7 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Relationship Without Knowing It

...And how to work on sustaining a happy, healthy one.
Some couples don't have a fighting chance of lasting, experts say.
Frank P wartenberg via Getty Images
Some couples don't have a fighting chance of lasting, experts say.

What makes some couples go the distance, while other romances fizzle out before they’ve even gotten off the ground?

Below, relationship experts share seven negative qualities that can undermine a relationship in the early stages.

1. You expect way too much from your partner.

There’s nothing wrong with setting high expectations for potential partners. But you’re setting yourself up for failure if you believe a soulmate should be responsible for your sense of fulfillment in life, said Kristin Davin, a psychologist in New York City.

“I see a lot of people in relationships who are overly dependent on their spouse for everything,” she said. “Looking to your partner for all your emotional support creates a burden on the other person.”

It may kill you to spend time apart in the beginning, but doing so is the best way to avoid a co-dependent relationship, Davin said.

2. You feel jealous of each other’s success.

Like Bey and Jay or Ellen and Portia, your S.O. should be your partner in life, not your rival. If you’re secretly peeved that your girlfriend got a raise, it doesn’t bode well for your future, said Laurel Steinberg, a New York City-based relationship therapist and professor of psychology at Columbia University.

“Being able to genuinely celebrate a partner’s success is so important in a healthy relationship, even if your own success pales in comparison,” she said.
“Having a partner who is jealous of your accomplishments is painful, alienating and depletes the love in a relationship.”

Happy couples know that a personal or career achievement is a win for<em> both </em>of them.
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty Images
Happy couples know that a personal or career achievement is a win for both of them.

3. You keep secrets.

If you want your relationship to have legs, building trust early on is essential. When one person hides things from the other, no matter how small, it creates suspicion and distance in the relationship, said Danielle Adinolfi, a Philadelphia-based marriage and family therapist.

“To build your relationship up you need to build bridges, not burn them,” she said. “Telling one another things that may feel hard to disclose is a way to be vulnerable with your partner and that vulnerability will bring you closer together.”

4. Your sex drives are unequal, and you’re not willing to talk about it.

It’s not uncommon for long-time couples to have desire discrepancies; partners’ sex drives ebb and flow through the years. Getting through those sexually frustrating times requires heightened communication. If your sex drives are already at odds and you’re unwilling to talk about it, it should trouble you, said Lynn Zakeri, a couples therapist in Skokie, Illinois.

“You need to be honest upfront,” she said. “When one partner has more desire than the other, it can lead to not only sexual dissatisfaction, but also to guilt, insecurity and rejection for the partner who desires more. Talking about it can only help satisfy both parties.”

5. You dwell on your partner’s flaws instead of their attributes.

The qualities that annoy you now about your partner are only going to get worse with time. Instead of growing increasingly annoyed at their bad habits, try to focus on what you love about your partner, said Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania.

“Practice honing in on the good stuff ― and don’t keep it a secret,” she said.
Tell you partner often what you love and appreciate about them.”

If you don’t amplify the positive, Wilke said, “your negative thoughts will begin to grow and permeate like a big, black cloud until that’s all you see.”

Dwelling on each other's imperfections will create a toxic situation.
Tetra Images via Getty Images
Dwelling on each other's imperfections will create a toxic situation.

6. You have arguments in your head instead of in real life.

It may sound counterintuitive to fight and disagree, but the damage you do when you play out imaginary arguments in your head is often worse, said Melissa Fritchle, a family and couple therapist in Santa Cruz, California.

“Once you begin assuming your partner will respond negatively to you, you play out a worst-case scenario in your mind and cast your S.O. as the villain,” she said. “You create resentment through the story you made up.”

On the other hand, if you give your S.O. a chance to respond, they may be more accommodating and fair than you think they’d be, Fritchle said.

“In any case, at least you are communicating and have the option of coming to an agreement,” she added.

7. You take the relationship for granted.

You’re incredibly lucky if you find someone who cares for you as much as you care for them. Don’t undermine that kind of happiness by taking it for granted, Zakeri said.

“Sometimes, people get so caught up in the daily grind that they neglect to put effort and work into their relationships,” she said. “Make time to listen and prioritize each other and each other’s needs. That’s what will keep a relationship strong.”

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