Even though people often point out that the first year of marriage is the hardest, it’s not as if it’s smooth sailing after you pass your first anniversary. Every single marriage requires a lot of maintenance. Both of you are growing together, and that can often lead to fights, disagreements, and different views about the future.
Unfortunately, not all of us are in the position to be able to hire marriage counselors. This type of therapy might not be covered in your insurance, and even if you really want to make things work, it’s often a stressful time commitment that the both of you need to agree to make room for. That’s why it’s a good thing the internet exists.
Of course, the internet isn’t a good substitute for actual marriage counselors when it comes to learning about your partner’s love language.
But gathering some information from practicing marriage counselors online is a step in the right direction.
You can use online forums to at least get a good idea of what to expect before going in. And if your marriage is currently hanging on by a thread, it’s a good way to ease yourself into the process of repairing it, so that you don’t feel quickly overwhelmed.
One particularly popular thread on the AskReddit forum questioned actual marriage counselors about some of the common mistakes couples make, and their answers are enlightening.
1. Not Branching Out
This is surely something that all of us can relate to. It’s important to be able to depend on your spouse, but…how much is too much?
It’s important to have a life outside of your spouse, even if you feel like it’s something your parents never did in their own marriage. “What if rather than focusing on having the ‘love of your life,’ who fulfills all of your needs, you focus on having a high-functioning relationship that fulfills a good portion of the key areas in your life?” Susan Pease Gadoua L.C.S.W. wrote for Psychology Today.
2. Counter Arguing
When one partner says they’re unhappy, and the other partner tries to change the focus instead to their own unhappiness, it cancels out the other person’s valid concerns.
Also, it makes it seem like you’re not listening. Marriage is a partnership, and by focusing only on your feelings, you’re being selfish in the relationship. “People who communicate effectively in their relationship collaborate and are truly a team,” Lisa Concepcion, a professional life coach and relationship expert, said in an interview with Bustle.
3. Assuming Your Significant Other Knows Everything About You
They should know a lot, but they’re not a mind reader. Nor should you expect them to be.
A lot of us are guilty of assuming that our partners should know better when it comes to how their words and emotions impact us. Thrive Family Services believes that with a little bit of communication, many such issues can be resolved. But problems should never be compared to love values. So, if you find yourself thinking “if he really loved me, he’d know to pick up the slack on chores,” then you’re setting yourself — and your relationship — up for failure.
4. Not Being On The Same Team
When you get married, you agree to be together in sickness and in health.
And that needs to continue throughout the year. The two of you always need to be on the same page or at least acknowledge each other’s points of view. You’re not fighting against each other — you’re fighting for a common cause, together. GrowthTrac goes so far as to describe marriage as being a three-legged race. You’ll never get ahead if you’re not working with your partner.
5. Failing To Embrace Communication
It’s often hard for people to open up about their own wants and needs, especially if they feel like they’ll be punished in response.
It’s important not to react to sincere communication with anger. GoodTherapy believes that failure to communicate in a loving manner can lead to feelings of disrespect. Even mapping out a hard conversation before it happens can prove to be beneficial to both partners. Also, using “I” statements may sound cliche, but they’re cliche for a reason — they work.
6. Focusing Too Much On The Wedding
Wedding culture is big. If you’ve ever gotten engaged, you know how much pressure you’re under to create a fabulously (expensive) day.
And after your wedding, you’re expected to be with your partner for the rest of your life. So, when you put all of your energy into the wedding and none into the maintenance of your relationship, a successful marriage can seem almost impossible. It’s nice to be married, but it’s a pain to be in a terribly matched relationship just because you misconstrued the idea of marriage.
7. Acting Alone And Hiding Secrets
If you’ve kept secrets from your partner or spent money without consulting them because it’s “yours” and not both of yours, you may fall into this category.
Huffington Post reported that one in five people are keeping a big secret from their spouse, which is an extremely high number. When living a life an important part of your life completely separate from your spouse, you start chipping away at the sense of trust that the two of you have built together throughout the years. So, if this is you, ask yourself: is keeping the secret worth hurting your partner and your relationship when they eventually find out?
8. Viewing Counseling, Or Relationship Maintenance, Like Court
Oftentimes, people feel a little defeated when they book an appointment with a marriage counselor. But that’s because they’re going into it with the wrong attitude.
