By Dave Elliot for YourTango.com
I've assembled a list of non gender-specific ways that couples sabotage their relationships. Hopefully, this list will help create some "a-ha" moments, great conversations and behavioral changes.
Here are ten warning signs that couples should be aware of before it's too late:
1) You focus more on what's wrong rather than what's right.
The fundamental truth in life is that humans tend to find what they look for in their world. Some people are convinced we're on the path to immediate ruin while others believe we're living in the most exciting time to be alive in history. Both opinions can point to outstanding arguments to support their premise. But how can they both be right when they live in the same world?
It's because humans have an ability to live in a world of their own making, simply by choosing where we focus. This is also how you can keep your love alive and vibrant at the same time. You can focus on what a lazy, forgetful, good-for-nothing partner you have or you can see them as a wonderful and loving partner who occasionally overlooks a request when he or she is distracted. Which one would you choose to spend a lifetime with, since the choice is all yours? As you believe, so you will perceive.
2) You'd rather be right than in love.
As long as we're talking about how to respond proactively when things go wrong, let's just acknowledge that there will inevitably be times when your partner falls short, makes a mistake or frankly, just blows it. Even though it may seem justified or feel better in the moment, choosing a righteous response will only damage trust and create lingering resentment. Plus, it will teach them to stonewall, deny and argue rather than simply apologize and admit a mistake in the future.
It's critical to condition the behavior you want to see by using rewards and not punishment if you want a relationship that lasts. Take the high road and give your partner the benefit of the doubt, especially if they don't expect or feel they deserve it. It really builds up appreciation, good will and a desire to do even better to please you next time.
Bottom line: whenever possible, give people a graceful way to save face when they screw up. Have the humility to apologize quickly if you're the one who screws up. Both habits will go a very long way to creating and sustaining the love you deserve. [Please note: I am not suggesting you be a doormat and allow outrageous behavior to go unchallenged. I'm simply saying don't sweat the small stuff and choose to stand your ground on the bigger stuff that may be a deal breaker.]
3) You take things personally and make it about you.
Human beings will usually try to meet their perceived needs, even if it occasionally means violating their values in some way. The truth is, it often has very little to do with anyone else because someone else's needs simply aren't as critical as your own needs. That makes sense, doesn't it? That's why it's a huge waste of time and energy to demonize a partner's actions and make them about you.
Choose to empathize with their needs instead. What better way to demonstrate maturity and your own value than by acknowledging that your partner has needs that also deserve to be met? Do your best to be the one who can help them meet their needs better than anyone else. When you take things personally and get your feelings hurt too easily, it closes off communication, makes problem-solving nearly impossible and leaves you both at risk. Instead, be open to hearing what your partner wants and needs. Look for the common ground instead of the insult.
4) You don't create a safe space for your partner to speak openly and just be.
I know many of these items seem to overlap and that's because they do cross over into one another. The truth is, bad habits and poor strategies that don't work are a slippery slope to ruin. People have a need to be seen, heard, acknowledged and appreciated just as they are. They don't want to be judged, manipulated or treated as if they're wrong and broken. This is a foundational need that is so important, it's almost like emotional oxygen.
I'll tell you a secret: Sometimes, people may think they need or want things that might be real deal breakers for other people. But what they really needed all along was just the acceptance that came with simply hearing them out and not making them wrong. They key to remember is that as soon as you judge someone else, you lose all ability to influence them. If you can accept people where they are and give them more unconditional love than they've ever felt in their lives, that is the secret to an undying love. Think about it. Why would someone risk losing the greatest partner they've ever had? Someone who also happens to always see the absolute best in them, even when they, themselves, temporarily lose sight of it. That is a powerful attribute and really, really tough to ever leave.
5) You put other people or things ahead of your relationship.
What you fail to celebrate will eventually deteriorate. A relationship, like all living things, needs nurturing, care and ongoing nourishment if you want it to not only survive, but thrive. Too often, we get hypnotized by random unfinished business, never-ending demands and the shiny objects of a 24/7 media world.
