or a slightly fluttery tone of voice, that now may not be the best time to admit to spending junior’s college fund on a 72-inch plasma TV. Unless your date is a professional poker player, don’t expect her to interpret your tics and grimaces as a request for a nice glass of iced tea.
Tactic to try: “You need to state your needs and feelings out loud, in a responsible way,” Friedman says. “The good news is, by speaking up you can help shape how your new partner treats you.”

Bad Habit #4: Sniping instead of talking. The only time you’re allowed to treat constant bickering as a form of affection is when you’re both at least 75 and celebrating your golden wedding anniversary.
Tactic to try: Instead of criticizing your new partner, Friedman says, you should make an effort to “request what you need in a specific, caring way. For example: instead of shouting ‘You’re always late for everything,’ you can say gently, ‘This Saturday night, it would really mean a lot to me if you showed up on time or even a few minutes early.’”

Bad Habit #5: Not saying “thank you.” Common courtesy is one of the first casualties of an unsuccessful marriage — and even thriving couples can occasionally say things to each other that would make Emily Post blanch.
Tactic to try: “You should start your new relationship on a solid foundation of gratitude and appreciation, right from the beginning,” Friedman says. “Be thankful for the little things… even the fact that this person is spending the evening with you.” And while you’re at it, go ahead — say it out loud.

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