old habits die hard… or not at all

old habits die hard… or not at all

Hear ye, hear ye! One and all! This is epic what I’m about to tell you.

6 years ago, when my ex-lover and I first got together, we would have a situation where I would text him something sweet like, “have a good day,” and sometimes it would take hours before receiving a reply.

How do you think I handled it? Yup, I’d stew over it, wonder how he could be so insensitive. And so, hours later, usually, when there wasn’t a reply, I’d text him while feeling quite pissed off. I’d say something like, “Where are you? How can you not reply to my good morning? To which he’d respond something defensive or rude. Our texting patterns were an ongoing problem with us. He just seemed so insensitive.

Okay, fast forward y-e-a-r-s later, and now we’re friends who rarely text. But at least we remained friends. One day recently I woke up to a short text from him, where he asked me a question, and I answered the question then said, “hope it’s a great day!” To which, once again, I received crickets… all day.

How many thoughts do you think I had? Yup, a ton of them. Everything from even as friends he’s pulling this, to how can he be so rude, to this is the last time I’m dealing with his shit. So, by the end of the night, after I’d had time to talk to a girlfriend about it, I sent him a straight forward, non-emotional, friendly text, and I asked him if, going forward, one of us says “have a good day” the other person makes a point to say “you too” after reading the first text, and that’s the end of it. No more hurt feelings, that simple.

I wasn’t sure if he’d get mad, laugh, or think I was ridiculous. And guess what? I didn’t care. I felt that if I couldn’t be honest about how I needed us to handle that type of situation in a specific way, then we didn’t need to text at all anymore. Period.

His answer to my text: “Had a very rare mega oversleep day and read your text the second I woke up and then was off and running immediately, so it just slipped my mind you had even said that. If that happens, another text a bit later saying HEY, YOU OK? would be awesome too. Then you’d get two responses back. Hope it’s a great day on your side today!”

I was like, wow! What a nice response! I’d finally gotten to the place where I could text what I needed nicely, even though I was frustrated. And he got to the place where he could answer my request for handling the situation differently in the future nicely! No more drama! Done! And we celebrated our communication success! It was a milestone.

And then after thinking about it more I realized the patterns didn’t change at all. After 6 years of this type of thing going on, it didn’t change AT ALL. He did the same type of thing, woke up, read my text and was off and running without a quick response. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lived through this scenario with him. And it was far worse emotionally for me when we were together because I’d left my husband for him, was going through a divorce, had kids to raise and everything else, yet he’d do this type of thing and I’d feel so abandoned!

When this happened this time, I didn’t feel abandoned, just pissed and like he was insensitive. After reading his reason for not responding, I realized he was just feeling behind on his day, which happens a lot with his mindset. Being an entrepreneur definitely contributes to that. Being self-employed isn’t easy in that regard. But still, it’s a pattern in his behavior. How hard would it be to lie in his bed for ten more seconds and type a simple “you too!” Especially when it’s caused us so much angst in the past. Ten more seconds to type that would have made a difference in my day, and it’s tempting to think I’m just not important enough to him to type two little words before starting his day. The fact things like this couldn’t change along the way definitely contributed to why we are strictly friends now.

So, bottom line here peeps—all my complaining about this type of thing happening, and it happened AGAIN! But the way in which we handled it was completely different, which was great. Of course I wish it wouldn’t happen in the first place… and I realize his solution was for ME to send a follow up text asking if he’s okay rather than HIM thinking maybe next time he can just take a minute, stop reacting out of habit by immediately jumping out of bed, and send a two word text before starting his “already-behind” day.

I’ve realized “it is what it is” and “we are who we are,” and he has no intention of changing in this area and never has.

The success came in how we communicated our viewpoints nicely! I’ll take that as a definite win.

According to this article, we need four steps to change a habit for good. I will highlight the main points of the aricle and provide a link at the end so you can read it all.

Step 1. Mindfulness: being aware of the present moment

Step 2. Train your mind, train your behavior. The author gives the following example:

Situation-Thought-Feeling-Behavior

Situation – I have a meeting.

Thought – I don’t like this meeting.

Feeling – Anger, frustration, anxiety

Behavior – I go to the meeting but feel agitated and checked out the whole time. I to to the vending machine right after the meeting and get a sugary fatty snack food. Now I have a habit.

Step 3. Implement a new rewarding routine

Situation – I have a meeting.

Thought – I don’t like this meeting, but I know it’s important for me to be there.

Feeling – Ease, contentment

Behavior – I go to the meeting with an attitude of receptivity. I also make a plan to go for a walk afterward as a reward.

We change our habits by changing our routine to a new rewarding one.

4. Create a Compassionate Action Plan

Research from Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion shows that when we have a critical thought, our nervous system goes into fight/flight/freeze and from this place we can only respond from our reptilian brain (we are in survival mode). From a place of fight/flight/freeze we are unable to see the bigger picture, be creative or compassionate toward the perceived stressor. Criticism makes us feel more anxious, more depressed, and more afraid of failure.

The author of the article tells us she believes the antidote to criticism and greatest motivator is compassion.

Wow, this last step is really intriguing to me because, first of all, I’m a big believer in being compassionate with ourselves, and it took me a long time to realize my ex-lover’s choice to not send me a quick two-word text before getting out of bed is because he overslept and was already feeling behind on his day. Which means he was feeling self-critical. Instead of being compassionate with himself and me, he quickly read the text, probably feeling a bit shitty for having slept so late, and he hurried out of bed, completely forgetting he’d seen the text at all. A more compassionate response, to both him and me, would be, in my opinion, to take ten seconds for a two-word text.

To read the article, on how to change a habit, in its entirety, click here!