With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, read Sandy C. Newbigging’s top 12 habits that limit love in your relationships and how to combat these with 5 alternative healthier habits.
It is easy to fall into the trap of making relationship conflicts about the other person. What they said or didn’t say. What they did or didn’t do. What they meant or didn’t mean. But to be proactive about moving from conflict to connection, you need to focus on cleaning up your side of the fence. For the best relationships, look to sort whatever is happening within you instead of trying to fix, change or improve other people so that they are more lovable. It is not anyone else’s job to make you feel loved, it is yours. How you feel is down to your relationship with the relationship, which is a perfect reflection of your relationship with yourself.
Lots of ‘relationships’ mentioned then, but the only relationship that I would recommend that you focus on healing is the one with your self. Whatever you are feeling in relation to someone else is caused by what’s happening inside you, so that’s where to look to resolve any issue that may be standing between you and more kind, connected and loving relationships. Here are the top 12 habits that hinder loving relationships:
UNHEALTHY HABIT 1 – EXPECTING: Expectations are often not openly expressed and the other person is left oblivious. Nonetheless, you then make it their fault for failing to meet your expectations. Conflict occurs when your expectations aren’t met. Ask: What expectations do I have that are not being met and how does it make me feel when I don’t get what I expect?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 2 – COMPARING: You compare your relationship with past partners, other friends or family members, your ideas about how loved ones should be, or couples who appear to be more in love or happier. Conflict arises when some other relationship appears to be better. Ask: What comparisons am I making and how does it make me feel when other relationships appear to be better?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 3 – ASSUMING: Assuming other people see the world the same as you and should therefore act the same way too. You also assume that they know what you want or that you know what they want. Conflict kicks in when assumptions are not accurate and/or not met, e.g: ‘I thought you’d buy me a bottle of water, if you were buying one for yourself.’ Ask: How does it feel when my assumptions are not met?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 4 – MIND-READING: Attempting accurately to predict what someone else is thinking, why they did what they did, what their actions mean, e.g: ‘The kids prefer Dad because they went to the shops with him instead of staying home with me,’ or ‘He didn’t text me last night so he doesn’t care’. Ask: What mind-read am I making and how does it make me feel when I do?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 5 – TAKING: Engaging relationships with a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude. If you are taking, you end up in conflict due to inevitably being let down at some point. It’s also a performance-based relationship, which is not love-based. Ask: What do I believe is lacking within me that I need to take from others, and how does it make me feel to lack it?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 6 – COUNTING: Linked with taking, this is when you do nice things but keep a tally, e.g: ‘I did x for you and you’ve not…’ Conflict occurs if you don’t get back in equal measure to ‘your giving’. You’re not giving if you are doing so to get something back. Ask: How does it feel not to get back in equal measure?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 7 – PERFECTING: Trying to achieve your idea of ‘the perfect relationship’. Snoring and difficult days aren’t permitted, for example. Conflict occurs when life doesn’t fit your ideas of perfect. Ask: What do I think is imperfect about the relationship and how does it make me feel not to have a perfect relationship?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 8 – TRAP-SETTING: When you test the other person’s love by setting traps for them to fall into. Like not telling them that you’ve had your hair done or pointing out a new outfit or saying how your day went – to see if they ask or make a comment. It is trap-setting if you intentionally hold back to see if they notice. Ask: What is going on within me that makes me feel the need to set traps?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 9 – ANALYSING: When you excessively analyse everything that’s said or done. The relationship becomes very ‘heady’ with lots of thinking and little heart connection, to the point where you are thinking about the relationship more than you are relating. Ask: What am I overanalysing and what feelings are driving my need to do so?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 10 – SAVING: When the relationship is based upon saving the other person or you are focused on fixing them. These types of dysfunctional dynamics are based upon the other person’s brokenness and your efforts to rescue them. Ask: How do I feel when I see someone that I think needs saving?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 11 – NOT PRIORITISING: Not giving time and making other things more important than love. You keep working when the other person wants a hug or take the relationship for granted and don’t invest time or effort in nurturing it. Ask: What am I making more important than love and why?
UNHEALTHY HABIT 12 – NOT COMMITTING: Being half-in the relationship. Love ends up limited because your lack of commitment creates doubt, constant questioning if it’s right, testing of the relationship, holding back until you’re sure etc. Ask: How does it make me feel when I consider fully committing to this relationship?
For the best relationships, aim to focus on warming up your own side of the fence instead of trying to fix, change or improve others so they are more lovable. Here are my five top tips for keeping your heart warm this winter.
HEALTHY HABIT 1 – BE THE PERSON YOU WANT TO LOVE: People try to take from others what they aren’t experiencing within themselves. If you think that someone else should be kinder, more communicative, giving etc. then ask: Where can I be more of what I want? When you become the person you have wanted other people to be, many conflicts dissolve away because you no longer resist the lack of certain attributes in others and aren’t attached to them being a better or improved version.
HEALTHY HABIT 2 – TAKE EVERYTHING AS AN INVITATION TO LOVE BETTER: We habitually want other people to change so we don’t have to. However as the saying goes, when you point the finger there are always three pointing back at you. Look for themes in any arguments, disappointments and common feedback you receive from others. Don’t waste time playing the blame game – instead be open and humble. Explore if any issue you have with someone else is an invitation to learn how to love in a more unconditional way.
HEALTHY HABIT 3 – LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE: Service sits at the heart of the most successful relationships. ‘How can I serve you?’ as opposed to ‘What’s in it for me?’ Whenever you feel a problem arising in a relationship, find ways to give and be of service. When you make the relationship about how you can help the other person to be happy, feel loved and have a great day (without trying to fix or change them), then it’s amazing how fluid and fun relationships become.
HEALTHY HABIT 4 – BE WILLING TO SHARE MORE OF YOURSELF: Raising your defensive walls within relationships is a fear-based habit that can be transcended. There is great strength in vulnerability because it takes humility and courage to let your ‘weaknesses’ be seen by others. I am constantly amazed by how quickly conflict evaporates when one party is willing to honestly share what’s really going on for them. ‘When you did that I felt scared that you might leave me,’ or ‘when you work late I question if it’s because you don’t want to be home with me’. It’s very hard to be in conflict with someone waving the transparent flag of vulnerability.
HEALTHY HABIT 5 – DON’T GO CHANGING TRYING TO PLEASE ME: Would you feel completely loved by someone if they always wanted you to be different? If you weren’t quite good looking enough, funny enough, clever enough, rich enough or tidy enough, for example? How loved would you feel living with that kind of pressure to perform? I can only assume, not very much.
♥ My Spiritual Teacher once asked: Are you willing to fully commit to this relationship, even if the other person never changes? Well, are you? Forcing others to live up to your criteria for what’s ‘lovable’ only leads to a fake love with its foundations based in judgement. But if you desire deeper connections then let others be enough, exactly as they are now. It’s the key to loving without limits.
About: Sandy C. Newbigging is a modern-day monk, meditation teacher and multi-bestselling author. His new book Calm Cure is out now and you can view his website here.