No one said marriage, or being in a serious relationship, was easy. It's hard work! It requires patience, emotional responsibility, kindness, acceptance, compassion, empathy, and the list goes on. The key, relationship experts say, is to keep working at your romantic partnership day by day—and to kick bad habits to the curb. Start with these eight today.
All couples fight—it's a normal part of the relationship package. But when you feel like you're knee-deep in a pattern of arguing to the point where it almost becomes second nature, you'll want to dial things back fast. "Many couples don't even know how they get into this dynamic—all they know is that they hate the fighting and they begin to hate each other because of the fighting," says April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert. "Ending the bickering requires more discipline than you might imagine—and it just takes one to stop it. So, recognize it. And when you feel yourself inciting or reacting, simply stop."
Making Each Other Wrong
While being "right" in an argument might make you feel better in the heated moment, it won't actually matter in a few weeks, months, or years. That's why relationship experts warn against convincing your S.O. that he or she is wrong in a fight. "Every communication has the power to bring people closer to you or push them away, and when people are made wrong they have two choices: defend or retreat. Neither will bring them closer to you," explains Claudia Six, Ph.D., a relationship coach. "You can convey your point or make a request without making them wrong."
Using Accusatory Words
Dr. Six warns against using language starting with "you always" or "you never," as all they do is add fuel to an already escalating fire. "This leads the other person to draw up their defense and maybe add a complaint of their own," she says. "Rather than, 'You always leave the toilet seat up! You're so inconsiderate!' try, 'It would really help me out if you'd put the toilet seat down. Can you do that for me?'"
Giving Romance the Back Seat
When you've been together for years or even decades, it's normal for the spark to go out now and then. But your job as a committed couple is to prioritize romance whenever you can. "Most couples are very busy with careers, child-rearing, and blended or extended families," says Masini. "If you've been stuck in this relationship dynamic for a long time, it's tough to break the pattern, but it's not impossible." She suggests making sure your calendar includes time for romance, including dinners out, alone time, and sex. "It's a way to start reinstating romance as a priority in your relationship."
Waiting for Your Partner to Make the First Move
Initiating sex should be a two-way street, says Dr. Six. Being a passive victim and blaming your significant other for not being more romantic is the wrong move. "It could be a very long and miserable wait for both of you," she explains. "If you make it happen, your lover will feel desired, and will then be much more likely to reciprocate, and confident that you'll receive them. And everyone's happy."
Turning to Alcohol When You're Upset
If your gut reaction after a quarrel is to pour yourself a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey, you may want to rethink your priorities. "Numbing out because something isn't working for you or you're anxious is a cop out," says Dr. Six. "Open your mouth to talk about what is troubling you instead of opening it to ingest an anesthetic." Instead of avoiding the issues in your relationship, she recommends sitting down to talk. If you're having trouble doing that, consider speaking to a couples counselor or therapist who can help you address the issues in your partnership.
Being Overly Sarcastic
A bit of witty humor can be especially attractive at the beginning. However, Celeste Holbrook, Ph.D., explains that humor can sometimes dive into sarcasm as a relationship lengthens. "Sarcasm is simply truths or annoyances that are difficult to talk about, so they come out in a 'humorous' jab," she says. "Sarcasm, unlike witty, silly teasing, is harmful to the relationship because it is no longer humor that connects you together, but rather humor that is divisive."
Telling Your Parents Everything About Your Relationship
Even if you tell your mom or dad everything, being in a committed relationship means that certain things should be kept between the partners. The risk you run is driving a wedge between the two of you. "Make it a point to give your parents limited information about struggles you are having," says Dr. Holbrook. "Although parents can often have great advice, they can also take a very one-sided approach because they will usually see the fault in the partner, not their child." Having parental boundaries can help you turn to your partner for help and support instead of turning to someone on the outside, creating a stronger bond and less tension, she adds.