1. Approaching discussions poorly
In the beginning of a relationship, you tend to tiptoe around discussing serious or negative things. You’re careful not to burst the happy bubble, broaching such subjects with great care. Later on, you’re more comfortable and less sensitive to how they might react. The temptation to be passive-aggressive can sneak up on you. Maybe you’re both about to leave in the morning and this is the day that they’re finally asking for that raise. Don’t try to get them to buck up by saying, “And don’t be spineless like you usually are. Remember when your buddy kept borrowing money but never paid it back, but you were too nervous about conflict to confront him? Grow a pair for once.” If she just came back from a discouraging visit to the fertility clinic, this isn’t the time to say, “Aw, honey, I’m sorry, but you should’ve started working out with me when I asked you to and your body would be better prepared.” Read your partner and read the situation. Strive for a balance of the best timing, delicacy, and honesty in discussing things with your partner.
2. Taking each other for granted
After a while, it’s easy to move each other further down your list of priorities. There was a time when you’d duck out of a business meeting to send an immediate reply to their text. Now, you postpone a romantic dinner out so you can work late. You lounge around in gym shorts and ratty T-shirts because they love you anyway. You accept favors from them without much of a thank you because, as partners, it’s expected that they help you out. Don’t fall into the trap of taking each other for granted. Say “thank you” with a big hug and kiss, wash your face and put on some makeup, make date nights a priority, and stop checking your email when you’re together. Always remember how lucky you are to have one another and express that appreciation.
3. Letting yourself to be insecure
You’re feeling good about yourself and full of love as you surprise him by dropping off a homemade lunch to him at work. He’s touched and gives you a deep kiss before he introduces you to some of his colleagues. Wait, this is Sarah? He’s mentioned pulling a few late nights at the office with Sarah and Michael, but holy cow – your stomach churns as you smile and shake this shapely brunette’s hand. She could be a Victoria's Secret model. Driving back home, you look at yourself in the rear view mirror. There are bags under your eyes that show the strain of raising a rowdy but lovable group of three young children. Your hair is in a typical “mom ponytail,” a far cry from Sarah’s perfectly blown out tresses. Stop! Unless he provides strong cause for suspicion, like coming home with lipstick on his neck, don’t drown yourself in jealousy and insecurity. There will always be some reason or other to have moments of insecurity – your girlfriend is laughing at some guy’s joke and playfully swats his arm, or the pretty waitress is flirting with your husband. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you dwell on such fleeting things.
Focus on what you are – their choice of who to love. You’re the one they’re proud to call their partner. Maybe you do have spit-up on your shoulder and you haven’t gotten a pedicure in months, but when he sees you, he just sees the woman he loves and a great mother to his children. Be proud of yourself and your great qualities as a partner, and rest easy in knowing that they’re proud of you, too.
4. Keeping things bottled up
We’ve been told since childhood that patience is a virtue. It is a wonderful quality that we should all strive for, but only if we pursue it properly. There are many of us that try to be patient by bottling things up until we inevitably explode. There’s a limit to the number of things we can let slide, cut slack for, and tolerate while our eyes twitch and our fists clench. Trying to shut all our complaints and grievances into a box backfires because, after a while, the box collapses and everything spills out at once. Mention things in a respectful, reasonable way if something bothers you. Encourage an open line of communication between the two of you and realize that sometimes, you annoy your partner and that they’ll let you know, and vice versa. Don’t get offended and strike back or shut down. Give each other the opportunity to know and fix little things and habits, mentioning them as they happen in a casual, gentle way.
5. Trying to change your partner
Speaking of not keeping things bottled up, it is great to let each other know minor habits that bother each other. Oftentimes, people aren’t even aware of the little annoyances they cause – like bouncing her leg during a movie or the fact that dairy gives him really bad breath – and will appreciate that you told them so they can fix the situation. However, we all have fundamental foibles that are here to stay. You may think you’re helping your partner get over them shyness when you put the spotlight on them in social settings and chide them later for clamming up. You may think you’re helping your partner present themselves better when you tell them to change their obnoxious-sounding laugh. Bad habits and minor quirks can be straightened out, but recognize what aspects of your sweetie are inherently part of them. Getting on their case or forcing something that’s unnatural to them will only create mutual resentment and anxiety.
