While there are many factors that can
lead a couple to divorce, it's often the little problems that add up over time, and drive a couple apart. Think along the lines of nitpicking, being passive aggressive, or even failing to listen. These are things you might do without even realizing it, or noticing the impact it's having on you as a couple.
The trouble is, "many people
think of divorce in terms of a major event like cheating or [emotional] abuse," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. And those things can certainly do it, seeing as they involve a breach of trust, and other unhealthy dynamics.
But it's important not to overlook the little things, either. If you know how to spot them, you can make a few changes as a couple, before there's a permanent rift. "By creating daily habits to strengthen the relationship, you're going to make the odds of a breakup much less likely," Bennett says.
These might include finding new and
fun ways to connect, communicating more often (and more effectively), and making each other a priority. Read on below for the small habits experts say might erode trust, connection, and happiness in a long-term relationship — and potentially even lead to a divorce — as well as what you can do to break them.
Giving Each Other The Silent Treatment
If you're angry or upset, it's OK to spend some time apart and cool off, before you continue a conversation. But habitually giving each other the silent treatment is
not the way to go.
As Bennett says, "Consistently refusing to talk to your partner isn't helpful because it closes communication. It can also lead to resentment in your partner if you run away from problems instead of resolving them." Or if they do the same to you.
Instead, you can both make an effort to go to each other when problems arise,
and communicate more. It can take some practice, but doing so can lead to a healthier relationship.
Not Spending Quality Time Together
If you've fallen into a pattern where you're existing next to each other, you may start to notice a feeling of separation. And that's because long-term relationships, however comfortable they may become, still require effort.
"Just because you're in the same space as your partner doesn't mean you're bonding as a couple," Bennett says. "If your time together isn't mindful or meaningful you might be headed for a break up."
To prevent this from happening, start scheduling more fun into your lives. Go on dates, cuddle, hang out at home, or surprise each other — just like you did in the early days. By spending quality time together, you can
revive that spark.
When you spend a lot of time with someone, it can be tempting to pick on their every little mistake, and zero in on all the negatives. But for a relationship to work long-term, you actually want to do the exact opposite.
"Couples need to do a better job of reminding themselves to reinforce what’s going right and grow those behaviors in positive ways,"
Allen Wagner, LMFT, tells Bustle. "When people catch each other being good and point it out, it increases the behaviors they want to see. People are overwhelmed and are usually just trying to point out mistakes so they can move forward, but there has to be a balance." WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock
When you have your own life going on, or just aren't in the mood, it won't be possible (or healthy) to say "yes" to each and every one of your partner's requests. And yet, turning them down all the time isn't a great idea, either.
"Continuously rejecting your partner can be demoralizing or lead to them not feeling safe being vulnerable with their desires or needs,"
psychologist Dr. Carly Claney, tells Bustle.
Whether it's agreeing to listen to their problems, or saying yes to a random date night, being open to them is one way to keep a relationship going strong.
Having Closed Off Body Language
The way you hold yourselves in each other's presence may not seem like a big deal, but it can sends all sorts of unhealthy messages.
Looking away when your partner is speaking, for example, "signals a lack of value in what they have to say,"
psychotherapist Vanessa Watson-Hill, tells Bustle. "Years of not feeling important is a major relationship killer."
If this habit sounds familiar, "be intentional when your partner is speaking, and
prioritize active listening," Watson-Hill says. "Couples who feel valued have a greater chance of staying together."
"While it can be easy to turn your attention to new and interesting stimuli on the internet, this may lead to less and less connection with your spouse," Dr. Claney says. "You may be unintentionally communicating to your partner that they are less important and interesting to you than whatever you're consuming on your phone."
To break this habit, make an effort to have phone-free time as a couple, where you put them away and focus on each other. It's OK to use your phones, but you don't want to go overboard, to the point you feel disconnected.
Another body language signal that can
lead to contempt, and potentially a breakup, is eye rolling, licensed psychologist Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, tells Bustle.
"Contempt shows an erosion of positive feelings between partners and leaves little room for connection," she says. "If you feel yourself losing respect and warmth for your partner ask yourself what your role is in this perception." What do you think is causing you to roll your eyes?
"It's also important to ask if an event caused a disconnection that hasn't yet been repaired," Dr. Lyons says. "This might be a sign that some deeper work of reconciliation is needed. "
Only Having Surface-Level Conversations
As a couple, you'll probably talk a lot about work, and groceries, and how to run your apartment. But take a moment to notice how you feel, if this is the only type of convo you have.
"Much of the communication is really just about updates," Wagner says. "This can be harmful and leave people feeling like roommates."
Again, this is where fun date nights can come in handy, as well as discussing the reasons
why you may have drifted apart. There may be some of that underlying contempt that you need to work through, first.
On a similar note, your relationship may be headed for disaster if one or both of you consistently fails to listen.
"This makes the other partner feel ignored and unsupported,"
therapist Julie Merriman, PhD, LPC-S, RPT-S, CSC, tells Bustle. "They believe what they have to say is not seen as important."
You can undo the damage, though, by practicing better listening skills. Not every conversation in a long-term relationship will be perfect, but you can work together to create more of them.
These habits may make it more likely that you'll break up, but the good news is they can be overcome. If you work together as a couple, and make doing so a priority, you can
get your relationship back on track.