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Your Spouse is Into Something Weird (What Do You Do?)

conflict habits stress Aug 26, 2020

A couple months ago, Nate took up a bizarre practice. After reading the recently released book Breath by James Nestor, he became convinced of the benefits of nasal breathing (breathing through your nose instead of your mouth).

The scientific case for nasal breathing is robust. A vast body of evidence shows that simply breathing through your nose improves sleep quality, reduces stress, and enhances our ability to absorb oxygen.

There’s just one problem. How do you breathe through your nose at night?

Enter Nate’s bizarre practice: mouth taping. That’s right. Each night, before going to bed, Nate started taping his mouth shut with two pieces of surgical tape (one for each side of his mouth).

Kaley saw this as, well, just plain weird. She had all sorts of judgments about mouth taping. And, let’s face it, she's not crazy. Watching your spouse shutter their mouth with surgical tape before going to sleep is definitely odd and also not that sexy.

How about you? Maybe it’s not mouth taping. But, chances are, your partner has at least a couple strange habits that trigger a similar flood of judgments in your mind.

So what do you do when your partner is into something that's just plain weird?

 

Tools

 

1. View your partner's habits through the lens of radical generosity.

When you see your partner doing something strange, you have two ways to respond. The first is to let your habitual judgments run the show. This looks like either thinking to yourself or saying out loud, “That is such a stupid thing to do. What the hell are you thinking?"

The second is to insert a short pause before blurting out your criticism and shift to a spirit of radical generosity. This involves putting yourself in your partner's shoes for a moment and considering why this “weird" habit might be important to them. It’s thinking to yourself, “that’s definitely not my thing, but if it makes them happy, then I'm OK with it."

 

2. Seeing your own weird.

We tend to see our own habits and patterns as perfectly normal, while judging others for their odd behaviors. It’s a phenomenon we're calling “weirdness bias" (that's not a technical term -- we just made it up). This is just a fancy way of saying that we see the behaviors of others (our partner in particular) as strange and become blind to our own weirdness.

To interrupt this habit, all you have to do is take a quick look at some of your own strange habits. As you go through your day, view yourself through your partner’s eyes and you may begin to notice that you too engage in all sorts of bizarre behaviors: brushing your teeth twice before you go to sleep, scraping your tongue each morning with a metal rod, posting on Instagram while sitting on the toilet, or whatever your unique weird habits look like.

In the end, it turns out that we’re all a little bit weird. We all have our strange quirks. So instead of judging, it's worth making an intentional effort to understand -- and perhaps even find endearment for -- our partner's strangest qualities.

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