Six Ways You're Sabotaging Your Relationship with Your Partner
If your relationship with your significant other is not "perfect," there's no cause for alarm. In fact, there's no such thing as a perfect relationship—all couples fight, have moments of tension, and disagree now and then. However, what matters most is how you communicate and inevitably get back to a place where you're both happy. As Jacob Kountz, marriage and family therapist trainee and clinic manager at California State University, explains, couples do things in a relationship that can either add or take away from it, meaning our actions and attitudes can either help our bond grow or potentially hurt it and stunt its growth. Not sure where you and your partner stand? Here are some clear ways you might be sabotaging your relationship.
Putting Other People or Activities Ahead of Your Relationship
Yes, it's important to have friends, family, hobbies, and interests, but they shouldn't all take priority over your partner. "Sometimes you have to put your significant other ahead of other things, and if you don't then you could be sending them a signal that they are less important to you," says Mary Ann Mercer, Psy.D., psychologist and co-founder of Positive Life Answers. "If you want your relationship to thrive, it requires ongoing attention and care, just like your hobbies and relationships with your friends and family."
Deflecting Small Comments
Even the small things your partner says—that may be seemingly unimportant to you or seem to require no response—should be acknowledged even slightly. For example, if your partner mentions how nice the weather is today, simply saying, "That's great," is at least acknowledging that he or she has spoken. "Over the course of a relationship, the smallest gestures and comments matter," says Kountz. "The less we respond to simple comments such as talking about the weather, the easier it might be to fall into patterns where you find yourself getting quieter and quieter to the point where you're no longer responding, even to the simplest of conversations." What should you do? Simply respond, even if you feel it's unnecessary—more often than not, it is necessary, Kountz says.
Sweeping Thoughts and Feelings Under the Rug
If your usual way of coping with uncomfortable or unpleasant thoughts or feelings is to bury them deep inside where you start to forget they're even there, you're doing yourself and your relationship more harm than good. "The more you do not express what it is your feeling, regardless if it's good, bad, or ugly, the easier it will be to experience moments of snapping, when you finally unleash your emotions in a not-so-pretty way," says Kountz. While it can take some adjustment, he recommends making a concerted effort to start being more open and honest with your thoughts and feelings—first with yourself and then with your partner.
Constantly Dishing Criticisms
No matter how many times your partner leaves the toilet seat up, or how many times you have to remind them it's their turn to wash the dishes, try to avoid letting criticisms slip out of your mouth on the regular. "Criticism creates a negative environment and causes the criticized to hide things or walk on eggshells," says Laurel House, dating and relationship expert and host of the Man Whisperer podcast. "While you might honestly be trying to help improve your partner and the relationship, your method of disapproval is creating distance and placing a wedge." If you want your partner to change, House recommends communicating in a productive, non-demeaning way instead.
Having Unrealistic Expectations
"While criticism makes him feel like he's not good enough, expectations make him feel like he can't do or give you enough," explains House. "If you want, hope, or expect him to come home with flowers, compliment your new haircut, stop drinking after two glasses of wine with dinner, buy you that bag that your best friend has, or go to your daughter's dance class, simply tell him!" Humans are not mind readers—we need to be told what's expected of us in order to act on these expectations. According to House, unspoken expectations only set the relationship up for failure. Your best bet is to find the right time to mention some of the things you'd love if your partner could start (or stop) doing—in the nicest way possible.
No Longer Flirting
Whether you've been together two years or twenty, flirting is an essential part of a healthy relationship, according to House. "When you stop flirting, you make your partner feel like you don't care enough to make them feel 'sexy,'" she explains. While you don't have to flirt every spare second you have, she recommends making an effort to do so weekly, or even just whenever the two of you have a date night.
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