This means that instead of going into the appointment ready to make big changes with communication, they’re keyed up to prove how they’re right. This causes a lot of damage, especially if the couple waited a long time in order to see someone. A counselor won’t choose sides, but they will evaluate how the two of you react to issues. Remember, going to a counselor isn’t a failure. It’s a way to fix something you care about that has a few cracks in it.
9. Being Selfish
As you can tell by now, marriage is a partnership. But when it comes to maintaining the partnership, sometimes people prioritize their own feelings and emotions.
The main goal here is to make sure both of you are happy. Elite Daily notes that a good way to try and solve this issue isn’t to openly point out a partner’s selfish actions, but to bring attention to the exact situation in order to avoid having a big, blow-up fight. If you think you might be the selfish person in the relationship, ask yourself — what’s the situation look like from the other side?
10. Putting Off Addressing Your Issues
People are busy. Especially people who work high-pressure jobs.
But that doesn’t mean relationship issues should be shelved. Instead, they should be prioritized. This Redditor believes that if marriage problems go on too long without being addressed, the marriage has a higher chance of falling apart. It’s a tough conversation to have, but it needs to happen if you want your marriage to last.
11. Sexual Incompatibility
Sexual compatibility is important for a relationship — and you’ll want to find a partner with the similar views as you about sex if you want your marriage to last.
There’s nothing wrong with having a low sex drive, but it’s a recipe for disaster if you don’t still make an effort to address the sexual needs of your partner. Sex can be a bonding, intimate experience. If something changes about the frequency you’re having sex, it’s an important talk that the two of you need to have.
12. Failure To Establish Consistent Household Rules
Every household is run a little differently, and with certain household chores there’s no “right” way to do something. But figuring out an agreed upon system among yourselves is vital.
If you hate the way they do laundry, maybe that should be your task. Then you can let them take on a responsibility that they don’t mind that you’re not so fond of. Just know that they’ll clean the house differently than the way your mom did since they didn’t grow up in the same household as you. It’s different, but it’s not necessarily wrong. And by making a big ordeal about it, you’re adding tension to the mix.
13. Failure To Adapt To Change
The person you met at the ripe old age of 22 isn’t the same person at the age of 28. And that’s normal.
The goal here is to accept that and try to adapt to each other’s changes. Hopefully the changes are positive — such as backing away from going out to drink each and every weekend to focusing instead on sleep and self-care. “As we mature, search for our partner, and evolve in general it’s important to remember that we aren’t the same person we were a day ago, a year ago, two years ago, or 10 years ago,” Barrett Pall from the Huffington Post writes.
14. Bringing Children Into The Marriage When Not Everyone Is On Board
Listen — kids are wonderful. They really are. But they’ll add a lot of frustration to the marriage if both parties aren’t on the same page about wanting them.
Psychology Today states that kids who are forced to witness a bad marriage between their parents are actually worse off than kids whose parents go through a divorce. Sometimes people try to use kids to bandage up a struggling relationship, but it’s one of the worst things a couple can do. If a child knows that one parent wasn’t excited to have kids, and tension built, it’s a heavy emotional burden for them to carry.
15. Not Showing Gratitude
Should you have to congratulate your spouse every time they load the dishwasher? No. But it’s important that they know they’re making a difference.
Most of us are quite lucky to be with our partners. They put up with a lot of stuff that other people wouldn’t. So, making the effort and acknowledging these actions is always an important part in maintaining a healthy marriage. It takes a lot of time to tend to kids, or pay the bills, or clean the house. If one person has a lot on their shoulders, thank them for taking it on. (And of course, it wouldn’t hurt if you offered to help, too.)
16. Using Accusatory Language, And Projecting Your Issues
If you’ve been cheated on, you may have a lingering fear that your spouse is also being unfaithful. But sometimes those worries creep into the relationship in damaging ways.
If you’re dealing with mental health issues or past traumas, you may also unknowingly be projecting them onto your partner. According to TalkSpace, identifying this bad habit is step one in moving past it. It’s important to identify your own issues and handle them both individually and as a team with your partner. Throwing them onto your partner is damaging and will only hurt your marriage.