According to data from the National Survey of Family Growth, up to 48 percent of first marriages fall apart within the first 20 years. To put it another way, getting married is like flipping a coin—heads, you stay together; tails, you get divorced. You might read that statistic and immediately assume that you’re one of the lucky 52 percent, but it’s just as likely you’re not. In fact, it’s a good bet you’re making marriage-killing mistakes on the daily without even realizing it.
For instance, do you spend a significant amount of the day commuting? Or do you leave the dirty dishes in the sink for your partner to take care of later? How about binge-watching? Is that a go-to activity of yours? Yep, these are all big relationship no-nos. So read on to learn the marriage mistakes to avoid.
Men, stop leaving all the laundry for your lady to labor over. A study from the University of Alberta showed that heterosexual couples had more (and better!) sex when men helped around the house. The researchers believe that the correlation has to do with the women in the relationship feeling more respected.
“Completing housework may or may not be enjoyable, but knowing that a partner is pulling his weight prevents anger and bitterness, creating more fertile ground in which a (satisfying) sexual encounter may occur,” lead author, Matt Johnson, wrote.
Surrounding yourself with friends in toxic relationships can end up having a negative effect on your own. “Your friend’s actions are actively influencing your marriage, whether you realize it or not,” marriage therapist Laura Heck told Huffington Post. “Bad relationships and boundaries are toxic and are actively at play in changing your own habits.” Of course, it’s okay to be a shoulder to cry on when your friends are going through a rough patch, but steer clear of people who are cheating on their spouse or seem to have never-ending relationship issues.
Being a material girl might work for Madonna, but it’s not going to work for you if you want your relationship to last. One study from researchers at Brigham Young University found that married individuals with higher levels of materialism had less satisfying marriages. In a similar vain, the study determined that materialism was more closely related with possession-oriented happiness than relationship-oriented happiness. “As the pursuit of money and possessions are prioritized, it appears that other dimensions of life, such as relationships, are emphasized,” study author Jason Carroll said in a press release.
When one partner snores, the other is left to toss and turn all night, and the lack of sleep leads to fights and feelings of dissatisfaction. In fact, one study from the Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center found that when a husband suffers from sleep apnea, the marriage is the real victim.
“The wife’s sleep is indeed deprived due to the husband’s noisy nights,” study author, Rosalind Cartwright, said in a press release. “The lack of sleep for both partners puts a strain on the marriage and creates a hostile and tense situation.” Luckily, Dr. Cartwright’s study also showed that, when the snoring spouse underwent treatment for two weeks, the other partner’s marital satisfaction score improved by 93 percent. And if you’re looking for better sleep, check out Over 40? Here Are the Best Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
Television can rot your brain, and now scientists at Albion College are telling us that it can also ruin your relationship. Their research showed that individuals who believed in the relationships they saw portrayed on TV were less committed to their actual relationship and more strongly associated it with a loss of personal freedom.
“People who believe the unrealistic portrayals on TV… think their alternatives to their spouse are relatively attractive,” study author Dr. Jeremy Osborn said in a statement. “We live in a society that perpetually immerses itself in media images from both TV and the web, but most people have no sense of the ways those images are impacting them.”
Money issues tend to drive a huge wedge between two people, especially when those people are married and living together. And it’s not just a lack of money that creates problems, either—one study from Cornell University found that when a couple has equal earnings, their relationship is more likely to last. “Equality appears to promote stability,” study author Patrick Ishuzuka said in a statement.
It sounds counterintuitive, but you should dial down all the lovey-dovey acts of affection if you want your relationship to last. Why? Research published in Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes found that couples who divorced after seven or more years exhibited almost one-third more affection than those who stuck it out. The study authors speculate that this happens because that level of affection is hard to keep up.
When your partner confronts you about something that’s been bothering them for a while, do you engage in a meaningful conversation and fix it, or do you pick a fight and walk away? If you begrudgingly answered the latter, then you may be sabotaging your relationship beyond repair. One study published in Communication Monographs found that couples who partake in “demand/withdraw” patterns—as in: one partner pressures the other to talk and is met by silence—find themselves in unhappy relationships. To fix your relationship before it’s too late, study author Paul Schrodt suggests trying to see yourself as part of the problem and working on ways to listen when your partner is upset.
