By Jenna Birch
Remember the early days of your relationship, where things felt easy and exciting? After the post-wedding glow, no matter how much you care for your spouse, married life can become a breeding ground for lazy behavior and troubling habits. "Love is the easy part. Cohabitation and long-term relationships offer challenges," says relationship expert Charles J. Orlando, author of The Problem with Women... is Men. Here, experts address some of the ways marriage can bring out the worst-and ways to make it better. Photo by Getty Images
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1. You lose your friends.
Many couples let friendships go and focus on each other-but pretty soon you'll feel the absence of a key support system. "It's not healthy," says Orlando. "Part of what your partner fell in love with is the person you are, with all your interests, relationships and opinions. By sacrificing friends, you limit your exposure to people who have helped indirectly guide your thoughts." Orlando says this can cause you to stagnate as a person-and as a couple. Make sure you carve out regular time with friends and keep your fresh independence he fell in love with.
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2. You fight dirty.
After significant time in a relationship, you learn your partner's hot-button topics, like insecurities about his job or his relationship with his family-and tend to push them when things get heated. Orlando says, "you say and do the precise thing that is the ultimate 'gotcha' to win a fight, but the aftermath is often worse that the fight itself." Don't allow a need to 'win' lead to deeply hurt feelings. And, remember that being right really, ultimately, isn't that rewarding.
3. You withhold.
In marriage, you hold the key to fulfilling some of your guy's biggest needs, which means you can also shut him out if you're upset about his preference for guys' nights over date nights. "After a few years of real or imagined slights, resentment can build, resulting in lots of 'I'm not in the mood' or 'I guess you need to work that out' statements to your significant other," Orlando says. If you feel resentment over any issue, speak up. If you don't, you may begin to distance yourself and he'll never know what's wrong.
4. You let yourself go.
When you first meet, you always want to look your best for your new guy. After marriage, though, sometimes the comfort that comes with coziness can make it feel like you have nothing to prove-and sometimes diet and beauty routine changes can follow. "This sends a direct message to your partner that you don't value them or yourself," Orlando says. Continue to maintain your beauty and fitness habits so you feel your best. It shows your guy you want a long, healthy life with him.
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5. You stop flirting with each other.
Remember the sexy banter when you first started dating? What about the playful squeezes when he told cheesy jokes? Why let it stop? "When first dating, men and women have their heart and soul invested in the little things like phone calls in the middle of the day or flowers," says Orlando. "But spontaneity and romance wane, and the little things get left behind as unimportant." But the little things are what count. It's never too late to start flirting again. Send him a sweet email at work. Hug him immediately when he walks in the door. Go back to dating him, even though you're married.
6. You don't respect each other.
Does your man know the nitty-gritty of your beauty regimen, from eyebrow plucking to waxing? Stop! "Married couples seem to treat each other with less respect and honor than they do other people," says clinical psychologist Andra Brosh, PhD. She explains that sometimes you grow too comfortable with each other. It's important to think about how your spouse sees you, moment to moment, not just year after year. You can show this with a simple kiss for hello and goodbye, opening a door for him or asking if it's a good time to talk.
7. You stop singing his praises.
When you first meet him, you can't say enough to your friends and family about all the ways he's amazing. Over time, sometimes you end up venting to your girlfriends only about the things that annoy you. Sometimes couples "lose sight of the sacredness of the relationship," says Dr. Brosh. Remember that complaining sometimes just makes you look bad. Everyone needs to get things off her chest; just remember the good reasons he's your man.
8. You expect too much.
When you start dating, you're both at your best and you set standards that are almost impossible to uphold. It's important to be able to tell him what your deal breakers are-and what you really need him to do and how. Expectations need to be voiced, not hidden. If you're not happy with any developed habits, speak up! "It doesn't always have to be agreed to, but getting on the same page will alleviate unrealistic expectations," says Dr. Brosh.
9. You don't ask for what you need.
In the beginning, when he walks on water, you might not ask for his help with much. But you will have issues if you can't tell him what you need after the spark wanes, says marriage therapist Carin Goldstein, creator of BetheSmartWife.com. She says that "people who have a difficult a time asking for what they need often grew up not being able to do that." Don't be afraid to have regular check-ins with your spouse to discuss both your desires and whether or not you're getting them out of the marriage.
10. You become a control freak.
Since everything becomes joined in a marriage-kids, money, the house, your future-there's a lot at stake and a lot to lose. Some women try to get control over everything to conquer their fears. Goldstein says it's important to determine exactly what your fear is and why you have it. If you watched your parents make poor financial decisions, for instance, you may want total control over the bank accounts to prevent that from happening again. Compromise and partnership is the key to any good union; let him help!