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What does it look like to build and maintain a happy relationship? It can sometimes seem that happy couples have a secret to how they make their relationship thrive. But that isn’t the case. As it turns out, there are a lot of commonalities among people in happy relationships. And it may not even be so much what these couples do as what they don’t do.
Wanting to find more happiness in your marriage or long term relationship? Here are 7 things to avoid: the bad relationship habits that cause conflict and disconnection, and are regularly avoided by strong, happy couples.
They don’t nag
Nagging can be one of the worst things for a marriage. While it’s not in the same category as something overtly harmful, like infidelity or abuse, nagging still causes damage. That’s because what nagging boils down to is a lack of respect in a relationship. Though it may not be noticeable, nagging erodes respect and connection slowly; it digs away at the foundation of a relationship over time.
When nagging continues unabated for months and years, it has the effect of blocking communication between partners. The partner who is being nagged stops listening to what the nagging partner is saying. They may even—consciously or not—take actions in defiance of their partner’s nagging, such as ignoring a request or doing the opposite of what is asked.
It’s not hard to see why this kind of thing could be very harmful to a couple. Not only does the connection between them dissipate, the person being nagged experiences emotions like resentment, discontent, and maybe even shame. The nagger feels like his or her opinion doesn’t matter and they feel like their words are falling on deaf ears. All are recipes for disaster.
People in happy relationships know that nagging is not the way to express one’s needs or desires. Instead, they communicate with clarity and patience, respecting the agency of the other person.
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They don’t harp on the past
Another thing that strong couples don’t do is harp on the past. To them, what happened in the past should stay in the past. They don’t constantly dredge up these old events and use them as ammo in fights. They also don’t focus on these things internally. People who are in unhappy relationships may find that they have a tendency to dwell on bad things that happened in the past, focusing on their partner’s past mistakes or their own regrets.
Happy couples? They remain future-focused and positive. They close the record on what’s been done and move forward—together—toward new experiences and a deeper connection.
They don’t focus on their partner’s faults
Speaking of focusing on the negative, people in solid relationships tend not to do that either, particularly when it comes to their partner.
It is far too easy to see the problems and issues in a relationship sometimes. When we look at our spouse, we may find ourselves honing in on his or her flaws. The way he grinds his teeth at night. The way she tends to be a know-it-all. How he never remembers to unload the dishwasher. How she never fails to remind him of this.
Our partner’s faults are numerous: let’s be honest. But so are our own! We’re all inherently flawed people. To look primarily at one another’s faults is to live in an unhappy relationship. Rather, happy partners keep their eyes on what they love about one another. While they are not ignorant of the faults of themselves or their spouses, they choose what they will put their attention on. This leads to a better relationship and also generally happier people.
Read Next: How to Build and Maintain Friendship in Marriage
They don’t keep score
Do you keep score in your marriage? Whether you’re tracking the “good points” or the “bad points” this can be an unhealthy relationship habit with no benefits. To keep score is to approach marriage with a mindset that you continually “owe” something to your partner, or that they owe you. It’s an understanding of relationships as being 50/50, with each person taking their turn to settle the score or keep the balance in check.
What’s wrong with this idea? Well, a goal of 50/50 makes sense at first glance, but ultimately, we realize that relationships are rarely in balance. Sometimes, we’re giving more than we receive, and that’s okay. Because at some point, our partner will do the same for us. Having this trust that your partner has your back, added to the ability to be selfless and giving (without keeping score) is one of the keys to a happy, loving relationship.
They don’t neglect their own needs
Happy people know how to tend to their own needs. In marriage, or in a long-term relationship, some individuals may find themselves putting their partner’s needs first. That’s really awesome, and it’s something we should all try to do now and again for those we love. But the problem becomes when we actually neglect our own needs.
Your needs are important. Your needs are real. Your needs are valid.
If you’ve been setting aside your own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in your relationship, think again. Self-care and having your needs met actually makes you a more contented person, reduces stress, and even makes you a better husband or a better wife.
Not convinced? Check out this article, which suggests that Self-Care is Marriage Care.
They don’t expect the worst
Those in happy relationships expect the best from their partner. This is true even if they’ve been proven wrong in the past. In other words, these individuals always give their partner the benefit of the doubt. They focus on the good intentions of their partner and place their trust in their partner to succeed/do the right thing/be awesome.
Instead of expecting the worst in relational situations, these folks expect the best. This can be seen in a few examples.
- You ask your partner to pick up the dry-cleaning. She says she’ll do it this afternoon. In the past, your partner has been very forgetful with things like this, and you worry about her remembering to follow through. So instead of giving her the opportunity to do what she says she’ll do, you text her 6 times to remind her about the dry-cleaning and worry about it all day long.
This is problematic in a few ways. First of all, your partner doesn’t have room to grow and to change. If you’re constantly expecting the worst from her, she doesn’t get the opportunity to prove you wrong. In fact, she feels her self-confidence and self-worth taking a nosedive because you won’t give her that space. Second, you’re harming your own vision of your partner, focusing on her flaws and approaching the situation pessimistically. Third, you’re eroding your trust and mutual respect in the relationship, which is only going to create additional, deeper issues.
- Another example: Your husband is taking an out-of-town work trip to a business conference. He’ll be traveling with several coworkers, one of whom is a young, attractive female. You start to obsess over his possible infidelity, perhaps even becoming irrational and fatalistic, expecting him to cheat simply because he could have the opportunity. You contact him nonstop throughout the trip, questioning him suspiciously about his every move.
Obviously this has the potential to cause serious problems. While we should not discount that many people experience anxiety in relationships, and this could be part of your own insecurities and jealousies, if you’re in a solid marriage, trust has to be the bedrock of your relationship. Expecting the worst of your husband shows that you don’t have faith in his ability to stick to your marriage commitment, to act with moral integrity, or to be truthful with you. These are huge concerns.
While these two examples are fairly extreme, they should serve to highlight the importance of expecting the best from our partners, with regard to their decisions, words, actions, and character.
Read Next: Relationship Rituals for a Stronger Love
They don’t avoid conflict
Finally, people in strong relationships do not completely avoid conflict. Have you ever been told that fighting is bad for your relationship? Unfortunately, this is a common relationship myth. Not only is conflict healthy, but avoiding it tends to go along with concealing your emotions and holding in pain and resentment.
Loving couples know how to deal with their conflict in appropriate ways. Learning to fight fair isn’t necessarily easy, and it doesn’t come naturally to all of us, but it can be crucial to sustaining a long, healthy marriage or relationship.
You might also like:
- 10 Rules for a Happy Marriage
- The Best Relationship Advice for Couples
- How to Be a Better Wife: 10 Tips to Improve Your Marriage
- 99 Ways to Show Love and Affection to Your Partner
Amy Hartle is the co-founder and owner of Two Drifters, where she blogs about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. With a Master’s in English and a BA in Musical Theatre, Amy loves to write quality content as well as to entertain, and she hopes to do a bit of both here on the blog! Amy is happily married to her husband Nathan, and when not working on their sites, Amy & Nathan can be found cuddling, reading, and enjoying delicious lattes.