In our relationships, we can be caught off guard by hardships. Either we get through them or they tear us apart. What can we do to prepare for these winter storms?
In our twenty years of marriage, my wife and I have encountered many storms. We have found that the best way to prepare for the storms is to identify the warning signs early and learn to prevent them from recurring. We can prevent hard times by understanding the poor habits that cause these issues in relationships. This article discusses 10 bad habits that will tear a relationship apart if left alone.
In our relationships, we encounter good times and hard times. This article likens relationships to Paradise and the relationship moods are likened to the changing seasons. In my twenty years of marriage to my wife, we have experienced winter in Paradise many times. How did we deal with the difficult times without falling apart?
Well, it wasn’t so much of my efforts as it was my wife’s grace. I was such a jerk so many times that she surely could’ve left me and been well within reason to do so.
I drank a lot and treated her poorly. For me; a lousy way to live. For her; winter in Paradise.
When we first got married, we were nineteen years old. We were excited and ready for anything. We had no idea the kind of storms we would soon face. All we saw was what seemed like a tropical place with great weather.
We didn’t spend time learning how to prepare for difficult times and a broken relationship. Instead, we hung out and had as much fun as we could. We spent every moment together drowning in love; that is, until summer was over, and winter was upon us.
When it all went wrong…
I started drinking heavily around year two and carried on through roughly year nine. If my wife had of seen this coming, she certainly never would’ve married me. At minimum, she would’ve done everything in her power to persuade me not to.
Unfortunately, the drinking set in hard with me. Not only was I addicted, I also possessed a very stubborn character. I never saw my drinking as an issue, nor did I see any reason to give it up.
Like most people who deal with addictions, I truly believed I had it under control. I promised right, left, and center, that this time would be okay; this time, I would just be a fun drunk.
Many times, I was fun. Many times, I didn’t do anything stupid. However, as I got older, it was like something new was growing within me; something ugly.
As I continued to drink, I continued to be verbally abusive. Fortunately, I wasn’t physically aggressive. At least not yet. Later, reaching year nine, I was physically aggressive in the sense that I was damaging property and threatening people. I had to quit before I did hurt someone.
Finally, my wife gave me an ultimatum; “Leave or quit!”
I could see she was serious this time, like I’d finally used up every ounce of grace she had in her. I agreed to quit that day, and I did. For the remaining years we’ve been married, I’ve only slipped up a few times. I regret those times, but fortunately I have been able to stay away now.
How to prepare for hard times in relationships
What I wish I learned before we got married was how to deal with the difficulties people commonly deal with in their relationships. I didn’t know how much alcohol could affect a marriage. I didn’t know how to be a father. My wife didn’t know how to deal with people like me.
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This article looks to ask some hard questions and to bring about an awareness for the winter months in our relationships that come along frequently. I don’t want anyone to get caught in a snowstorm of hardship like us without a shovel to dig with.
I would like to expose ten habits that can destroy a relationship while offering solutions for each.
- Poor money habits
- Grudges and unforgiveness
- Condescending behavior
- Lack of intimacy
1. How alcohol destroys relationships
As we can see from my story, alcohol isn’t for everyone. Of course, it didn’t start that way. It was subtle, in the sense that it progressively worsened. The bad nights didn’t happen every time. Rather, they were scattered here and there. That is probably the only reason my wife could tolerate it; she had a small window to recover.
I grew up around people who were heavy in drugs and alcohol. Before I even met my wife, I had many years hanging around such friends and learning their ways. I always preferred the company of older people. This meant that even though I was only a teenager, I was hanging around full-grown adults who were still stuck in the party-zone. What I didn’t see was that it was creating a character full of bad habits that would stay with me for a long time.
The habits I developed chipped away at the foundation of our marriage every time I drank. Every time I raised my voice; every time I flirted with a girl; every time I broke something; and, every time I threatened someone. This is how our relationship went from super-awesome during dating to super-awful after marriage.
If you are in a similar relationship, taking immediate action is best. We can’t simply tell our partner to quit drinking and expect immediate results. Often, this requires outside help. I had many counselling sessions with church Pastors as I had a lot to deal with. It’s possible that if your partner is an out-of-control drinker, they too might have a lot to deal with. It’s better to start sooner than later.
