8 Habits that couples therapists warn always end a marriage
While we often see big mistakes such as cheating ending relationships or otherwise causing difficulties, we end up neglecting the smaller, day-to-day things that can go on to have a greater effect in the long run.
These small habits can make or break a relationship, affecting you or your partner's feelings towards each other. If you're married, this can be even worse, with divorces being a much longer and heartbreaking process for both parties. But what bad habits often lead to the end of a marriage? These professional therapists detail what habits to avoid if you want your marriage to stay afloat.
1. Not seeing things from their perspective
One of the most essential things for any sort of relationship is empathy. If you don't step into your partner's shoes from time to time, you're setting your relationship up for disaster. 'Accepting influence' is a term that refers to your ability to understand your significant other's perspective. Apparently, men struggle to develop this skill more than women, who tend to be more empathetic neurologically.
Diane Gehart, professor marriage and family therapy at California State University, said that "marriages in which men don't accept influence from their wives are at a much higher risk for divorce". To back her up, research from the Gottman Institute found that when men don't do this, marriage has an 81 percent chance of failing.
2. Talking behind their backs
While this may seem like obvious advice, you will likely find yourself criticising your SO from time to time, but this isn't necessarily a healthy habit. Carrie Cole, a couples therapist and certified Gottman master trainer at the Center for Relationship Wellness in Houston, said that:
"Women may fall into this habit if they're surrounded by people doing the same thing. If your close group of girl friends are constantly talking poorly about their own husbands, it may feel more normal for you to chime in and say, 'You think yours is bad? Listen to mine.' It shows a lack of respect for him and your connection, even if he never finds out"
3. Comparing them to others
It's never good to compare your current partner with anyone else, whether it's an ex, a friend, or one of your friend's SOs. "Even if you're only making notes in your mind, it can kill a relationship over time," Cole explained. Your partner is always going to have faults, but you need to focus on the good, bearing in mind that the grass always looks greener from the other side.
4. Starting fights aggressively
If you feel like you have been treated unfairly, or have been insulted in some way, it can be hard not to go to 11 immediately. But starting arguments at your angriest won't solve anything. "Women are more likely to raise issues aggressively than men are," Gehart said, referencing a study by Dr. Jennifer Kromberg, which found that men are usually able to calm down and analyze a situation faster than women, who are more likely to go by how they feel.
5. Not knowing when to stop an argument
Disengaging from arguments, eventually, often makes it easier to resolve problems, rather than letting it spiral out of control as you become more emotional. Without a break, you can become less able to communicate what you think and feel.
"When people shut down during conflict, it's usually because their heart rates have skyrocketed to over 100 beats per minute, which throws you into fight or flight response," Cole said. "When that happens, you lose access to the part of your brain — the frontal lobe — that gives you communication skills. So sometimes you literally can't speak coherently, even when you try."
6. Pretending things are fine
While you might think that when you "put on a good face" you're fooling everyone, but there are telltale signs, such a pale complexion and dilated pupils.
Couples therapist Sue Johnson says that "these are all signs that someone is overwhelmed with their own emotions and shifting into a flight or fight mode, so they simply can't tune into their partner in a way that shapes a safe dialogue."
While doing this a little is bound to happen, the more you do the more likely it is that you get into the habit of not being emotionally honest with your partner.
7. Not arguing at all
If you don't bother to argue or even poke fun at the things that irritate you, it means you've stopped putting energy into the relationship. Getting things out into the open is better than quiet resentment or indifference, Gehart explains.
8. Not confronting your problems
Arguments can be so exhausting that it can be easier to let your problems go rather than addressing them. Unfortunately, this often leads them to fester and become much worse.
"By the time many couples make their first therapy appointment," Cole says. "The toxic dynamics have been in place for so long that it's harder to undo the damage".
While your marriage may not be on the line right now, it's always good to keep it healthy and prevent any heartbreak further down the line. Nipping these behaviors in the bud will stop them from developing into toxic habits that are difficult to break, and give you the freedom to enjoy your life together.