It’s one thing to find the woman or man of your dreams. It’s quite another to go through your whole relationship with no bumps in the road.
Relationships take work by the bucketload. And there’s no manual, no how-to guide for when the going gets tough. Even the best-intentioned couples will make mistakes in their relationships. But some errors in judgement can seriously damage the solid foundation the two of you have worked so hard to nurture.
When seeking to foster a healthy relationship, we often look to the mistakes our parents and peers have made. We may also seek to emulate the dynamic embodied by couples we know, people who seem to have been genuinely in love for years, decades even. Strategies such as these have their place and can be immensely helpful, but you ultimately need to be aware of your own flaws, and how they might lead to problems in the relationship. And there’s no better way of equipping yourself for the long-term than by recognizing common mistakes we all make that could harm your relationship down the line.
1) Taking your partner for granted
We’ve all done it. After a long time getting along just fine, there comes a time when your partner becomes part of the furniture. You don’t mean to make them feel unspecial, but your actions nonetheless need addressing if you want the relationship to survive. After all, being with someone who makes you feel plain and uninteresting can be far lonelier than being single.
Research has consistently demonstrated over the years that gratitude is an essential component of any successful, long-lasting relationship. In 2018, a team at the Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley, reported that couples may be better able to ‘weather challenging situations’ than singletons by virtue of their unending and unconditional support of one another. So express genuine and unreserved gratitude to your partner when they help you or act in such a way that makes you sincerely happy to have them in your life. Not only will this cement your bond, it will also encourage reciprocal behaviors from them toward you.
2) Postponing happiness
It’s almost certain that you or your partner has uttered one of these classics at some point in the relationship:
- “We’ll have more time to spend with each other when the kids have grown up.”
- “We’ll be happier once we’ve moved into a bigger place.”
- “We’ll definitely schedule in some quality us time soon.”
But delaying your happiness for the future, however practical it may feel to do so, means you deny yourselves the freedom to live in the moment and be happy now, happy with what you’ve got and happy with the future you’re building as a team, regardless of what that future holds for you.
There will of course be times when life comes a-callin’ and there simply aren’t enough hours in a day to spend quality time together. However, don’t view these obstacles as hindrances, but as opportunities to strengthen your bond. After all, it’s time like those that most enable you to fortify your relationship. Spend those precious fleeting moments being nothing but present, loving and dependable.
3) Feeling like you’re stuck in your relationship
When you spend your life with someone, it’s understandable why you might feel that the spark has been extinguished. Running a household, managing day-to-day activities, chores, careers, kids… Sometimes it can feel more like you’re trying to maintain a business than a relationship. And if you find yourselves following the same laborious routines, day in, day out, it can seem like you’re stuck in a rut. But you don’t have to feel that way.
Proactively spend time with each other, apart from all the admin, logistics and stress of daily life. Be in one another’s company simply for its own sake. Go out and be active, feel excited and stimulate your minds, or simply spend an evening cuddled up on the sofa together. You might just be amazed at how much these simple measures can strengthen your relationship. In fact, research headed by psychologist Charlotte Reissman in 1993 demonstrated that couples who took just small and periodic moments to cherish their partner reported significantly higher levels of marital satisfaction.
4) Ignoring issues
Every relationship has problems at one time or another, but it’s when you refuse to acknowledge them that they begin to fester. No one enjoys rocking the boat by speaking of an issue previously unmentioned, especially when things are going well, but denying the existence of a problem won’t make it go away. It will only make it worse.
Timing is paramount when you want to raise an issue with your partner. Unfortunately, there’s never a good time to initiate a difficult conversation, but it’s always best to get things out in the open. You might disagree, argue, shout, whatever — but facing these problems head on gives both of you the best possible chance of fixing the relationship before it’s damaged irreparably.
5) Not listening
Staring mindlessly at your phone instead of acknowledging your partner’s worries. Nodding and smiling as they tell you about their day but not actually engaging with them. Mentally calculating your own counterarguments rather than sincerely hearing what’s concerning your partner during a fight. Poor and inattentive listening is a beast of many forms. And, whether you realize it or not, your partner will become aware at one point or another that they’re just not being heard anymore.
If you’re genuinely not interested in what they have to say, you need to ask yourself what you’re doing in a relationship in the first place. However, if you do want to develop your listening skills and are concerned that your poor communication is damaging the relationship, there is so much you can do to help yourself.
To begin with, remember that listening is not the same as staying silent. Active listening entails reacting appropriately and proportionately to what your partner is saying, while allowing them center stage to vent and ramble to their heart’s content. Ask questions. Maintain eye contact. Reflect on and summarize what they have said — or help them iterate what they are trying to say. Your partner will notice and appreciate the wholehearted attention you grant them.
You don’t have to worry about your relationship alone
Many of us are far too proud, too private, too anxious, to voice our concerns and worries about our relationship to others. This makes sense on some level; after all, if we present ourselves as happy, stable and in a good place, we might then fear that letting someone in will bring down the entire façade. But if you are legitimately concerned that the problems in your relationship will ultimately prove its downfall, you need to sit down with your partner and talk openly, frankly and honestly. And if you need professional advice, help is out there.
Maclynn International’s in-house relationship psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree has over 15 years’ experience helping individuals overcome the barriers we put up that prevent us from finding love. Get in touch today to book in a coaching session, and together let’s get you and your relationship back on the road to redemption.