Do you or your partner have a drinking addiction that is damaging to the relationship? Is there a different addiction that is bringing on hard times? Do you agree that building a strong relationship requires constant dedicated effort; the kind where a sober mind and sound judgment is necessary?
2. Can an abusive relationship be saved?
First, abuse in relationships should not be tolerated.
Second, yes, the relationship can be saved if the abusive partner is willing to seek help and change their ways. This will take time and might require temporary separation.
There are many forms of abuse. These range from physical abuse to mental and emotional abuse. Whether we are under the influence of something or having a bad day, there is no acceptable reason to be abusive to others.
If we have such characteristics and behaviors, we need help. We don’t need people to understand us and tolerate it because it’s a mental disease; we need to get help, and change.
I could’ve kept on in my life of alcoholism and grew into someone terrible. I likely would’ve landed myself in jail for a long-term the way I was going. What was my excuse? I was depressed because of my past? I couldn’t keep a job and that frustrated me to drinking? My dad was rough with me, so naturally I’m rough with others?
These are excuses we come up with. If there is any form of abuse in your relationship, it must stop. It is impossible to build an amazing relationship when trapped by abuse. Not only is the trust and safety compromised, the love diminishes.
I was verbally abusive to my wife. I was physically aggressive and broke a lot of stuff. This too scared my wife and put a fear into her that will likely always be there. She knows what I could be capable of if I slip back into that life. I see this as a form of abuse, in that I destroyed a portion of her confidence and feeling of security.
Are you in an abusive relationship that you need to step out of while your partner gets help? Are you the abuser who needs help like I did? Can you picture a long, enjoyable relationship the way things are, or does something need to change? Are you and your partner willing to get help?
3. How lying destroys relationships
Lying destroys trust. Trust is the backbone of a relationship. We build our relationships on trust first, and everything else grows on that. We can’t start with love and no trust; we can’t be intimate without trust.
Lying is a common thing. We all tend to tell a lie here or there. We take sick days when we aren’t sick; we say we are capable of something when we have never done it before; we say we were somewhere when we were in fact, somewhere else.
Lies don’t need to be big to be damaging. A series of small lies can cost us jobs and friendships. It can ruin our reputation in society in a hurry. And most importantly, it can cost us our trust with our partner.
In order to stop lying, the person must understand the damage it does. They must understand how one lie escalates to a series of lies. I personally have never been a compulsive liar. I prefer to do what I say and am honest with what I’ve done. However, I have lied many times in my life.
What I have learned from this is, it is far easier to remember the truth than a lie. When I am honest, I don’t need to rehearse a story. When I’m honest, I don’t go around feeling guilty.
My wife and I are at a point where we are honest with each other. As I don’t get drunk now and do stupid stuff, I don’t have anything to try to cover up. I maintain a clear conscience and I work hard on integrity. This is something that is helping me to become a person my wife can live with.
Is there a bad habit of lying in your relationship that must be dealt with?
4. Cheating in a relationship
To add to our list of trust-breaking habits, this will be the worst. Cheating destroys trust, confidence, intimacy, joy, and in most cases, the relationship itself.
It is hard to recover from infidelity. Of all the things that relationships can tolerate, this isn’t one of them. In the cases where the relationship does recover, it’s because the couple seeks help and becomes dedicated to building a whole new life; one that forgives and moves on; one that doesn’t bring the situation up time and again.
This is possible, just not easy. The most obvious change that must happen immediately is that all ties to any opposite-sex friends must come to an end. Once the trust is gone, it will be impossible to maintain these relationships on a “promise to be good” basis, while hoping that our partner will be okay with this.
This will only tear open the wound repeatedly. Cheating causes serious issues of insecurity. So, not only does the trust need to be built back up to a tolerable level, the victim in the relationship must find a way to rebuild their own esteem and confidence. A feeling of attraction is surely diminished as well.
For the couple who has suffered this storm in their relationship, counselling is the best option. Some couples prefer to try to sweep the issue under the mat to save face. Unless they do a tremendous amount of studying and researching strategies for recovering from infidelity, complete repair is likely not possible.
Counseling, breaking off opposite-sex friendships, being ultra-accountable for our whereabouts, complete transparency, and a lot of attention to the wronged are among the most important changes that are necessary. If the relationship is worth it, this will be possible.
