Am I Hurting My Partner? 8 Small Ways You Could Be Mistreating Your Significant Other
Most of us know if we're being straight-up mean to our partners. But there are smaller ways we mistreat our partners that might be less obvious. These subtle patterns can add up to leave both people unhappy in the relationship over time. But once we gain awareness of them, we can replace them with healthier habits to make our relationships even more fulfilling.
Usually, when we first start dating someone, we're trying hard to impress them, so we're extra nice and polite. Then, when we get comfortable in the relationship and feel confident that our partners won't leave us, we can become lazy about how we treat them. A good rule of thumb, then, is to ask ourselves how we'd treat our partners if we had just started dating. We probably wouldn't, for example, make someone else do our dishes if it were our first time at their house, though we might do that once we live with someone and are taking them for granted.
The good news is that if we make more of an effort to make our partners happy, they'll put in more effort to please us as well. So, if we can nip these bad habits in the bud, keeping them at bay will get easier and easier. Here are some common ways you might be disrespecting, hurting, or bothering your partner without realizing it.
1. Keeping Your Eyes Glued To Your Phone
With so many of us glued to our phones and computers, dividing our attention between our gadgets and our partners can come to seem normal. But even if our partners accept this behavior (or engage in it themselves), they may start to feel neglected. "Active listening involves making eye contact with the person you're speaking with," therapist Shamyra Howard-Blackburn, LCSW tells Bustle. "If your eyes are looking at your phone, you're probably not paying that much attention to what your partner is saying."
2. Not Paying Attention To Your Partner
More broadly, many of us focus on our jobs, kids, or other parts of our lives to the point that we barely acknowledge our partners. "Over time, this may cause our partner to feel invisible, disconnected, and unheard," author and relationship coach Laney Zukerman tells Bustle. "We need to step back, be mindful and respectful in relationships. Active listening is key to a healthy relationship."
3. Ignoring Their Texts & Emails
It's generally not accepted behavior to ghost our Tinder dates, so it shouldn't be considered acceptable to ghost our partners, even if the ghosting is temporary. If you don't have time to respond or want to wait until you can talk something over in person, at least let them know so they're not waiting on you.
4. Putting Them Down
We often talk to our partners with far less politeness than we'd show a stranger. "You should pay close attention to how you speak to your partner, especially around other people," therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. "Do you put them down? Point out their flaws consistently?" Lowering the bar for how it's OK to talk to your partner can slowly wear away at your respect for each other.
5. Being Selfish In Bed
You don't have to keep score, but you and your partner should be devoting about the same amount of attention to each other, says Hershenson. It's one thing to skip out on an act because you don't enjoy it and another to refuse it because you're just lazy.
6. Being Constantly Late
"Saying you'll be at a place at a certain time and constantly running late is an indication you do not value others' time," says Hershenson. If you're running late for something, at least let your partner know in advance. And in the future, overestimate how long you'll take so your partner will be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed.
7. Telling Them What To Do
It's OK to ask your partner to change a behavior that's bothersome to you, but it's not OK to ask them to change the things that define them, like their friends or their values. "You need to learn to accept your partner for who they are or move on if you want them to be someone they are not," says Hershenson.
8. Making Everything Their Fault
You're entitled to point out things your partner's done to hurt you, but if you lash out at them in these situations or get mad at them when they didn't actually do anything wrong, that's on you. "If your anger is always because they 'did something wrong' or you wouldn't fight so much 'if only they didn't act this way,' these are signs you need to find other ways to cope instead of using your partner as a punching bag," says Hershenson.
It's common for couples to fall into these traps, but that makes it all the more important that we keep an eye on ourselves to make sure it doesn't happen.