How to break your bad relationship habits

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Don't be your own worst enemy when it comes to relationships - break any bad emotional habits you've got now

sleeping couple
Some of us are always very jealous in a relationship. Others are always too clingy. And some of us always end up being unfaithful.

It's as if an invisible force pushes us into the same behaviour routine time and time again. We often know it's not right, but feel unable to do anything about it, as if we're victims of our own habits - arghhh! But it doesn't have to be like that. It takes a bit of soul searching to break bad emotional habits, but it can be done. Here's how.

The first step is to recognise that you have a bad habit. Own up: I am the green-eyed monster who wants to howl when he so much as looks at another woman. A lot of people maintain various myths that it's their bloke who's always in the wrong when they know full well that they are at least in part to blame. But by admitting that you have a problem, you're on your way to solving it.

Where does it come from?
The second step is the soul-searching part. Why are you jealous/clingy/unfaithful? Be warned: the answer could be very heavy. It may be that an insecure upbringing stops you getting too attached to any one bloke, and has you off in search of others all the time. Perhaps so many men have let you down that you just don't trust them any more. You will probably know the root of your problem, deep down - or will be able to work it out if you're honest enough with yourself. Don't get too bogged down in psychobabble, but if you can, try to recognise and understand the reason for your bad habit before you move on.

Step three is where you take some action. "A step-by-step approach to breaking bad relationship habits works really well," says Denise Knowles, Relate counsellor. "If you're horribly jealous or clingy, ask yourself, 'What are my expectations, and are they reasonable?' Can you seriously expect a bloke never to look at another woman or never to go out without you?" Denise recommends setting yourself a goal that you know is reasonable. Perhaps you'd like him to only go out once a week with other friends - be they male or female. And you'd like to be able to deal with that without falling apart. Make sure that on that night you have something fun to do - if no one's around to hang out with, get a video in, bake a cake, dye a dress a new colour - anything that'll help put you in a good mood for when he comes in.

Be honest with your partner
"If you find commitment hard in relationships, recognise the danger point," warns Denise. "Tell your partner when you're beginning to feel restless and plan to do something special together around that time." Take a trip to the seaside. Buy a new sex toy. Throw a dinner party. Do whatever it takes to get through the period when you'd normally be off finding someone new to bonk. This will give your current relationship a chance to work. Once you're handling your bad habit, set yourself new achievable goals. The idea is to handle your most vulnerable emotions gently but firmly, gaining confidence in yourself as well as your relationship as you go. That way, if your relationship does fail, you'll know that it's not because you've been unable to break destructive patterns in your life. Now that's progress.

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