Sorry, fellas—the time has come for you to finally watch The Notebook. And it’s not just for your partner’s sake: A three-year study analyzed couple therapy programs and found that people who watched romantic movies and discussed the relationships in them afterward had a 50 percent lower divorce rate. Just watch the movie.
On hot, humid nights when just the thought of being near your S.O. is enough to overheat you, the last thing you want to do is be little spoon all night. But it might be worth it to crank up the A/C and suck it up for the summer: British researchers found that 94 percent of couples that slept while touching reported being satisfied in their relationship, compared to just 66 percent of couples who slept more than 30 inches apart.
What does taking birth control have to do with being in a stable relationship? Quite a bit, apparently. Research from the journal Psychological Science showed that women who started or stopped taking the pill while in a relationship reported lower sexual satisfaction levels than those who were always on the pill or never took it. Evidently, the pill has the ability to morph a woman’s physical preferences, so going on or off of it in the middle of a relationship can negatively affect life in the bedroom.
For most couples, the bedroom is the heart of the relationship. But unfortunately, a staggering number of couples put their sex life on the back-burner: One Chapman University study found that while 83 percent of people reported being sexually satisfied in the first six months of their relationship, only 50 percent reported the same satisfaction now. Those who were satisfied attributed their bedroom bliss to intimate acts like cuddling and spicing things up in the bedroom.
Every woman has passed a man on the street and thought to herself, “He could be cute… if he dressed a little better and cut his hair.” But what happens when we actually pursue this almost-perfect gent? As our first impression could have predicted, we spend the entire relationship hoping for someone else—the perfect specimen we created in our heads—and as a result, we’re never truly happy.
“Unmet expectations are a huge relationship killer,” relationship coach James Preece told the Independent. “They think that over time they’ll be able to mould them into someone else, [but] this only leads to disappointment and anger.”
Using the ring on your finger as an excuse to take your partner for granted is one of the worst marriage mistakes you can make. Your partner may have committed to always and forever, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve the same love and respect you’ve always given them. “Assuming your partner will automatically do what they’ve done, whether it’s taking out the trash or making the bed, without being acknowledged will hurt your relationship,” couples counselor Janet Zinn told Redbook. “Remember to thank your partner [and] recognize the small things they do each day.”
When the perfect job opportunity pops up, it’s human nature to do what’s necessary to make it work—even if that means a two-hour commute each way. But while your career might be flourishing, this tiring trek is likely taking a toll on your home life. One Swedish study concluded that couples were more likely to separate when they were commuting a long distance compared to those who didn’t have to commute. If you can, aim to take a job that gets you home at a reasonable time.
Don’t think your beau doesn’t notice when you roll your eyes at them. This classic passive-aggressive gesture is basically your non-verbal way of telling your S.O. that you don’t take their feelings seriously, and that kind of sentiment isn’t taken lightly. “Rolling your eyes at your partner while they’re talking is a way of ignoring their feelings and dismissing their thoughts, comments, or actions as ridiculous,” licensed marriage therapist Bette Levy Alkazian told Redbook. If you have something to say: Just say it.
No one can deny that being a parent is one of the most important jobs out there, but that doesn’t mean that being a spouse isn’t important, too. Once there’s a child in the picture, parents will often put the kids before their relationship, and relationship expert David T. Pisarra told Babble that this turns into “the parties becom[ing] like roommates.”
“I can say that the most frequent issue I hear from the men I represent is that the focus of the wife turned to the child, and never returned to the relationship with the man,” said Pisarra. “It leads to a lack of intimacy.”
Your cellular device has no place at the dinner table, at least if you want your relationship to withstand the odds. Researchers from the University of Essex found that “mobile phones can interfere with human relationships” and have a negative impact on closeness, connection, and quality of conversation. Your Instagram feed will definitely be there after dinner—but your spouse might not be.
Take it from someone in a long-term relationship: Prolonging a futile fight isn’t going to hurt anyone but yourself. If you find yourself holding on to anger toward your spouse, ask yourself: Why am I actually angry? If you can’t even answer that question, then it might be time to be the bigger person and just say sorry.
