Do you pay more attention to your smartphone than your spouse? Have you been avoiding sex – or hiding big purchases from your partner?
These are just a few examples of behaviors that can do serious harm to your relationship, according to marriage counselors who work closely with couples. The good news is that it’s not too late to retool your bad habits. The first step is to understand the things you’re doing right now that may be pulling you both off track. Here are 8 destructive habits that can cause trouble in the strongest of relationships.
If you or your partner is addicted to anything, on any level – whether it’s social media, food, alcohol, drugs, shopping or gambling – your relationship is in for trouble.
Your addiction quickly becomes a third party in your marriage, drawing energy, attention, and resources away from your partnership. Ultimately, an addiction will make it impossible for you to give the other person what s/he needs.
Recovery from any kind of addiction takes time for both partners, and you may need the help of a professional therapist. Preserving your marriage should be an explicit goal of your work together.
2. AVOIDING SEX
If you’ve slipped into the bad habit of making excuses for the sex you’re not having, your marriage may be headed for trouble. Intimacy is the bond that holds a union together, and when it weakens, so does the relationship.
If you find you’re almost never in the mood, deeper feelings about your spouse may be the problem. You need to feel good about each other to be intimate – so if you’re constantly fighting or criticizing each other, your sex life will suffer, too.
Try concentrating for a month on all the things you love about your spouse. Decide to say “yes” a lot more often than you say “no” when s/he initiates sex. See if a good conversation can’t lead to more. Often, the simple feeling of connection that happens when you talk can create the right mood for intimacy.
3. FAILING TO COMMUNICATE
Do you find that every conversation turns into a battle or quickly fades into silence? That’s a serious red flag for the health of your relationship.
Good communication comes down to asking for what you need. It’s dangerous to expect your partner to be a mind-reader. And if you find you keep getting entangled in the same arguments, it’s a sure bet that you’ve lost the ability to really listen to each other and consider what the other person may require.
4. TREATING YOUR SPOUSE LIKE THE ENEMY
In close relationships, we run the risk of using our partners as punching bags. If you’re having a bad day, for example, you may pick a fight just to relieve the tension you’re feeling.
When you’re cranky and out of sorts, it’s your responsibility to realize it. You may need to ask for some quiet time or find another way to take care of yourself. Making your needs clear, instead of turning your bad mood into a problem for your spouse, is the best solution.
5. GETTING ANGRY ABOUT MONEY
It is often said that money is the root of all evil. Arguing over money is definitely the root of many conflicts in marriage.
Squabbling over finances is the top predictor of divorce, according to research from the University of Kansas. Couples tend to use harsher language when arguing about money and take longer to recover, the study of more than 4,500 couples found.
Researchers recommended that financial planning be part of marital counseling and that couples share their credit reports before marrying.
6. LETTING FAMILY COME BETWEEN YOU
Even if you’re close to your parents, siblings and other family members, you will need to make sure your spouse’s needs come first. This includes the need to keep some information private – and making sure you are not disloyal to your mate in conversations with others.
Once you marry, you and your partner become a primary family, taking priority over others. Make sure you discuss how to set boundaries with each other’s parents and family members. If your families have different styles and traditions, negotiate with each other first, then present a united front.
7. NOT FIGHTING FAIR
Do you spend more time complaining about an issue than working to resolve it? When you argue, do you bring up old hurts so that pretty soon, neither one of you can even remember what started the fight?
You and your spouse will inevitably have some differences in the way you resolve conflicts. But the way you go about settling your differences can either strengthen or tear down your relationship.
Work to establish ground rules that reflect mutual respect and trust. Validate your spouse by acknowledging the points you agree upon and practicing reflective listening. Look for solutions that offer advantages for both of you. Above all, avoid falling into the trap of needing to be “right” all the time. There’s no quicker way to destroy your relationship than placing your own feelings first every time there’s an issue between you.
8. NEGLECTING THE LITTLE THINGS
All of us need reassurance and affirmation on a daily basis. Your spouse looks to you to fulfill those needs – and you depend on your spouse, too, for validation and love. But in the crush of your demanding lives, you may miss the chance to compliment your spouse or handle little favors that make life easier.
Don’t ignore the importance of tender and loving gestures. Everyday acts of kindness are crucial for a successful marriage. Affection, politeness, and sweetness make everything run smoother – and while it takes mindful effort, you’ll find that once you focus on appreciating your partner, it becomes easier and more natural with time.
CREATING THE RELATIONSHIP YOU TRULY WANT
As an expert therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples in the Las Vegas area, I am ready to help you transform the habits that can be damaging to your relationship. Together, we can explore the deeper issues surrounding these habits and create a plan for a meaningful change.
To schedule a conversation in my offices, get in touch with me today.