If you were hurting your partner every day without even realizing it, you'd want to know, right? I mean, no one wants to hurt their partners. But if you've ever come home one day to a partner who's mad at you for seemingly no reason, or who's especially cranky when they talk to you, then that could be exactly what's happening. Healthy relationships are hard work. I think I might get that tattooed on my face, since I say it multiple times per day. Part of that hard work is figuring out your partners boundaries and the things you say or do that upset them, even when upsetting them was not your intent.
When I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I spoke with couples who were having big, relationship-ending fights over tiny, fixable things. The problem was that there was a lack of communication and boundaries. Both partners were hurting or annoying or angering each other without realizing it, and those pains had built up for years until they were unstoppable monsters.
But because you're the type of person who wants to have a great relationship, and wants to do the work, this won't happen to you. Right? Well, take a look at this list of common ways you could be hurting your partner every day without even realizing it, and then take a quick assessment of your lives together. If you need to make changes, almost all of these things are super-easy fixes that will make your love so much stronger and your days so much happier. Do the work. Don't be a slacker.
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1. Not Speaking Up
If you're the type of person who never says anything when someone else hurts you or makes you mad, then you actually could be hurting your partner too. Let me explain. When you don't communicate the things that upset you, then over time, they'll build up into a massive pile of resentments. If you're full of resentments, then one day, you'll wake up angry at your partner for no discernible reason. You'll be snappy. You might even get to the point where you can't be in a relationship anymore. Don't feed the well of seething angst inside of you. It's cool to let the little things slide, but don't let the big ones go.
2. Being Selfish
There are so many tiny ways to be selfish that even feel like you're doing something nice. Like you bring home takeout one day because you're sure that you and your partner are both too tired to cook. You might be thinking, "I am the greatest partner to ever live! Beyoncé should make albums about me that tell the world of my relationship gifts!" But your partner might be thinking, "I hate this restaurant. They know I hate it. And they could have at least asked me what I wanted instead of bringing me something random. Just last week, they asked if I wanted this, and I said that I hated this place." Do you always get the things you want at the store when you know your partner prefers something different? In my house, we have to make two kinds of pasta, because she hates bite-sized and I hate long sloppy noodles. Don't be the kind of partner who only buys long, sloppy noodles.
3. Keeping A Tight Rein On The Wallet
Finances are hard to manage. It's like, you can't even spend your whole savings on summer collection nail polishes anymore, because you have joint financial goals and joint bills (*eye roll*). But if you don't let your partner spend any money in the name of saving, yet you somehow find ways to sneak in your little indulgences, they'll notice. And that's hurtful. It's not fair. My advice is to make a specific budget that accounts for where all of your money goes, and includes a fair and equal allowance that you both get and can spend however you want.
4. Being A Caregiver, Not A Partner
Because I'm friends with a lot of wildly free spirits, I so often see them get into relationships with more serious people who add balance to their lives and keep them grounded. This is great. But it's also easy to hurt your partner by falling into a role of caregiver instead of partner. No matter how free-spirited, your partner isn't a child who needs you to reprimand them, make rules for them, dress them, or tell them how they should live. The key is compromise, not control.
5. Burning Through Your Streaming Queue
Dude. Maybe you don't realize it, but that's a total D move. If you are watching shows together, you're also having shared emotional experiences. If you get home from work and watch four episodes ahead, that's not cool. That hurts my feelings, because you were supposed to wait for me. It's not just watching a show; it's excluding your partner. At least pretend you didn't watch it, then watch it with them. Gosh.
6. Throwing Their Stuff Away
Maybe you meant no harm; you were just spring cleaning, decluttering, redecorating, or organizing. And yeah, maybe your partner hasn't worn that tattered sweatshirt with the questionable stains on it in like three years, but it's still their sweatshirt. Maybe it had sentimental value. Throwing it away can make it seem like you don't respect your partner's belongings, or that you don't think they have good enough taste. It can also feel like you're erasing their individuality for the sake of "we." Not cool.
7. Being Too Critical
When your partner has good news or expresses a passionate interest in something, the correct response is to be supportive and excited for them in that moment. I mean, unless they want to start a heroin ring or something. But in general, support first, ask questions later. If you jump right in with questions about how things will work, whether it's a good idea, and so on, then you'll be raining on your partner's parade. Let them have some happiness, then discuss things later while coming from a place of support. Just because you think it (and you know you're right about how it's not going to work) doesn't mean you have to say it. At least, not right away.
8. Never Giving Compliments
The first few months we were dating, my wife never gave me a single compliment. Then one day I asked her what she liked about me, and she was shocked that I didn't know. There were so many things she loved about me, great things that she thought all the time. But I didn't know, because she never said them out loud. If you're not telling your partner what you love about them and what you think they're good at, you could be hurting them without even realizing it.
9. Not Practicing Gratitude
You have to be grateful and appreciative when you're in a relationship. Just because you and your partner have an agreement that they do certain chores doesn't mean you don't have to say thank you. Don't let the things your partner does to make your relationship work go unnoticed. That's totally hurtful.
10. Making Plans Without Asking
Do you make plans or volunteer your partner to do things without asking them first? Even if it's something you know they'll do anyway, you still need to ask. When you don't ask, you could be hurting your partner by sending the message that their time isn't that valuable to you, and neither are their opinions. You don't control how they spend their time. Plus, what if they already had plans? Rude.
11. Always Being Sarcastic
Maybe your sarcastic wit and curmudgeonly charm is what attracted your partner to you in the first place, but if you're not careful, your attitude could hurt your partner. Sometimes, your partner might want support, affection, or positivity, and there you are with the same old sarcasm. Sure, they know you're being sarcastic. But would it kill you to be sweet once in a while?
These hurtful mistakes are easy to make with good intentions, or without realizing. That's why constant communication is your best friend when you're in a healthy relationship.
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