There are all sorts of relationship issues that can drive a couple apart, including ones that we all know to avoid whenever possible — like cheating, not paying attention to your partner, etc. But there are several unexpected things not to do if you want a relationship to last.
These includes activities many couples do together, without realizing that they're detrimental to the health of a long-term relationship. While we all slip up occasionally, it's a good idea to avoid certain scenarios and habits that can undermine your connection.
But before we discuss what to avoid, let's first talk about the secret to creating a healthy relationship that'll last for the long haul. As clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web radio show, tells Bustle, "Every relationship has three parties: you, your partner, and the relationship. You need to consistently make sure that all three are thriving. You must continue to grow as an individual, your partner needs to do the same. And you need to care for yourself and your partner."
If you can both nurture yourselves, each other, and your connection as a couple, things will likely work out and be healthy from now, and long into the future. But also be sure to refrain from certain mistakes, like the ones listed below. These are activities experts say can tear a couple apart, without either of you even realizing it.
Going To Bed Super Angry
If you two just had a big argument, it can be beneficial to hit the proverbial "pause" button, cool off, and reconvene in the morning. But that doesn't mean you should both go to bed fuming mad.
"If you are having a fight, which is quite normal, make a sincere effort to come to some kind of truce before you turn in," Backe says. "The bed is where we go to recharge our batteries, to perform unconscious maintenance while we dream, and — of course — to love each other." So it's a good idea to keep any type of negative energy away from your bedroom, Backe says.
Often, all it takes is a promise that you'll pick things back up in the morning, after you've both gotten some sleep and had a moment to think. And, in many ways, agreeing to chat a few hours after the argument can actually be healthier than forcing yourselves to solve it, just because it's time for bed.
Comparing Yourselves To Other Couples
This one can be tricky in this day and age, what with all the adorable couples photos plastered all over social media. But it's still worth a shot when it comes to avoiding comparing your relationship to others.
"You cannot — and should not — compare yourselves to anyone but yourselves," Backe says. "Some even go so far as to say that you shouldn’t compare yourselves to your earlier selves, and to the time you first spent as a couple. Why? Because dating is a whole other ball game. In spite of what others may say, initial dating is not a relationship quite yet."
So go ahead and like photos of your friend's cute engagement party, or your coworker's dreamy getaway with her partner. But don't compare, or feel like your relationship doesn't have its own positives. You can certainly work to improve it, and take pointers from others. But at the end of the day, what you have with your partner is unique, and comparing will only tear you apart.
Turning Your Relationship Into A Competition
Similarly to comparing yourselves to other couples, you should keep any form of competition out of your own relationship, too. "Relationships are about compromise," Klapow says. "We know that, but it is easy as an individual to try and 'win' arguments and disagreements."
So when it comes to the health of your relationship, try to agree to disagree, and keep winning out of it. "Sometimes you are right and sometimes you are wrong and sometimes it doesn’t matter," Klapow says. "If you are keeping score of how many arguments/debates you have won or loss you will drive a wedge between you.'
Signing Up For Dating Apps, Going Out A Lot, Etc.
Since spending time away from each can improve the health of your relationship, you'll want to have hobbies and friends and goals that have nothing to do with your partner. And yet, that does not mean you should forget about your partner whilst you're away.
And that also doesn't mean you should act like you're single — by taking a peek at a dating app, chatting up a single coworker, etc. — even if you swear its innocent. "It’s important to be an individual and be yourself. But many people get into a relationship and see the compromises that have to occur as infractions on their lives," Klapow says. "You don’t get to have it both ways. If you are determined to do everything the way you did as a single person, you will drive your relationship into the ground."
So go out into the world, enjoy your time apart, but come back to each other at the end of the day. The time apart should rekindle your love for each other, give you something to talk about, and keep you both independent and mentally healthy.
Kicking Back And Acting As If "You've Made It"
One mistake many couples make, according to experts, is forgetting that relationships take work. Lots and lots of work. So when it comes to getting to know each other, creating a healthy relationship, and staying together, you're never actually "done."
As Klapow says, "Trust in the foundation of your relationship is good. But settling is a death sentence for the relationship." To foster a long-term, healthy relationship, you both need to be putting in effort to keep that spark alive, perhaps by having your own hobbies (as mentioned above), seeing a therapist to iron out any problems, or simply doing nice things for each other to show you still care. Easy as that.
Pointing Out Each Other's Tiny Flaws & Mistakes
While it may not feel as bad as a full-on argument, nitpicking can, in many ways, be just a destructive to a relationship as a big ol' fight. So if you feel the need to pick on each other for leaving the toilet seat up, throwing a wet towel on the floor, etc., be warned — this might start to wreck your connection.
"Constant criticism makes the other person feel insecure and afraid to share their true feelings," mental health counselor Casherie Bright, ACMHC, tells Bustle. "And [that can drive] people to feeling lonely and seeking out people or places they feel validated and accepted."
That's not to say you shouldn't discuss how you'd like to run your home, or divvy up the chores. And if something's truly bothering you, you should speak up ASAP. But being with someone long-term means letting the little things go, all in the name of keeping the peace.
Unloading On Each Other Emotionally
"While partners in a relationship should definitely support each other emotionally, it’s unfair to treat your partner like a therapist," certified counselors Jonathan and David Bennett tell Bustle. "If you constantly unload emotionally on each other, it can be draining in the long run."
Go ahead and vent about your day. Listen to each other. And ask for a hug whenever you need it. But for the big, ongoing stuff, add in the help of others, too. "Seek out professional help instead of burdening your significant other," Bennett says. Or call a friend or a loved one. By evening out where you both get your emotional support, neither of you will get burnt out. And you'll have an easier time sticking together.
Entering Into Intense Competitive Events
Remember what was said above about steering clear of competition? That goes for real competitions, too. "While some couples enjoy some friendly competition, like playing Mario Kart or a game of tennis, competitions where both parties really care about performance outcomes can create problems," Jonathan and David Bennett say. "For example, if you’re competing for the same job promotion or a qualifying time in a race, losing in these instances can create real resentment."
So either do your own thing, and support each other from your perspective side lines or enter into moments like these with an understanding. If you're truly competitive, and think losing might lead to some real relationship woes, work on creating a clear separation, so you can still be happy for each other — no matter who wins.
Venting About Your Families
It's OK to vent after an annoying interaction with your family, but it's important not to make a habit out of bashing each other's families, if you want your relationship to last. "Whether it's to your friends or your partner, you can express frustration about their family but you should not put them down or say nasty things about them," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. Once the words go out in the ether, it can be tough to reign them back in again. And it can make future interactions with the fam all sorts of awkward.
If you're planning on spending your lives together, and want to include your perspective families in that, stay away from this kind of negativity, and instead work on ways to resolve any ongoing family issues, or reach an agreement about how much time you're both willing to spend with each other's families.
Only Celebrating Big Anniversaries
When you're in a long-term relationship, you'll have plenty of time to celebrate birthdays and holidays together. But those shouldn't be the only things you celebrate. "Just focusing on these events as times to express your love is not enough," Hershenson says. Doing little things, every single day (or at least as often as possible) is where it's at if you want to stick together. As Hershenson says, "A note or cooking their favorite meal 'just because' shows you care all the time." And not just the moments when you're kind of expected to.
By avoiding these unexpected pitfalls, you and your partner will have a better shot at creating a relationship that will last and last, and be super healthy.