Has this been an issue in your relationship? Is there any chance of this happening in your relationship?
5. How does money affect relationships?
This might seem like the least of all these bad habits, but let’s not take it lightly. If I’m correct, money is still the leading cause of divorce and separation in North America.
Over-spending is a habit that one partner in a relationship often struggles with. There is generally a spender and a saver. It is especially difficult if both are spenders. Financial independence and financial goal achievement will be most elusive for this couple.
I was the spender and my wife, the saver. My spending habit was obviously on alcohol for the first several years. This ate up all our spending money, as well as, some of our dedicated bill-money. This left us short all the time.
Eventually, when I quit drinking, I got into the habit of financing. I financed everything; TV’s, furniture, jewelry, power sports toys, and of course, vehicles. I helped my family rack up a tremendous amount of debt that would seem impossible to overcome.
Did this tear us apart? No. Has it made life unbearable at times? Yes.
Why does financial hardship tear some families apart, but not mine? Because we dealt with the problem. We decided that living in debt is playing with fire. We determined that if all we could do was quit financing, then that’s what we’d do. And we did. We decided to start paying the debt and follow a budget.
We still have debt. Student loans are long-lasting. I’m still making big payments on a truck that is losing value at an unstoppable rate. But we press on. We don’t add to the mess anymore, and we don’t say condemning things to each other, as we know it won’t help the situation.
Is there debt in your relationship? Are you and you partner serious about moving away from debt to pursue financial independence? Is this important enough to lower your current level of living?
6. Why is forgiveness important in relationships?
I’ve never been one to hold grudges. I generally give in and apologize or forgive. I know many people who are bitter and hold grudges, however. This is damaging to them in the least, and it prevents them from becoming their best version.
In a relationship, there must be forgiveness. We can’t hold a weight over our partner from a past issue. It will degrade the relationship to a point where the love is gone and only bitterness remains.
For the one who needs forgiveness, they are tormented by the guilt of their mistake. If they go for a prolonged period without forgiveness and instead, constant belittling, what they end up with is a feeling of worthlessness. The feeling that no matter how hard they try, it will never be enough.
The only solution in their mind will be to escape the relationship and start over elsewhere.
What can be done instead?
Forgive instantly. I realize this sounds easier than it is, and this is true. But we must realize that we do more damage by living with the need for forgiveness, or the need to forgive. This is a habit that is destructive in many ways and prevents relationships from flourishing.
In a relationship, it is best to deal with this promptly. The only way is by communication. Sit down and talk it out. Agree to keep the conversation calm. After forgiveness has been established, agree to put it to rest; permanently.
If this is brought up again, it will only bring us back to the starting point.
Is there anything in your life or relationship where forgiveness is necessary? Are you ready to ask for or give forgiveness? Do you think it is possible to forgive and move on?
7. A root of bitterness
Bitterness grows when we have unresolved issues in us. When we let things be and don’t attempt to correct them, they grow into bigger issues. We might have a habit of packing down the difficult times and difficult experiences, but this is damaging.
If someone wrongs us, it is best to deal with it as soon as possible. We can avoid a root of bitterness from growing within us this way. How do we deal with stuff? As in the previous habit, forgiveness is key. Not holding grudges is the best way to prevent bitterness. Counseling might be the next step if too much to deal with independently.
Bitterness grows from even the smallest thing. As we mull over something that ticked us off, a small issue can grow to a large issue just through thought alone. We can effectively create a monster of a problem just by overthinking the situation.
We don’t often recognize our own bitterness. Generally, it is seen by others as we wear it on our face and through our actions.
I spent many years being bitter because of all the damage my drinking habit caused. I didn’t harp on other people; just myself. However, because I was bitter with myself, the outward effect was the same as being bitter towards someone. My attitude was poor, and I was angry. The smallest mistakes from people around me caused me to overreact.
To grow a healthy relationship, we must do away with the bitterness. We must let go of the wrongs in our life and shift our focus to all the rights. This is the best solution for long-term correction.
Do you or your partner suffer from bitterness? If so, how does it affect your relationship? Is it possible to transform your thinking from negative to positive?
8. When there is no communication in a relationship
Miscommunication doesn’t merely mean that you heard me wrong. It can also mean you didn’t hear me at all.
