By Hans Kelder.


Many of our behaviours are habits. They are hard wired into our brain, automatic, and nurtured over years of being brought up in particular family, national, local culture. We rarely ask ourselves why we do certain things, we just do them. Most of the behaviour we value in relationships, are the expression of love, concern, support. We want to be encouraged, enriched, and have a sense of security. It’s these qualities that attract people to each other and become the foundation of a committed relationship. But what comes with the desired behaviour is the habitual behaviour.


It’s often the annoying habits that we have that create tension in our relationships.
In marriage we often expect our partners to accept certain patterns of our bad behaviour and adjust to them. For example, taking our clothes off and leaving them on the floor. Leaving all the wardrobe doors open. Letting the mail pile up on the kitchen bench. Watching TV habitually every night for a certain program, or a constant connection to the mobile phone. Being the first to read the paper. If our habits are acceptable to our partners then there’s no issue. However it is very rare for some annoying habits to be accepted by our partners. Most of us have, or are confronted, with some annoying habits which can become the source of disappointment, frustration, ongoing criticism and a plea for change.

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Couples who do marriage well are the ones that listen to the concerns of the annoyed partner. They are willing to make adjustments because they see that certain behaviours have an ongoing negative impact which can create resentment.

Being open to change is a better, far more generous and a kinder course of action then expecting your partner to just “suck it up,” or ‘build a bridge and get over it.” Which are common phrases used to describe that someone is not prepared to change.

The challenge in all relationships is to work out which habitual behaviours can be acceptable and which create too much tension.
It takes about 6 to 10 weeks to get rid of a behaviour and develop a new one, so patience is required. Those who are willing to take up the challenge to work on changing themselves and keep on adapting are often the most successful in building solid, secure and contented relationships.
Hans Kelder