6. Bad-mouthing them to friends and family
This is something that doesn’t even occur to many people before it’s too late. When things are fine and good, you don’t talk about it that much – how many headlines do you see that say “No crimes in this town today. No teenagers currently pregnant at this high school. Every car on this street signaled before turning this evening.” It’s the bad times that are topics of conversation. When your relationship is fine, you don’t call up your mom and say, “Brad and I woke up this morning, kissed, laughed over a cup of coffee, and told each other I love you before we went to work today.” We just say “we’re fine” before moving on to other matters. However, when something is wrong, that’s when all the details pour out and we run our mouths analyzing and complaining.
Eventually, you’ll be surprised when your beau meets your friends and family and the reception is less than warm. After all, what they know about your sweetie is that he always leaves crumbs on the table, does stupid impressions, doesn’t appreciate you, lost your car keys, and picked a fight with you when he came home drunk last week. Friends and family may be an outlet for your frustrations, but manage what you say carefully. Constant complaints and lack of positive mentions leave them wondering, “why is she with him?” Tone down the venting and remember the compliments and praise. Let them know about the great things your sweetie has done and the ways they make you happy.
7. Forgetting to be a couple
Marriage has a bad reputation. There are tons of jokes about how once the vows are said, the romance is dead, and suddenly a girlfriend transforms from a loving woman into a frigid set of ball and chains, while a boyfriend that was thoughtful and romantic turns into a golf playing, grunting man that forgets anniversaries. Something about locking each other down and agreeing to commitment translates into “it’s okay to lounge around in sweatpants, unshowered, and binging on The Kardashians” or “I can work late five days a week and only buy flowers once a year for her birthday.” Many people take commitment to be a green light for letting yourself and the relationship go. It should be the opposite way – never stop dating each other. If you’ve agreed to spend the rest of your lives together, you should be trying to impress the hell out of that person. Your lives should be filled with romance and closeness. Parents, hire a babysitter. Non-parents, tell your bosses that you’re unavailable for a night. Spend some quality time together as a couple in love.
8. Finding many more faults in your partner than yourself
Let’s be honest with ourselves. As many faults as our partners may have, we often make excuses for or don’t acknowledge our own. When one partner is condemning the other with a barrage of criticisms, it creates conflict and breeds resentment. The one feeling attacked will be in no mood to listen to the criticisms or fix anything, and the one attacking will get even more worked up and be seen as a villain. There are too many cases of the pot calling the kettle black – be frank with yourself to avoid being the pot.
9. Being glued to your phones
Did you know that you’re probably engaging in daily foursomes? When you wake up, eat dinner, and go to bed with your sweetie, there’s another couple constantly pressed against you – your phones. Even when you and your partner are spending time together, it’s likely while you’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed or checking your friends’ latest Instagrams. When you sleepily cuddle in the morning before getting up, you’re checking your email. Sometimes, you just sit together with your phones and show each other funny things on Reddit and Buzzfeed. Take a break from the ever-present “other couple” and spend some quality time together, just you two. Focus on each other without noisy or distracting gadgets in your hands. Appreciate the living, breathing, entertaining, smart, and funny human that loves you.
10. Holding onto grudges
Whether on the radio or through your Elsa-loving toddler, you’ve likely heard the song “Let it Go” many times before. Take the key phrase of that song and turn it into a mantra. We’ve all been upset by our partners and we’ve all irritated them. Don’t hold onto thoughts of “that one that you…” and the “last week when you….” Don’t cling to the annoyances of yesterday and the spats of last month. Don’t bring them up again and again to fuel fresh conflicts. Just let it go. Your mind will feel cleaner and your love for your sweetie won’t be marred by angry memories. Let it go.