We all know that perfect relationships don't exist (nope, not even Barack and Michelle) and it's natural to have times when you and your partner just aren't on the same page. These ups and downs are normal, but are you making them worse without even realizing it? Not all relationships end from big blowouts and fights, it can happen gradually as things build up over time. Read on to learn the small things therapists say could ruin your relationship if they continue to go unnoticed.
Not communicating expectations.
Not verbally telling your partner your expectations within the relationship, no matter how small, can be a recipe for disaster. You cannot expect someone to be able to read your mind in the beginning of a relationship, or when you've been together for awhile and want them to make a change.
Tracy Vadakumchery, LMHC at thebadindiantherapist, tells Best Life that a surefire way to ruin a relationship is by having expectations that you aren't communicating. This can be anything from, "I'm not looking for anything serious right now," to "I need some space," to "I feel like you haven't been making me a priority."
"It's important to be specific," she says. "What do you mean by 'serious,' 'space,',or 'priority'? What does that look like for you? These words mean different things to a lot of people."
Talking with your partner openly about both of your expectations will help create a mutual understanding and will also set healthy boundaries.
Seeking perfection in a relationship is not only deeply unrealistic, it's also incredibly unhealthy. Nobody is perfect, so spending your time expecting (or only looking for) something that doesn't exist, could leave you constantly frustrated and your partner feeling insignificant.
"There's this idea that our partner should never disappoint us," says Vadakumchery. "In any relationship, there will always be a moment when we come up short. We are bound to be disappointed and disappoint the people we care about. Your partner isn't perfect but they should meet you where you're at, acknowledge when they messed up, and be intentional about their expectations and meeting yours too."
Instead of trying to find the perfect partner, it's helpful to focus on someone's unique qualities that make them who they are.
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Allowing resentment to build up.
Resentment can grow like mold in a relationship—and holding onto those frustrations can often snowball into something much bigger.
"Every partner is going to be irritated and annoyed at points in the relationship," says Lori Kret, LCSW, BCC and co-founder of Aspen Relationship Institute. "But allowing that friction to build into resentments over time is also permitting the connection to erode. If your partner is continuing to act in a way that creates resentment, take a step back and assess if it really is a big deal or if you're just nitpicking."
Holding onto bitterness and irritation will only lead to more fights and negativity—and sometimes it may not even be directly related to what your significant other is doing.
"If you're feeling irritated in general or about other aspects of your life, you may be erroneously honing in on your partner as the source," says Kret. "If that's the case, take some time to adjust your perspective and work to release those feelings of resentment."
Avoiding hard conversations.
Kristal DeSantis, LMFT, who specializes in trauma, sex therapy, and relationships, tells Best Life that couples can ruin their relationship by avoiding hard conversations. Not talking about your past or something that you may be ashamed of or that you know might upset your partner, can make the issue fester and possibly become a huge point of resentment later on.
When you avoid a hard conversation, it doesn't make the problem go away, it simply kicks the can down the road," she says. "It takes bravery to have a hard conversation, but it lets your partner know that you care enough to resolve something before it becomes a bigger issue."
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Mistaking time in the same room as quality time.
Spending quality time with one another is an essential part of having a positive and loving relationship. This could mean going on a long walk together or having a standing date night, but should never be confused with just being home at the same time or even sitting on the couch next to each other in front of the TV.
"Being in the same physical space is not the same as connecting," says Kret. "Couples, particularly those who live together, often become complacent about creating meaningful moments together. Seeing each other everyday becomes monotonous and there can be a desire to actually disconnect further, either by getting sucked onto a screen or making plans apart."
You and your partner shouldn't feel like roommates—maybe it's time to break out a puzzle or a bottle of wine? It may be fun and even make you fall a little more in love.