As I’m sure many of you are aware, sustaining a healthy, loving relationship with your partner goes beyond romantic gestures and regular dates. Open, honest communication between partners is essential for the health of a partnership. Furthermore, to achieve that honesty, it’s important to examine the ways we communicate with our partners, as well as how we think about them.
Writing for Psychology Today, Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D. singles out one word as the cause of many relationship troubles: should. “Thinking ‘should’ about someone you love,” he writes, “creates negative energy, and, over time, can be toxic for any relationship, especially a loving one.” While the word “should” often makes sense in our own mind, it seems unfair to apply our own standards of behaviour to the ones we love.
To head off consistent, nagging feelings of annoyance with a partner, it can be helpful to combat the root of those feelings: the toxic thoughts themselves. While we might not always use the word “should” when arguing with our partner, its presence in our thoughts can reveal itself in actions, words, and tone. If, for example, you find yourself regularly frustrated by your partner’s laidback cleanliness, then fixating on it can result in phrases like, “you should be a cleaner person.” Instead of making our partner’s faults the centre of our feelings about them, we can try adjusting the way we think, so that we remember why we love them, instead of the parts that irritate us.
Not only is this going to benefit the health of the relationship, it can have a remarkable effect on one’s partner. The use of words like “should” can leave people feeling small and ashamed, which, aside from affecting their feelings about you, can impact upon their own self-esteem.
All of this is not to say that you should never argue with the ones you love. Arguments are natural, even when partners love each other deeply. But if you find yourself wading into hostile territory, it’s a good idea to be careful with your thoughts, and the way they affect your actions, so as to avoid irreparable damage.
Take a moment to think, do you use “should” more than you’d like?