1. Unspoken family rules that you bring into relationship are HUGE.
Obviously you didn’t grow up together and depending on how you did you grow up you may have had completely different family of origin (FOO) experiences. It can be as simple as your FOO separated out laundry by color and your SO’s just threw everything in together so you have different family rules regarding laundry, to your FOO had the rule of “family problems stay in the family” and your SO’s family talked to people outside the family about all the problems freely.
Everybody has these rules, talking about them and uncovering them (without judgement) will go a very long way in maintaining and deepening connection. If you don’t talk about them it is easy to get into negative interactional patterns that are just rehearsals of how your FOO did things and not creating healthy, mutually safe patterns.
Also, I recommend that everyone in relationship take an attachment style quiz and compare their attachment style (secure, anxious, or avoidant) because that reveals a lot of unspoken rules as well.
2. Discussing really important decisions / making these decisions via text messages.
3. Adopting a ‘tit for tat’ policy – One should aim to put their 100% commitment into a relationship for the sake of the relationship itself and not because they expect returns sooner or later.
4. Expecting that because your significant other knows you better than others and is around you most, that they are aware of all of your thoughts and feelings. Your partner is not psychic, and no matter how often they are around you or how well they know you, they cannot pick up on every nuance to determine how you are feeling and how they should respond. That is called emotional babysitting, and it cascades into a host of problems and unnecessary hurt.
5. Not expressing gratitude towards your partner on a regular basis. Experiences and expressions of gratitude can have a really positive effect on psychological well being as well as relational strength.
6. Talk. About. Money. Talk. About. Sex.
If you’re marrying someone with a shitty credit score, you should know how and why they ended up with it, lest you find yourself in their shoes very quickly. A credit score can cost thousands and take Y E A R S to rebuild. Know if they have any tax liens or liability. Are they paying child support and do they have any kind of garnishment? Who is going to be responsible for managing the finances? How many credit cards does the other person have and what are their balances? I’ve seen money kill a lot of marriages.
Another one a lot of people don’t think of is actually talking about sex, not just having it. Do you enjoy the sex you have? Would you like to have more of it? Less? Would you like to se it change? Do you or the other person have any weird kinks? Just have the talk. Different sexual wavelengths can be difficult to reconcile.
7. Keeping score. A partnership is a team, not a competition. Whether a person keeps score of everything they have done, or everything their partner has done, it is a death knell for the relationship. This is one of the most common causes of resentment in a relationship, and you see it often when people use absolute terms to describe themselves or their partners (I.e: I always…, she never…). Remembering that each person has his/her own needs, abilities, skills, and boundaries is essential to a healthy couple.
8. Expecting one person to be everything for them. You need friends, coworkers, a support system, and hobbies.
9. Never lash the other with past misbehaviors when trying to resolve a current issue.
10. When one half says, “I am not happy about X,” do not respond with: “Ok but I am unhappy with Y.” Fix X. Get settled. Then bring up Y if you still need to.
11. Not giving intimacy in their relationship enough attention. This includes but is not limited to sex. Many relationships start with the “hot and heavy” phase where intimacy can come naturally. As this phase diminishes many couples do not spend the time and energy to consider how to maintain a healthy level of intimacy now that it doesn’t just come naturally.
12. People don’t learn to fight. You have to fight fair in a relationship. People go nuts when they get mad and some couples never learn to fight in a way that honors the person you are fighting with. It is so important to learn to respect space, don’t assume motives, and take turns in explaining your views.
13. The main mistake being the use of the word “You” / “your” or any similar words targeting the other partner in an argument (for example “you said you would do the dishes!”)
This puts the person receiving the comment into a defensive mode and they stop listening and get defensive. Thus, communication breaks down.
14. Holding onto resentment and then unleashing it at inappropriate times. For example, husband forgets to do a chore, and then wife unleashes on him not for forgetting the chore, but for the million other things he forgot, plus the fact that he’s been ignoring her plus the thing with her mother, etc. etc….
15. Always be polite and appreciative. Make sure you thank your spouse if they buy dinner, even if you share an account. Say please and thank you as you would to a friend or stranger. It’s the little things that matter. We all have a love bucket and the more positive things you add to the other person’s bucket the more room and grace you have when the negative things arise. Always always have more positives than negatives.
