When couples split up, everyone wants to know what happened. Friends close to the couple may say, “I thought they were so happy together,” or, “Why after so many years?” However, it’s not always the big things that cause the biggest threat. Sometimes it’s the little things; for example, the numerous times you broke a promise, didn’t show gratitude, or forgot a special occasion. In long-term relationships, the constant threat is taking your partner for granted and failing to make them priority. When you begin living your life for yourself and not considering your partner’s needs, you begin the downhill spiral into a joyless relationship.
It’s normal to make mistakes or say the wrong thing in a relationship. However, the key is to learn to forgive each other and try to do better. Below are the most common behaviors that begin unraveling relationships. If you can identify one or two you’re guilty of, take the time to make changes and let your partner know you are sorry and work together to do better.
- You’re no longer open to trying new things. Marriage research supports that couples who keep doing new things, like going on new adventures or learning new topics, have more interesting and fun relationships. When one partner shuts themselves off to trying new things, this builds resentment in the other partner. Try a new restaurant or go for a Saturday hike instead of the same old Netflix binge.
- You talk badly about your partner to your friends. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, this was called social sabotage. Women in the study were more likely to use this tactic them men; however, when men did it, it was more damaging to the marriage. It is a form of aggression and hurts a relationship because the sole purpose is to publicly embarrass or shame the partner. If your partner is annoying you, tell your partner, not others. If that doesn’t work, pursue marriage therapy to learn how to communicate effectively.
- You’re dishonest about finances. According to financial polls, more than 45% of adults said they’ve lied to their partner about their finances. Being dishonest about money can be perceived as financial infidelity, and it causes fights, distrust, and divorce. Money is more than numbers – it’s power and security. Develop a budget you both have access to and set up budget talks. Both partners should understand where the money is going and agree on financial goals.
- You display signs of contempt towards your partner. One of the biggest predictors of divorce is showing signs of disgust or disrespect towards your partner. It’s hurtful when it happens, but it’s unbearable when it’s consistent. Partners who act out with contempt have an inability to see their partner’s perspective and develop a superior attitude. This humiliates their partner, causing resentment and insecurity. Healing begins when you stop what you’re doing, find a more positive way to communicate, and practice gratitude.
- You have kitchen sink arguments. This happens to couples who have been together or known each other a long time. Something annoying or hurtful happens, and one partner begins complaining to their partner. This complaint includes a list of numerous wrongdoings (sometimes related to the issue at hand) from the past that were hurtful. They then relate them to what’s going on in the present. This sort of arguing deteriorates trust and makes it difficult to be vulnerable. After all, would you confide something personal with your partner if you knew it may be thrown back at you during an argument? Work to resolve arguments and hurts in your relationship. When you forgive your partner, let the past be the past.
- You try to solve conflicts through texting. Trying to work out your relationship conflicts over text instead of face-to-face is harmful to your relationship. Text is an easy way to withdraw from the relationship or create miscommunication and misunderstandings. Find a time to sit down together without disruptions and resolve the issue at hand. If the conflict is too difficult to talk about, it’s good to take a break and sit down another day to hash it out. Just don’t sweep it under the rug or withdraw from an opportunity to learn more about your partner and practice teamwork.
Marriage is work for everyone. Don’t give up, and don’t blame your partner for your unhappiness. Accept the fact that no person was created to make you happy every moment of every day. Find meaning and purpose in what you can do and give back to others. It’s within those actions that we find true joy.