Forget cheating or lying to your partner about your finances: there are other, less talked about behaviors that also damage marriages – and you and your partner may be guilty of some of them.
Below, marriage therapists share six behaviors that can silently kill a marriage.
Spending time together as a couple is important, but don’t let your friendship suffer in favor of another night of takeout and Netflix. It’s unrealistic to depend on your SO to meet all your socialization needs; Giving each other space by going out for a night out or meeting guys can benefit your marriage, says Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California.
“It’s important for both of you to build and maintain friendships with other people,” she says. “Through your friends, you can gain experiences, perspectives, and other support that can actually improve your relationships. You have to have a confidant outside of the relationship.”
If you rarely reach out and touch each other ― or have reached the point where you only have “sex on special occasions” (birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays) ― maybe it’s time to address the elephant in the bedroom: you’re good -fine way to a sexless, passionless marriage, says Debra Campbell, a psychologist and couples therapist in Melbourne, Australia.
“You don’t have to have sex every day, but almost daily sexual or erotic confessions are important in a relationship,” she says. “Maybe just the slightest touch; it’s not always about orgasm, getting hot and sweaty.”
In long-term relationships, Campbell says, partners need to remind each other that they are still wanted.
“You need to know that no one else in your partner’s life is his or her lover of choice or comparable to you.”
While it’s important to maintain strong friendships, surrounding yourself with the wrong type of friends can have a negative impact on the health of your relationship, says Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah and creator of the online couples therapy series forBetter. .
“Your friend’s actions are actively affecting your marriage, whether you realize it or not,” he says. “Personally, do your friends complain or take out their frustrations on their partner? Does your friend tease or hit on other people behind their partner’s back? Bad relationships and boundaries are toxic and play an active role in changing your own habits.”
On the other hand, surrounding yourself with married people who enforce healthy boundaries can be beneficial for you and your partner, Heck says.
“You need to take inventory of the relationships in your inner circle and be careful in choosing to let these relationships influence your mindset, for better or worse,” he says.
If your partner is responsible for most of the laundry and cleaning, it will definitely create resentment and put a strain on your relationship. In fact, a 2015 study from the University of Alberta found that couples who didn’t share the tasks had less relationship satisfaction and less sex than couples who did.
As Howes has seen firsthand, the question of who cleans up may not be a big deal at the start of a relationship, but tends to become a big debate later on.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re clean or messy, what’s important is that the clean partner can flex and the messy partner can clean up once in a while,” he said. “Resentment can build over time, so it’s best to have an honest discussion about your priorities regarding order in your home.”
Thoughtful and engaging communication ― not just “how was your day, honey?” and “what are our plans this weekend”? ― is crucial for love to last, says Liz Higgins, a Dallas, Texas-based couples therapist who primarily works with millennials.
“Having intentional conversations about your relationship means asking deeper, more open questions: ‘What did we do well as a couple today?’ ‘What did I do today to contribute to our relationship?’ ‘What can I do for you?’ ‘When did you feel most connected or loved by me today?’” explains Higgins.
Starting these kinds of conversations may feel a little awkward at first, but over time, you’ll see the benefits.
“I encourage the couples I work with to implement time once a week to get together and just talk about their relationship,” she says. “As you get started, you’ll realize that this often bypasses the need to get defensive, angry, or disconnect from each other.”
Roommate syndrome is a silent but common relationship killer, Heck says. When you reach roommate status, it feels like you’re living parallel lives, connected only through a shared space, bank account, and kids.
“When you get to the stage of living as roommates, you have to be very conscious about changing your routine and bringing the fire and passion back into the relationship,” says Heck.
To bring novelty into the relationship, Heck recommends couples make a concerted effort to spend time together working on passion projects as a team.
“It should be something that both partners have energy and excitement for,” she says. “Maybe changing and remodeling the house, starting Crossfit together, finally taking the RV on weekends or learning to cook vegan. Figure out what works for both of you, then do it.”