16. If there is one thing I would say is the most important factor in success or failure in a relationship, it is active listening. People nowadays simply do not know how to actively listen to one another. Social media and a false sense of hyperconnectivity make this issue much much worse. Older couples with beautiful mutually-supportive marriages have naturally identified the importance of listening, and have negotiated the ways their partner needs to be heard. Relationships succeed or fail on this simple premise. Be still, and listen to your partner.
17. When your significant other brings something to your attention, that they need/want, don’t react harshly if it’s something they’ve refused to bring up sooner. Getting loud or defensive “Why didn’t you bring this up sooner!” will make them shy away from bringing things up again due to negative reinforcement/backlash.
This is especially true if they’ve been victims of any kind of abusive relationships.
18. Number one problem I see is overactive threat response creating anger and rigidity. People don’t stop to turn down their defense mode, and lose sight of love because all their energy is going towards being right or controlling the outcome. Of course that control comes from a place of fear, but fear and vulnerability feels too dangerous, so it typically gets expressed as anger, frustration, or rigidity.
Surrender to not having control, accept what’s in front of you, and cultivate compassion.
19. Blaming their partner for all issues in the relationship and not taking ownership of their own role in dysfunction/issues.
20. Not listening, most people listen to respond and don’t listen to hear. This is what I spend the most time teaching couples how to do!
21. As soon as couple stops being on the same team, fighting all the bullshit of life together, things fall apart. Get on the same team. Get behind each other’s goals. If you’re not on the same team, you’re just going to wind up annoying the fuck out of each other. All that bullshit of life is going to be beating you down and your life partner is just going to be part of it instead of a refuge.
22. When you’re hurt, say so, and stop trying to ‘hurt back’. When someone does something or says something hurtful, whether conscious or not, let them know in a non accusatory way before you begin the game of throwing daggers. Much of the relationship damage that couples endure is the back and forth hurt-each-other game that snowballs out of control, causing a ton more damage.
23. 70% of fights are recurring (and usually very fixable and small).
Learn to communicate instead of fighting out those “fights” make them mature conversations.
Don’t assume anything that another human being is thinking!
Start gently. If you get flooded leave the room and remind everyone involved in an argument to speak gently.
24. Taking a break almost never fixes the situation, just show’s you how things are without the other person, and since the break is because something went wrong, people feel that the break was better than the whole relationship.
25. Being who they think the other person wants or needs them to be, in order to feel loved, instead of being themselves and taking emotional risks by being authentic. If you’re always afraid to show your true self, you can never trust that you’re lovable, flaws and all, you’ll never know that you can be loved for who you truly are, or feel safe exposing yourself emotionally with your partner. IMO that’s a waste of a life and a relationship.
26. The number one reason why relationships don’t succeed is that partners set unrealistic expectations for each other. Whether that manifests as a lack of communication, the assumption that mind- reading is a reasonable expectation, or a lack of intimacy, it all points back to this. In other words, look inward.
27. Don’t bring your frustrations from work home with you. It’s okay to say that you had a bad day, but no matter how frustrated you get, don’t take it out on the family.
28. Always validate feelings over experience. Even if it does not make sense to you. Example: I can see why you would be frustrated, because you feel overwhelmed, because you feel like no one understands, and because you see no end in sight. The key is to use 3 “becauses” to validate your loved one. Chances are that they don’t want the problem “fixed,” they want to be heard.
29. Not talking about/considering long term goals. For example if one wants kids but one doesn’t and deciding to move in/get married without having some kind of understanding in place.
30. They stop being nice to each other. It sounds simple, but people generally want to be around individuals who are nice.
31. Couples often forget to realize that it’s not him vs her, rather than it’s both of them against the problem. Some people try to debate their SO when there’s a dysfunction, and it’s just not the way to do it. Explore the wrongs you may have done that lead to this dysfunctionality too.
32. Unilateral decision making. Just because you don’t need your partner’s input on every little thing doesn’t mean they’re not going to be pissed that you decided to make plans for the both of you without checking with them.
33. So many people refuse to go to bed during a fight. It’s a huge mistake. It’s supposed to be some romantic ideal. Actually, just say I love you and we are disagreeing but we need to get some sleep for work. You always communicate better after sleeping properly.