If you have something important to say, like “I’m sorry” or “Should we have a baby?,” try not to transmit it via text. Researchers from Brigham Young University found that women who communicated their apologies and other vital info through text and men who simply texted too often were less satisfied in their relationships.
“There is a narrowness with texting and you don’t get to see the breadth of a person that you need to see,” study author Jonathan Sandberg said in a press release. One positive thing they did find was that couples reported satisfaction from communicating affection over text, so feel free to keep sending those xo’s and emojis.
Think back to the time when you and partner first started dating. How different is your life now? Maybe you’re further along in your career, or perhaps you’ve successfully worked on your anger issues. But if you can’t think of a single difference between then and now, your relationship might be suffering more than you realize.
“Often, there seems to be one person invested in personal growth and career development while the other person stays the same,” certified matchmaker Nekisha Michelle told Redbook. “When this happens, the dynamic of the relationship shifts dramatically, and it can cause the two people to be incompatible.”
In a relationship, “I feel your pain” should be something you both say and mean. One study from the American Psychological Association found that relationship satisfaction was directly linked to each partner’s ability to perceive their signifiant other’s emotions. Based on their findings, the study authors encourage couples to empathize with one another and communicate when they sense emotion—whether it’s pleasure or pain.
Unfortunately, we still live in a society where gender norms expect the man to bring home the bacon—and when those roles are reversed, it can have a detrimental effect on the relationship. Men who completely rely on their wive’s income were five times more likely to cheat compared to men who contribute to the household as much as their wives, a study from the American Sociological Association found. If you find yourself in this situation, the only two solutions are either to get a higher-paying job or accept the fact that society is changing and it’s OK for a woman to make more money than you.
Soda: It’s clogging our arteries, and now it’s ruining our relationships, too. Researchers at Duke University studied the effects of brand preference on a relationship and surprisingly found that brand preference can have a bigger impact on a couple’s compatibility and happiness than religion or education.
The authors presume that brand preference is such a big issue since most people perceive it to be so insignificant and don’t even think to bring the problem up. “If you are lower in relationship power and have different brand preferences than your partner, you’re probably going to find yourself stuck with your partner’s favorite brands over and over again,” study author Danielle Brick said in a press release. “This could lead to a death-by-a-thousand-cuts feeling.”
Don’t let your own insecurities be the downfall of your dream relationship, as so many do. “[Low self-esteem partners] underestimate how positively they are viewed by their partner and how much their partner loves and cares for them,” Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam professor Francesca Righetti explained in a 2017 study. In turn, this self-doubt can lead to bad moods, higher stress levels, and lower life satisfaction—all of which can harm your health and scare your partner away.
One or two instances of being late are excusable, but after a while, your partner will start to associate you with your unreliability. “It can be little things like being late or not calling back, or bigger things like not following through on a commitment to help with a project,” relationship expert Sarah E. Clark says. “Developing a pattern of not following through… eats away at the trust and security of the relationship.”
Let’s be honest: Nobody wants the person they’re dating to be friends with the person they used to date. And if your partner says they don’t have a problem with it, they’re lying. “There’s mistrust, jealously, and curiosity about whether or not the ex is actually over your partner (or the other way around),” relationship expert April Masini explains.
Once again, don’t get sucked into gender norms. The man in the relationship doesn’t have to pay for everything—and he shouldn’t. Always relying on your man to pick up the bill can lead to frustration and resentment down the line, so at the least, offer to cover the bill every now and again if you aren’t already.
With people posting online about everything these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the craze and use Twitter to vent about your relationship woes. But airing your dirty laundry online is only going to make your relationship issues apparent to the wrong audience. Instead, dating expert Jonathan Bennett recommends tackling the problem head-on.
“If you’re having a fight or [are] annoyed by your partner, the appropriate course of action is to address it directly,” Bennett says. “By airing your dirty laundry for everyone to see, you’re showing a lack of respect for your partner and the relationship.”
It’s natural to get jealous every now and again, but if you find yourself snooping through your partner’s text messages or following him when he says he’s going to a work event, you’ve taken your jealousy too far. “Extreme and excessive jealousy can be dangerous and lead to destructive behaviors,” clinical psychologist Sarah Williams warns.
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