Our relationships suffer from a lack of communication. This is problematic as we must communicate to know the condition of one another. We can read body language, but verbal communication is best.
Great relationships become broken relationships in a hurry when communication is lost. We must keep that avenue open and active.
What does it mean to communicate with our partner? It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be about anything in particular. It should include habits or situations that bother us, and we should communicate together to reach a solution. It might be casual talk about our jobs and our goals. It might include our dreams for the future. It might be simply to say, “I love you and appreciate you.”
Communication grows awkward when we neglect it. We get into a pattern of coming home and going straight to social media or television. As this becomes the norm, the conversations become quick and meaningless.
I encourage couples to engage in deliberate conversations about all parts of their lives. Go out for a date night with phones silenced and put away for that hour or two. The world can wait while we go out and focus on each other for a while.
The result is a deeper understanding of where we currently sit in life and thought. If we don’t do this, how can we truly understand each other’s current state and thoughts? How can the relationship meet the goals that aren’t planned together?
Do you and your partner go on dates regularly? Is communication an open avenue in your relationship? Do you two spend time together dreaming about and planning your future together? If not, can you start?
9. Condescending behavior in a relationship
In addition to abusive behavior, condescending behavior is also damaging. We can get over-confident with ourselves and we can start to tower over those around us. As our pride and esteem grows, we start to become better than others. We can become narcissists to a degree.
Obviously, our partner won’t enjoy being talked down to for very long. As this diminishes their self-esteem, they will surely grow weary and either fight back, or leave.
Sometimes we don’t know that we are behaving in this manner. However, this only emphasizes the importance of open-communication even more. If we are willing to tell our partner that they are making us feel a certain way based on how they talk to us, we can ask them to work with us on a solution.
If we allow this to go on, the relationship will suffer in time. Growing a great relationship requires each person to be loving and build the other up. We must be helpful for them. They must be helpful for us. We must be able to see each other as completely equal as contributors to the relationship. The relationship isn’t a competition of skill, strength, intelligence, or ability.
It is however a constant competition of love and respect and concern for the other.
Is this an issue in your relationship? Is it possible to have a talk with your partner and let them know that you do bring tremendous value to the table and that you are in fact, their teammate? If this is an issue, would you be willing to work with your partner to find solutions and exercises to correct the situation?
10. Can a relationship survive without intimacy?
Maybe; but why risk it?
Most relationships don’t suffer from a lack of intimacy in the early stages. This is something that slowly declines in time. Why? Focus and attention drift elsewhere, for starters. It’s not necessarily that we lose the attraction to our mate; rather, life happens.
And, like communication, when we get into a habit of seldomly practicing it, it becomes less and less important. This might not seem like a big issue to some as they might say, “It’s okay; we don’t really need romance and intimacy,” but this is far from the truth.
If you want a healthy relationship that has a strong future, you want intimacy and romance. As the intimacy dies off, the love loses its brightness too. Sure, there is still a deep love that remains, but the spark of passion goes dormant. When this happens, the relationship is at serious risk of either infidelity or dissolution.
Fortunately, this spark can be brought back to life. How? Through attention and active engagement. We can fall back in love with our partner by making them important in our life again; by going on dates again; by being spontaneous in our actions; by telling them that we love them every single day and showing them that we appreciate them.
By making them feel important, the love will grow. People love to be around people who build them up and make them feel good. This is exactly what we did in the early days of dating, right? We must reinvent the environment.
Lot’s of kissing and hugging and attempts at intimacy will help. Avoiding anything that steals our attention and reduces the attraction to our partner is also essential.
How is your romantic life? Are there any ways that you can think of that can enhance the current situations? Are you and your partner affectionate with each other on a daily basis?
I have talked about several poor habits that develop in the relationship. These habits cause seasons of winter in our relationships that, if not prepared for, can do serious damage. Can you identify with any of these in your own relationship? Are you able to see the changing seasons ahead that might bring hardship and turmoil?
I try to ask many questions because I want you to be ultra-aware of your own relationship. I want to see couples break through the difficult times and move on to have amazing relationships of love and passion and adventure and joy.
I’m not asking you to share your personal situations, however, if you have any helpful advice for others who might be struggling with these things, please leave a comment for others to enjoy and learn from.
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How to get your spouse to hear you, by Mort Fertel.