When you’ve been with a romantic partner for a while, you both start to feel comfortable with each other (sometimes a little too comfortable) and you each develop your own little habits as a result.
But those habits can be detrimental to a relationship and couples often don’t realize until it’s too late, relationship expert Shannon Tebb of Shanny in the City says.
That’s why it’s important to recognize when something is becoming a bad habit beforehand and then nip it in the bud with open and honest conversation, Tebb says. However, it’s not always easy to identify which seemingly ‘small’ habits can do damage to your relationship over time.
And while each couple may find they have their own unique habits that cause friction in their relationship, there are some habits – seven major ones, in fact – that are common in many pairings that often lead to the end of a love story, Tebb says.
What are they?
1. Being passive aggressive
There can be few reasons why someone would be passive aggressive in a relationship: they’re tired of arguing and resort to this type of communication, or it could just be in their nature. Whatever the reason may be, it’s doing more harm that it is good, Tebb says.
“Taking little jabs at your partner can be hurtful,” she says. “If something is bothering you, just be straight up and honest about it rather than giving them these little jabs.”
If this is a major way of communicating in the relationship, then the partner on the receiving end can feel like the angry partner is never satisfied because they feel they’re constantly being criticized, or whatever they do is not good enough.
It could also prompt the other partner to become passive aggressive themselves, kick-starting a cycle between the two that is never-ending, Tebb says.
2. Getting too comfortable and not appreciating each other
Being with someone for a long time can make one or both partners lazy in the relationship, Tebb says.
The feeling of familiarity can be a cause, as can exhaustion at the end of a workday – whatever the cause, recognize it and come up with ideas that’ll help keep things fresh.
You forget to compliment each other and/or you feel like you’ve become more like roommates and less like lovers. That’s why couples need to keep putting effort into their relationship, Tebb explains.
Organizing regular date nights is a good thing to do but don’t always make it the same outing, spice it up and try new things.
3. Joking at your partner’s expense
Sure we all love a good laugh, but making your partner the butt of a joke isn’t worth it, Tebb advises.
“Embarrassing your partner or making jokes at their expense can be detrimental to a relationship,” Tebb says. “So you have to respect people’s boundaries and privacy, and don’t bring up things in front of family and know that whatever you may be bringing up is personal and private.”
So avoid poking fun at your partner in hurtful ways, or if they’re not comfortable with that at all, then avoid doing it altogether.
4. Too much time with electronics
Whether it’s your phone, the computer, television or video games, electronics can get in the way of a relationship, especially if there are no boundaries set.
According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture in 2016, constant smartphone use between couples is harming relationships. In fact, researchers found that people tend to get jealous of their smartphone when used too often.
“Sometimes a person is talking to their partner and the partner is glued to the TV, for example,” Tebb says. “Remove all the cellphones at the table and make dinner time family (or couples) time… Replace technology with physical activity is a good thing too, so go for a walk after dinner.”
5. Being too critical
No one likes to be criticized, including – and especially – your partner, Tebb says.
So don’t comment negatively on their appearance or put down their career, she says.
If, for example, your partner is gaining weight and it’s becoming an issue, come up with positive suggestions on how to help them manage their weight – but do not criticize or take jabs at them.
Approaching any situation like that can be disheartening to the other person, Tebb says, and increase friction in the relationship.
6. Staying out after work too often
After a long day or week at work, sometimes people like to go out for some drinks with their colleagues to let loose.
This is OK to do every once in a while, but do not let this be a regular thing, Tebb warns.
“Instead of coming straight home the partner will feel they have to schmooze with clients or something like that,” Tebb says. “Sometimes they get home late and their partner did all the cooking and cleaning… The partner will start to feel like they’re not being appreciated.”
Again, this is about setting boundaries, Tebb says. Figure out what is appropriate in your relationship and what you both are comfortable with – is once a week acceptable, or once every two weeks?
7. Bringing work home
It’s sometimes hard to turn our brains off from work. If the work keeps piling up and you feel like you’re behind, it’s tempting to want to keep working when you’re home from the office.
This is another thing couples need to avoid doing, Tebb says.
“I think in order to be totally alert and present you have to turn off all distractions,” Tebb says.
It’s important to withdraw from work when you’re home and give your attention to your partner and family, Tebb adds.