Having a healthy relationship is harder than it sounds. Many aspects of healthy relationships don't come naturally to us because a lot of the things we're taught are normal in relationships are actually not OK. With little formal education about being a good partner, we pick up behaviors from the people around us, which can make a lot of disrespectful and even abusive actions start to seem normal. So, once we're in relationships, we have to question and challenge ourselves to ensure we're treating our partners kindly.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to figuring out if a behavior in a relationship is OK is to ask yourself if you would ever do it to a stranger or an acquaintance. Would we ever, for example, expect a stranger to do chores for us or walk into a room they're in without saying "hello"? Keeping up the respect you show each other when you first start dating is key if you want to avoid becoming unhappy in your relationship or taking each other for granted. And an easy way to do that is to just not be terrible.
Here are some common, normalized behaviors in relationships that actually constitute mistreatment.
1Not Saying "Thank You"
Taking your partner for granted not only can leave you less excited about your relationship but also is downright rude, Licensed Professional Counselor Terri Abraham tells Bustle. If a stranger picks up something you drop or a server clears your plate, you say "thank you," and there's no reason it should be different with your partner. To avoid taking them for granted, consider complimenting them, spending some time apart, or thinking about how bad your past relationships or single life were in contrast.
2Being Habitually Late
Again, we shouldn't be less thoughtful toward our partners than we would toward acquaintances — and one thing we probably wouldn't do to a new date or colleague is keep them waiting, at least if we can help it. "Saying you'll be at a place at a certain time and constantly running late is annoying and a huge sign you are not a priority. If you're repeatedly late, it starts feeling like you don't care about other people's time," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle.
3Making "Jokes" That Put Your Partner Down
It's normal for couples to tease each other, but if only one person is laughing (or the other is laughing just to hide their hurt or appease their partner), that's a problem, says Abraham. If something your partner says or does really bothers you, you should confront them about it during a serious conversation, not a joke.
4Making Everything Your Partner's Problem
If you've had a bad day, cheering you up is the right thing for your partner to do, and vice versa. But there are some problems your partner can't fix no matter how hard they try, so don't blame them for your bad mood or bad situations only tangentially related to them. "So, you get embarrassed when your partner starts cracking corny jokes. Whose problem is that really?" Abraham wonders. "Even if you need a partner to understand and validate a problem you are having (say, their critical mother), they may be unable to change the situation completely to your liking, and you still have to manage your own feelings about it."
5Guilting, Sulking, Or Begging For Sex
Even if someone says "yes" to sex, it's not really consent if they've said it just to get you to stop bothering them. Verbal coercion is a form of sexual abuse, and it can include guilting someone into sex, trying to seduce them when they've already said no, whining about the lack of sex you're having, or anything that could pressure them into doing something sexual that they don't want to do.
6Telling White Lies
A white lie is still a lie, and honesty is important to cultivate your partner's trust, Dr. Michele Kerulis, professor of counseling at Northwestern University, tells Bustle. Instead of telling white lies, she suggests, "make an agreement to enter an unpleasant conversation with your partner with the understanding that the intention of the conversation is to address your needs and feelings and it is not intended to be a personal attack on the other person. Agree to end the conversation on a positive note; if that's not possible, take a break from the conversation and agree to follow up and wrap up the conversation when you are both ready to readdress the topic."
7Withholding Important Information
A lot of couples avoid "talks" because they're afraid of getting into arguments, but hiding your feelings from your partner impedes healthy relationships. "It is important to address issues before they become big problems," says Kerulis. To avoid getting into the habit of keeping things from each other, Kerulis recommends setting aside time to talk at least once a week about anything that's been bothering you.
If you think you might be guilty of any of these, make a point to look out for them and stop yourself. And if your partner is, you should talk to them about it because you deserve better. Just because a behavior is common doesn't make it OK.