Are You the One with the Rules in Your Relationship?


Man scolding his wife, who's been breaking rules with her bad habits.

Many times, in relationships one partner will say something to their mate about how their habits are the right way to do things because that is the way they grew up. This is very common.

All of us are taught how to be humans by the training we received when we were little. If we grew up putting our clothes in the hamper when dirty, then this is the habit we will bring into our relationship.

If we grew up laying our clothes on chairs or on the floor as a child, and this habit is still with us, then we will do the same thing in our relationship.

Our Existing Habits Often Leave Room for Improvement

Mismatching habits may leave us frustrated and disconnected, like this couple.

In this instance, you might be able to see which habit would be more effective, but this is just an example of what gets played out by couples all over the world.

All of us are comfortable with the rules we grew up with. This is how we grow into adulthood. It is only natural that if we are comfortable with our habits, our partner should be comfortable with them too.

But that is not the case. Here’s an example. I grew up leaving the refrigerator door open when I am fixing something. I don’t know why, but I just do this. Well, every time my husband walks into the kitchen and sees the door open, he goes over and closes it. Then he reminds me, “You left the refrigerator door open.”

I know he will do this. He also reminds me that the refrigerator will turn off if I don’t close the door. But do I hear him? No. I still leave the door open.

I should listen to him, but I don’t. This habit is well ingrained in my being. It’s not a make or break issue either. But there are some things that are.

Be Kind When Offering Your Partner Feedback on Their Habits

Couple offering feedback on their habits kindly.

If you are the rule maker in your house, can you see that there might be more than one way to do something and that your mate most likely learned something else in his family where he grew up?

If you want to teach him or her a new way, this is wonderful. Teach them. We are all teachers when we know something and help one another learn it. But don’t get mad at them. We only know what we are taught or what we teach ourselves.

I have learned a lot from my partner. Some of it I have picked up on my own. Some of it he has asked me to do, like take my tea pot off the cutting board or open the curtains when I leave the bedroom.

Change Helps Us and Our Partners Be Happy

Picture of a happy couple who has aligned their habits by making positive change.

I can do these things. I don’t argue. I do them because they are important to the person I love. That’s why we change. You can do something different if you want your partner to change, you can also adapt to his or her way.

And isn’t that what being together is all about? We just want to get along without misunderstandings. So, lay down your rules, and make way for some rulebreakers. I think you might actually enjoy it.


Achieve Lasting Change by Communicating More Gently in Your Relationship

Read a Book About Relationships

'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Learn how to communicate more gently in your relationship, by reading Linda’s book Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It might just help you communicate your needs in a way that will make your loved one more eager to please and change their habits. Give it a read.

Get Couples Counseling

Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.

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