You are human, which means you make mistakes. The problem is that when you’re in a relationship, your actions aren’t just impacting you; they hurt the person you love the most in the entire world. Whether you are married or just dating, here are 8 of the worst mistakes you can make in your relationship:
1) You take an all or nothing approach when it comes to conflict.
You don’t want to rock the boat or cause “unnecessary” conflict, so you keep your mouth shut and try to deal with your grievances on your own. In the moment this may seem like a good idea, but you’ll learn this is a recipe for disaster and resentment. So is voicing every little annoyance and frustration, and constantly picking fights.
In a healthy relationship, communication and conversation about issues shouldn’t turn into confrontation and conflict. It’s having the confidence that if you’re upset, hurt or in pain, your partner will turn towards you to make an attempt to L.U.V. you—that’s my acronym for effective couple’s communication in which each partner will listen, understand and validate the other’s emotional experiences.
Research shows the happiest couples have the skill of overlooking the things they don’t like about their partner, and hyper-focusing on what they cherish. That doesn't mean ignore major problems, or sweep everything under the rug, but rather a general practice of focusing on what's right instead of what's wrong. The daily practice of gratitude can help. Every night, tell your partner one small, concrete thing he or she did that day that you appreciated or made you feel loved.
2) You stop being affectionate.
You used to not be able to keep your hands off each other, but over time you’ve stopped going out of your way to greet your partner with a hug and kiss, you sit on separate ends of the couch, or one person goes to bed before the other. The physical intimacy in your relationship is dwindling, and it can significantly impact your feelings of connection and desire.
For partners whose top love language (the way in which you most like to receive love) is physical touch, this lack of affection can lead to feeling uncared for and emotionally detached. Aim for hugs, kisses, cuddles and hand-holding that lasts at least twenty seconds, which is the amount of time it takes to release oxytocin, the hormone that helps you feel bonded and attached.
3) You let your body go.
Think back to when you were single. You likely felt motivated to be at your best, emotionally and physically, so that you could attract a quality partner. That means you probably prioritized your physiological needs, like diet, exercise and getting enough sleep. However, over time in a relationship, people tend to grow comfortable and complacent—you go out on dates and eat unhealthy food and you have decreased time to yourself so your exercise regimen may slip.
The food-mood, exercise-mood, and sleep-mood connection is real, leading to increased irritability, stress, anxiety and even depression when you make poor choices. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s imperative for the success of your relationship. When you’re not meeting your own physiological needs, you’re not showing up as the best partner you can be. One tip is to exercise with your partner since research has found that couples who sweat together stay together. Sign up for a yoga or boxing class together, train for a race, or cheer each other on in a Tough Mudder.
4) You don’t prioritize the relationship.
The obsession of the honeymoon phase is long gone, but that doesn’t mean you need to put your partner on the back burner. The daily grind, kids, work and other obligations can get in the way of growing together and sustaining emotional and physical intimacy.
The health of your relationship depends on carving out time every single day to connect with your partner. This can be as simple as putting down your phone, turning off other distractions, making eye contact and asking your partner, “How was your day?” or, “How are you feeling today?” Make sure you actually listen to their response, show empathy, and ask follow up questions. It's sad that I have to even write that, but couples are busier and more distracted than ever, and it's destroying your relationships.
5) You forget to date your mate.
Many couples who come into therapy have stopped having fun together, and are no longer prioritize special time for just the two of them to connect. Scheduling a weekly date night, and treating it as valuably as an appointment with your boss, aka something you can’t blow off, will ensure that you have time to enjoy each other’s company.
Novelty is a key ingredient to a successful date night since new activities activate the reward center in your brain and release dopamine, which helps give you that excited, lovin’ feeling. Though a relaxing night in with takeout and a movie is comfortable and convenient, aim for new experiences, such as trying a different restaurant, going to a concert or comedy show, or walking around an unexplored city to get the full benefits of date night.
6) You don’t have your partner’s back.
You may not always agree with your partner’s opinions or behaviors, but it’s important that you approach threatening people and barriers as a unified team. You need to support your partner when he or she is in pain.
A common issue I see in couples counseling is when one partner feels slighted or hurt by their partner’s family. You shouldn’t have to choose between your family and your partner, but you should have your partner’s back by asserting and addressing disrespectful behavior and setting boundaries. Your partner should be your ride or die, and knowing they are dependable and reliable increases the safety, security and satisfaction in your relationship.
7) You make big decisions without consulting your partner first.
In the best relationships, partners function as a team. This means there’s a “we factor” instead of a “me factor.” This comes into play when making both small and big decisions. Everything from, “What are we doing this weekend?” to quitting your job (especially when you have joint finances), and spending money, such as purchasing a car, home, or expensive vacation. Consulting with your partner shows you value their opinion, care about their feelings, and have their interest in mind. Oftentimes the conflict stems from differing expectations, which is why it’s essential to sit down and directly communicate so that you can set and agree upon expectations around decision-making, and avoid future conflict.
8) You cheat.
I couldn’t write this article without adding infidelity to the list. However, I included it at the end because I believe cheating is a symptom of a bigger crack in your relationship. It may occur when all, or even just one of the other mistakes I highlighted have happened. Though there are gender differences in infidelity, with men tending to cheat more for physical and sexual reasons, and women for emotional justifications, at the end of the day it’s happening because needs are not being met in your relationship. Cheating on your partner is one of the most hurtful things you can do, shattering your partner’s reality, and causing trust issues from which some can never rebound. Though it may feel easier to get your needs met outside of your relationship, rather than break this sacred boundary, shift your focus and energy inside of the partnership. Start talking to your partner about the disatisfaction and disconnection, and better ways you can both meet each other's needs.
For all of these mistakes that you can make in your relationship, you may not have the skills to remediate and work though them on your own. Unfortunately you're never taught in school how to communicate and have a successful, rewarding relationship. That's why I'm here to teach you. I strongly encourage you to be proactive and ask for help before it's too late, and you lose the one you love...WORK WITH SAMANTHA.