It’s been a while since I’ve written something that was actually directly related to my own dating life. I know, I know, “real stories of the good, bad and ugly”. Forgive me readers, for I have slacked.
When you’re dating someone for any length of time past the honeymoon phase, shit starts to get real. All of those cute little quirks that you loved about them in the beginning now become nails on a chalk board irritations. Whether it’s how they pronounce (or mispronounce) certain words, leaving the toilet seat up, not cleaning up after themselves, he/she eats in bed, constantly talking about work, or how they are always late for everything—these little annoyances can become huge fights if left unchecked.
So, the question is:
Do we have to change our expectations, or is it really possible to change the person your dating?
There have been several times in my life, believe it or not, when I have reached this point with a guy. It’s also usually the point where I typically turn tail and run! I never wanted to change my expectations of how a civilized human being should behave, but I also wasn’t interested in putting any effort in to trying to change anything either. With one ex, for instance, he hated to travel. And for him, that meant anywhere further than the couch, TV and the 12 pack in the fridge. Another guy I dated could not get through a conversation,any conversation, without making a stupid joke using a stupid voice (can you tell how much I just loved that?). In the long line of men I’ve dated I’ve also had a front row seat to a long list of bad habits: the guy who cleaned his toes while we watched TV, the guy who could not stop talking about work (I tried to be supportive at first, but then it just became annoying as fuck), the guy who sucked his teeth whenever I would give my opinion.
Where am I going with all of this, you ask? Trust me, there’s a point.
The current, Mr. Sports Fan, has bad habits of his own. Lately, they are driving me up a wall! Leaving dirty dishes on the counter when the sink is right there! Or placing trash on the counter right above the actual trashcan! Seriously, dude?! Early on in our relationship I had no problem correcting these little mistakes myself, but maybe that’s where I went wrong. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s grown lazy as of late!
These current events in my dating life have led me to wonder:
Is it possible to teach old dicks new tricks?
How To Teach an Old Dog New Ways
It’s normal once you are comfortable around someone or in their space to let your guard down and be more ‘you’. But what if that ‘you’ is a friggen slob? In my case, clearly I lit the way allowing the bad habits. Not nipping them in the bud sooner is pretty much the same as encouraging the behaviors that drive me nuts! But isn’t this all part of learning to co-exist with someone else? I have my own bad habits, he has his.
Yes and No.
Yes, part of being in a loving existence with another person is accepting them and all of their ‘quirks’, but that doesn’t mean either of you has to be a doormat. It just means bending…a little. Flexibility is good, right?
Let’s take the dirty dishes for example. Is there some friggen force field around the sink that your dish can only make it to the counter 3″ away from the actual sink? And forget the fact that leaving it sitting there, un-rinsed, means that the food is now stuck to the plate. I am so Type-A, OCD about certain things and THIS is one of them. It drives me nuts! But of course, in those early weeks and months of dating, everyone is being their most polite self. There was a good run of him cleaning up and putting everything in the sink, even washing dishes sometimes. But the honeymoon is officially over! And I have the dirty dishes next to the sink to prove it.
So is it possible to teach old dicks new tricks? Is it possible to change a person, or at least change their bad habits, without being a nag?
According to a study by doctoral student Joyce Ebmeyer and Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. on long-term marriages, we found that these everyday household behaviors can contribute significantly to a couple’s overall intimacy. Interestingly, partners tended to interpret each other’s behaviors through the lens of their general feelings about the relationship. If they felt true intimacy—defined as closeness, communication, and commitment—they tended to give their partner a pass when it came to annoying habits. If the relationship was only barely holding together, these tiny infractions snowballed into much larger issues that could threaten the relationship to its core.
According to Psychology Today, “to change your partner’s bad habits, you need to bring in a little reinforcement for the behaviors you want to strengthen but also remove the cues that trigger the annoying behavior in the first place. You also have to build in some stimulus and response psychology into your own reactions.”
In doing a bit of research for this post, I found an article on how to Get Your Guy To Break His Bad Habits. While I don’t agree with everything in the article, or even that these specific “bad habits” qualify as such. To each their own though, right? Still, the general pattern I see in most of the “solutions” is communication.
Hmm, imagine that?! The solution for how to teach old dicks new tricks is… communication?!
Guess I better put the laptop down and go communicate to him that if I find one more dirty dish on the counter I may kill him? HaHaHa!
I have learned that open and honest communication, not in the heat of the moment, actually works best. Telling the other person why certain behaviors bug you, without being judgmental or bitchy about it, can be beneficial to the relationship, provided you actually like this person and want them to stick around.
If not, feel free to throw the dishes at them. Might not help the relationship, but think of all of that repressed anger you’d be letting out! 😉