- Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.”
- As a therapist, Morin has counseled many couples who are facing challenges in their relationship and, despite having the best intentions, continually repeat the same mistakes.
- The most common mistakes that couples make are not actively listening to one another, taking their partner for granted, and pushing aside problems because they don’t want to cause an argument.
- Instead, Morin say, it’s better to openly address lingering issues and discuss your emotions honestly – doing so can actually improve your connection and level of trust in your partner.
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It’s no secret that relationships take work. Yet there isn’t a manual that describes the skills, strategies, and ingredients necessary for a successful relationship.
In their quest for a healthy relationship, many couples try to avoid the same mistakes their parents made – or copy a couple who seems genuinely in love after many years. While these strategies can be helpful, they won’t necessarily prevent couples from making mistakes.
As a therapist, I see many couples make the same relationship mistakes. Time and time again, my job becomes helping them heal from the damage their missteps have done to their relationships over time.
Fortunately, acknowledging these mistakes – and taking steps to reverse them – can repair and strengthen relationships.
Here are the most common mistakes most couples make.
1. Waiting for things to be ok
A lot of couples say things like, “We’ll be happy once we move into a bigger house,” or, “We’ll have more time together once the kids are older.”
Delaying happiness, however, can mean that they won’t enjoy their relationship (or their lives) in the present.
A healthier approach is to embrace whatever season you find yourself in. There will be periods when you’ll have less time for one another and times when you experience serious challenges. But these obstacles can be opportunities to grow stronger as a couple if you accept the here and now and work on being as happy as you can be in your current circumstances.
2. Ignoring problems
It’s understandable that you might not want to rock the boat by bringing up an issue when things are going ok. Or you might dodge a difficult conversation when your relationship is struggling because you don’t want to risk making things worse. But denying problems won’t make them go away. In fact, unaddressed issues are likely to get worse over time.
Of course, timing is everything when you bring up problems – but don’t use this as an excuse to avoid talking about an issue. There’s never a perfect time to hold a difficult conversation, and while you may argue or disagree, it’s better to address problems head-on so you can begin to fix them.
3. Taking each other for granted
Feeling assured of your partner’s feelings for you can help you feel comfortable in the relationship. But it can also be a slippery slope that leads you to take your partner for granted.
Research consistently shows that gratitude is a key component in successful long-lasting relationships. A 2018 study by researchers at the Greater Good Science Centre at the University of California, Berkeley reports that gratitude helps “individuals and relationships weather challenging situations” by buffering against the negative effects of problems like financial distress, caring for ageing parents, and fighting against cancer and depression.
Show appreciation (especially if you feel underappreciated). Expressing gratitude toward your partner might inspire them to experience more gratitude toward you. Experiencing and expressing gratitude could help your relationship grow over time as you face life’s inevitable challenges together.
4. Getting stuck in a rut
Raising children, running a household, and managing day-to-day activities can sometimes feel more business rather than romance. The busyness of life can also mean less time spent together, which can cause many couples to get stuck in a rut as they do the same things day after day.
Fight this tendency by proactively having fun together. A1993 study published in the Journal of Personal Relationships found that couples who tried new and exciting things together reported higher levels of marital satisfaction. Whether you explore a new place or learn a new skill together, participating in new activities that will help you grow your bond.
5. Not listening to one another
Poor listening comes in several forms. Some people stare at their smartphones without hearing what their partner says. Other people begin working on their counter-arguments without trying to understand their partner’s point of view. No matter what form it takes, not listening is a major relationship problem.
You can prevent and solve a lot of these problems by listening to what your partner is saying. Keep in mind that listening doesn’t mean “staying quiet,” however. Really listening involves trying to understand what the other person is communicating. Make eye contact, ask questions, and reflect back on what you think your partner is trying to say, before diving in to share your opinion.
Start rectifying your mistakes
If you find yourself making some of these common mistakes, take action to fix the situation. And if you find yourself struggling to put an end to your unhealthy habits on your own, seek professional help. A couples counselor can help sharpen your skills and change your negative patterns so you can enjoy the best relationship possible.
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