Relationships are far from easy—they require a lot of time, effort, and dedication. And the second any of those needs are neglected, the foundation of the relationship weakens; the whole relationship threatens to go under. Now, the fact that relationships take hard work is common sense. But, like most things in life, you don’t realize the whole truth of it until you experience it firsthand.
It took me about a year of dating to truly understand the demands of a healthy, stable relationship. But I am by no means a professional on love and dating—even now that I have 10 years of dating experience under my belt. Because the truth is that we never stop learning and growing. Three relationship specialists are here to ensure we continue building on that knowledge; according to them, engaging in the following six behaviors can sabotage your relationship and should be resolved immediately:
1) You fail to communicate your needs.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Racine Henry says that we often fail to communicate effectively with our partners: “People tend to destroy their relationship and bond with their significant other by not communicating their expectations and needs and instead, operating off of assumptions. Just because you’re in a relationship or even in love doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be explicit about the role you want your partner to play in your life. Rather than assuming they know or expecting love or sex to resolve every issue, we need to speak up. Say what makes you unhappy. Tell him/her what they do that you like. Be clear about your desires throughout the relationship.”
2) You involve others.
“Another disastrous thing people do is involve other people way too much,” Henry explains. “We all ask our friends or family members their opinion and use those we trust as sounding boards but their needs to be a boundary. Nobody is in this relationship except you and your partner. Everyone can have an opinion or an idea of how you should handle things that come up but remember: you’re the only one that has to live with the outcome of your decision. Besides, people are able to be objective when they’re not actually involved, but they probably don’t follow their own advice. If you feel stuck or have an issue that you don’t know how to address with your partner, consider going to therapy and letting a neutral person who is trained on the science of relationships help guide you to a resolution.”
3) You refuse to compromise.
Some of us are more stubborn than others, but we’ve all struggled to budge in our opinion and make a compromise. According to Kimberly Hershenson, Licensed Master Social Worker, this can prove detrimental to a relationship: “Every relationship involves compromise, but if you are stuck in your ways and unwilling to compromise, this can harm your relationship. Separately write down what your goals are and read them to each other. See where there are similarities and differences and try and meet in the middle.”
4) You make plans without your partner’s consideration.
Every healthy relationship requires a healthy balance—your significant other may be the light of your life, but it’s important you cater to your individual needs as well. That being said, there is such a thing as too much space. Hershenson says that, “whether it’s short term plans or plans for the future, if you’re intentionally (or even subconsciously) not wanting your partner to participate in your plans, it may be time for you to reevaluate your relationship. Find a hobby that you both enjoy, and do it together.”
5) You spend too much time on your phone.
The honeymoon stage comes and goes—but every relationship requires constant love and attention. Hershenson says it’s time to get off your phone and attend to your partner: “If you find that you’re more engaged with text messaging friends or on social media when you’re with your partner, this is a sign you aren’t present in the relationship. Take a technology break together. Turn off phones, computers, and TV and spend time talking.”
6) You utilize poor communication strategies.
Saudia Twine, Marriage and Family Therapist, says the use of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling prove to harm relationships severely. “We attack our partner’s character instead of stating the complaint; we develop negative views of our partner building disdain for them and lessening intimacy and time shared together; we instantly feel attacked without hearing the person’s complaint and subsequently disown responsibility for our part in the problem; and lastly, instead of discussing our issues, we avoid them, and go into our hiding place, causing the other person to feel unheard and unsupported.”