This is a tough one to write. I think there are a lot of communication habits that are dysfunctional, and completely normalized, it will be challenging to keep it down to 6. I will try, instead, to choose 6 fairly broad categories of habit.
- Unspoken Expectations: So, say you thought your partner was coming home for dinner, so you made a beautiful meal. When they eventually do get home quite long after dinner time, they tell you they are not hungry because they ate at that last office meeting. You don’t get to be mad at them about this. You can be disappointed that you don’t have a meal with them, but that is not their fault.
Due to circumstances, they weren’t home; they didn’t tell you they were going to be, and you didn’t ask. This is an example of lower communication levels leading to expectations of behaviour. If you want your partner to be home for dinner, you ought to ask them to be. Same goes for anything you might want from a person: ASK WITH YOUR WORDS.
- Emotional Dependency: If you’re having an emotional reaction to something your partner is doing, that is yours. Your feelings are yours, and theirs are theirs. Reciprocal emotional support is usually a given in close relationships, but it should be given freely upon request, and not implied. Even if the partner is willing to sit with you while you have or express your feelings, that doesn’t mean that partner is responsible for your emotions. You are.
- ”Complete” Honesty: This is a common semantical argument in discourse around theoretical non-monogamy, and applicable to monogamy as well: how honest is honest, and if there is not “full” honesty, are they “lying”? No. They’re not. They simply have kept a thing to themselves, and unless they’re risking your bodily autonomy in some way, that is probably an okay thing for them to do.
I don’t want to know every single thing my partner is doing and thinking; I am exhausted enough with everything I am doing and thinking. Further, if they don’t tell me something, even if it is because they’re afraid of hurting my feelings, it is not an offence, inherently. They care about me, and are just working through their stuff around the information. I am curious about the things they are willing to share with me, but I am not entitled.
- Keeping Score: This is a big one. Forgiveness and “letting go” are important skills in healthy connection. If someone did something that hurt you, and they have acknowledged that affect and are striving to work on themselves so they do not commit said hurts as carelessly, or at all, the next step is for you to move past it. I know it’s hard, but your relationship will be healthier and happier for it.
Over the course of human connections, there will be lots of things that you will do that may or may not hurt those close to you, and lots of things they may do that will hurt you. I believe in forgiveness because if people are committed to their own personal growth, they will change and do things differently in the future, but you have to let them. Pigeon-holing people into the list of infractions against them is no way to treat someone you love. Supporting their being fallible, that being okay, and their progress, is.
- Jealousy: Jealousy is rarely just that. Usually, it shows up as a bad feeling about something your loved one is doing, or something someone else is doing in conjunction with your partner. Unpacking where that feeling comes from is your job, and something you can get support through, but not anyone else’s responsibility.
- Gaslighting: Currently a bit of a buzzword for invalidating someone’s experience in a definitively undermining way, gaslighting can be really hard to navigate because the person who is being gaslit in very confused and feels extremely unstable. Calling it such is difficult because the effects of it are foggy and hard to identify. For myself, I can say that the resulting feeling is self-blaming, shame, and aloneness in my status of “there is something wrong with me”.
This is so incredibly common, because in an effort to assert that what is happening for us is real, we can end up overriding someone else’s experience of the same events. In order to prevent this, finesse is needed in communication and in self-ownership. This is extremely hard work, but treating people as such is a very worthy endeavour we ought to strive for.