The key here is instituting rituals. If you value what you have, institute a regular date night ritual or a bedtime ritual — like a nightly gratitude check-in or just couples time. This is not a time to vent or complain. It's a time to connect, wind down and fill one another up for the next day. If that seems too overwhelming to do on a daily basis, just try it once for a week or a month. The idea is to build a habit and muscle. You don't get in great shape by going to a gym once. It's the culmination of many trips that gives you the results you want. Again, let the ritual do the work and you'll thank me for it later.
6) You don't know or fulfill one another's love strategy.
You need to learn how to understand, communicate and request that your own needs be met in a way that makes your partner very likely to comply with them. Basically, I call it The H.U.G. & K.I.S.S. Hierarchy™. It's like getting the precise combination to your partner's love vault and being able to crack it open any time you wish.
Let me put it this way: if you knew exactly how to delight your partner over and over again and make them feel more loved, understood and appreciated than they've ever felt in their whole life, would you do it? Of course you would! I can't tell you how many times I hear couples in crisis angrily claim, "I've done everything!" But the truth is if they did the right thing, they wouldn't be in crisis, would they?
7) You expect your partner to think and act exactly like you.
Do you know the root cause of nearly every argument between a couple in a relationship? It's about some sort of discrepancy between their individual values, beliefs, habits or expectations. That's it. In order to be successful long-term, it's important to be on similar pages regarding some of life's most important topics. It's also worth remembering that a relationship is between two individuals.
It's important that you give your partner room to have their own opinions and views without trying to change them or manipulate them to your way of thinking. Effective partnership is really about voluntarily becoming a team because you recognize that together, you are better than the sum of your parts. When it comes to reconciling your differences, you really only have three good choices: you can either celebrate them, mitigate them or obliterate them. Which one would you prefer?
8) You lost polarity and the attraction has totally fizzled out.
I could give you a whole science lesson on magnetic attraction or polarity but let me just bottom-line it for you. Two energies which are polar opposites create attraction and stick together effortlessly. Two energies that are the same repel one another.
When partners are living in their core energy, they attract naturally but under pressure, they lose their way and take on opposite attributes. In other words, both partners find one another equally repulsive. The solution is two people finding the strength and resolve to recapture what they once had, protect it and nurture it. Build it back to where it's stronger than ever and to withstand whatever comes its way. It sounds easy to say, but sometimes it requires some expert assistance to help bring you back from the edge. This is what I do and if I can help, please feel free to reach out. True love is far too precious to just throw it away without first giving it everything you've got.
9) You're inauthentic or lose respect for one another.
As long as we're talking about opposites here, there are essentially two states when it comes to living in true, complete and radical authenticity. You are either living fully expressed, completely repressed or somewhere in between. People who are fully expressed and are well along on the path to self-actualization tend to be some of the happiest and most fulfilled people you'll ever meet. By the same token, repressed individuals tend to live with varying degrees of shame, unhappiness or even self-loathing. In fact, repressed individuals often strike back at society through violence or criminal activity when the frustration gets too high.
The beautiful thing about relationships at their best is that it's within the bonds of true intimacy where individuals are free to be completely self-expressed, accepted and even protected. One of the great ironies in the human experience is that there may be no greater force to bring two people together than true radical authenticity. People who are free and make no apologies for themselves are seen as powerful and compelling. Even when two parties are totally at odds with one another, nothing has the power to reunite them more beautifully than raw vulnerability, when expressed without attack. I've seen it too many times and watched people come back from the edge, even when all was feared lost. Your greatest power is also that which you fear the most — embracing your true vulnerability.
10) You over-value certainty or fail to embrace change.
There is only one constant in life. Change is inevitable. The old joke is that women marry men thinking they'll change him. Men marry women thinking they'll never change. Somehow, they both end up being wrong. The truth of the matter is that over the course of a lifetime, you will learn things, make new distinctions and further clarify your values and beliefs.
You can either grow apart slowly over time or you can honor one another's journey. Find the common ground and do your best to expand it whenever possible. No one says you and your partner have to be of one mind on every possible issue. But you can be of one heart if you simply love them for who they are and who they are on the way to becoming. Everyone is bound to change over time, but no one wants to be changed or feel pressured to conform. If you don't want it done to you, don't do it to your partner.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.com