34. Not letting the other person walk away in a fight. Many fear abandonment and then either pursue or block a door. The retreating spouse isn’t going to talk, and is likely flooded and feels they are getting angry to the point of being irrational, and escaping is the only way they know to handle it. Preventing the escape won’t make anything better and increases the risk of domestic violence. Instead let them take a break and when they return ask if they are ok. If so, ask if they want to continue the discussion now or set a date for later.
35. Not growing together. We all develop intellectually and emotionally as the years go by. If they do not grow together they will grow apart. Talk to AND with each other. Some say “They aren’t the person I married anymore” NO SHIT. That’s a good thing. Who wants to live with the intellectually maturity of a 20 or 30 year old their entire life. It’s normal we change. CHANGE TOGETHER.
36. Thinking that you have to “feel” “in love” at all times and if not, the marriage is over and they need to find their true “soul mate” because they obviously married the wrong person.
37. Equating differences in communication as “being wrong” or not caring.
38. Having a child thinking it would save their marriage.
39. Not necessarily a mistake but a sign of relationship death and something to keep in mind.
Contempt during fights.
John Gottman predicts 90% of divorces by identifying contempt. (Bit of an oversimplification.)
If you are angry or fighting with your SO and you get to the point where you think they are worthless, or beneath consideration… it’s probably over.
Anger, frustration, rage, are all normal human emotions, just don’t let it get you past that line of contempt.
It’s not you vs them, it’s the both of you against the issue.
40. In my experience, the most common problem married couples experience is going to see a marriage counselor instead of a licensed psychologist. The latter has significantly more experience and training to help couples.
A marriage counselor has very limited training, and can very easily do more harm than good.
41. They confuse love with the chemical high you get early in are relationship. That cannot last, for reasons built into our biology.
A successful relationship is to built on that feeling. It’s built on mutual respect and a mutual decision to make it work each day.
42. Assuming you know exactly what your partner wants at any given point in time. – People will not always be in the frame of mind we expect them to be, sometimes it’s best to give them their own space
43. Allowing families / friends to get too involved in the relationship – Remember the saying ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth?’ yeah exactly this.
44. Treating their pets better than their partners.
45. Biggest mistake is waiting too long to get help. Repeat issues coming up again and again will not resolve themselves. Get help before it’s helpless.
46. Sexual incompatibility. Misunderstanding sex as a bonding activity. When one or the other believes sex is something one does to another as if it was just a utility.
47. People that don’t quite realize that marriage works best when you are both acting in the others’ best interest and seeking their happiness more than your own.
It crops up a lot, but not exclusively, in sex/intimacy: if your primary concern in sex is you, you are not going to build any kind of bond or intimate connection, and nor is it going to be much fun for your partner.
Marriage is a lot about sacrifice and the couples I see thriving are the ones who are each willing to make sacrifices for the other and for their family.
Couples who get married thinking that the coming decades of marriage are going to be exactly like the dating or the honeymoon phase, when they face major challenges or speed bumps in their life together, have a real hard time dealing with it, “But I thought I was supposed to be happy”.
48. Going to a marriage counselor believing that it’s like a judge and s/he will tell them who’s right and who’s wrong.
49. One of the most toxic things I have found in doing marriage counseling is when couples think of themselves as individuals who happen to be together and not as a couple. (Not that I’m advocating enmeshment.)
That’s not really marriage. That’s having a roommate, or perhaps less than that even.
Marriage is a union of two people. That’s what the unity candle and sand and knots are all about. There is a bringing together of two lives that is inseparable.
If either member still conceptualizes themself as a solely autonomous individual whose actions and dispositions impact only themselves, things will go bad eventually.
They go bad because it results in a person caring more for themselves than their spouse. This is seen where couples spend money behind each other’s backs because “it’s my money, why does it matter?” When couples keep secrets from each other, which inevitably results in pain. This is seen when couples don’t stop to consider their spouse’s thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams, abilities, and strengths alongside their weaknesses.
The remedy to this is behaving as a unit in small ways and in large. If you’re getting something from the fridge, see if your spouse wants something. It even helps in arguments; no longer is it spouse against spouse but it’s the married couple against the issue causing stress to the unit.
When one person considers a course of action, their thoughts ought to be about how it impacts the unit.
50. Getting married because they wanted a wedding, not because they wanted to be married.