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Don’t Start a Battle

Having a military mindset makes you the force that you are. But applying that in a relationship can create stress and start some unintended skirmishes. Here are five philosophies Soldiers live by that are best left at the armory.

1. “Quit your whining.”

The military is not a fan of complaining, and with good reason; in most operations, there’s no room for negativity. But if you adopt a “complaining is always bad” attitude in your personal life, it can be perceived as a lack of compassion, which can harm your relationship. When your significant other is venting to you, they’re not necessarily asking you to fix their problems; they probably just want validation. So unless they ask specifically for your help, start by simply listening. If you don’t agree with their beef, it’s OK—just know that you are almost never going to convince someone that they’re wrong about their feelings, and trying to convince them to feel differently will only frustrate you both. Instead, respond with empathy, which will communicate that you value them.

2. “You don’t get bonus points for doing your job.”

The Guard does a great job of recognizing accomplishments, but you’re probably more used to seeing people punished for improper behavior than rewarded for doing the right thing. At home, positive reinforcement is crucial to healthy relationships. So give positive feedback at least twice as often as negative. Think of your relationship like a money jar. Every compliment or “attaboy” is like depositing a quarter. Every time you criticize or insult your significant other, it’s like taking a dollar out. In other words, your positive investments in someone have to greatly outweigh the withdrawals. The good news is that making those investments in someone usually leads to a relationship that’s priceless.

3. “We only make fun of the ones we love.”

You probably feel more comfortable telling crass jokes around your comrades than your civilian friends. With that comfort level comes a tendency to poke fun at one another. This habit can be dangerous in a romantic relationship. Every time you accidentally step over the line into an area your partner is sensitive about, you run the risk of doing serious damage (and making huge withdrawals from your relationship money jar). Remember that, sometimes, people who seem like they’re “playing along” might actually have hurt feelings. Relationships without humor are boring, but don’t assume that your significant other will laugh at the same things as your Guard buddies, and cut out jokes that come at your partner’s expense.

4. “When I say ‘Jump,’ you say, ‘How high?’ ”

In the military, questioning authority is—to put it mildly—discouraged. Officers and NCOs especially are used to people doing what they’re told. In the civilian world, healthy relationships need both individuals to feel valued and respected. Whether you and your partner are parenting together, picking out curtains or deciding how much to spend on a new car, balance out your tendency for being demanding and direct with kindness and patience. Remember that your relationship is a team effort, not a dictatorship, and make sure you’re not letting your ability to be decisive override your significant other’s need to feel like part of the team.

5. “I got this.”

As the saying goes, no man (or woman) is an island. The Guard teaches Soldiers to be self-sufficient. But not asking for help when you need it is a recipe for frustration, bitterness and mental stress. Sometimes the right move in a stressful situation is to have the guts to open up to someone. That could mean something as simple as verbalizing feelings that you’re having, or as significant as talking to a counselor when you’re struggling with something bigger than everyday stress. Whether your problems are large or small, keeping them to yourself instead of sharing the load is never a good idea.