Make the most of your marriage, and check out this expansive list of things–according to various marriage counselors, psychiatrists, and experts–that happily married couples should never do!
1. Do everything with your spouse
Natalie Dattilo, PhD, a clinical and health psychologist with IU Health Physicians, says, “It’s important to cultivate independent interests. Having fun together is great, but you need know how to have fun apart from each other.”
2. Hope for a better or more perfect relationship
“Realize that all relationships involve a process and it’s more important to evolve your relationship forward instead of worrying about creating a ‘perfect’ relationship,” says Larry Shushansky, a speaker, author, and family therapist.
3. Compare your spouse to other husbands/wives
Wendy Patrick, an attorney and author of Red Flags: How to Frenemies, Underminers, and Toxic People In Your life, believes comparing your spouse (or even yourself) to others is a fruitless endeavor. “Think of 10 things you genuinely admire about your partner that make them unique,” she says. “This list can include physical, intellectual, professional, and personal observations. By the time you’re done, you’ll how lucky you are to have your partner and not someone else.”
4. Hate yourself
“Hating or disliking yourself sets up an unhealthy relationship dynamic. When you love and accept yourself, you’re less likely to tolerate unloving behavior from your partner or anyone else,” says Jennifer Spaulding, a love and relationship coach.
5. Make your partner your whole life
Laurel House, a famous dating and relationship coach, is a firm believer in the importance of individuality. She suggests that men and women seek their own personal interests and goals, and strive to accomplish things away from the relationship. You have to be able to grow as an individual before you can promise yourself to someone else. Therefore, according to her theory, the happiest married couples are those who aren’t completely attached at the hip; they are those who are more than capable of maintaining a sense of self even after years of marriage.
6. Abandon you own values
Laurel House also believes in maintaining your values (in addition to your overall individuality). “Do you know who you are at your core? What are the things that you stand for? Oftentimes when you are feeling off, unfulfilled, or not yourself, it’s because you are being untrue to one of your core values. Having an awareness of what they are and how you can strengthen each one keeps you on purpose of being your best, most authentic self. Once you have confidence in your core values, you have confidence in yourself,” says House.
7. Agree with everything he/she says
Jared Heathman, MD, tells all of his clients about the importance of open communication. “However,” as he claims, “this does not always mean agreeing with them! You are entitled to your own thoughts and opinions but your partner should still feel heard and appreciated.”
8. Trying to fix all of each other’s problems
Sometimes people just want to be heard, and they aren’t necessarily looking for a solution.
“Communication is vital to a healthy relationship, so when your partner is venting to you, focus on listening rather than fixing,” Dr. Dattilo says. “This involves understanding and validating the other person’s experience and saying things like ‘I hear you and I understand’ rather than simply trying to fix the issue.”
9. Fiddling with your phone during conversation
“When your partner is talking to you, put away any distractions and focus on them by looking in their eyes and really listen to what they’re saying,” says Carol Margolis, a relationship expert and founder of Smart Women Travelers.
10. Putting an end to little acts of kindness
Over time, married couples develop a sense of comfort. As a result, sometimes those sweet, little acts of kindness become an after thought; however, they definitely shouldn’t!
“Stay open to your partner and practice small acts of kindness,” says Lisa Kincaid, a psychologist at NC Life Coaching. “We all love being thought of, even in the smallest of ways. If your partner is upset, you can totally shift the dynamic by offering a small act of kindness. When your partner is happy, continuing on the path of acts of kindness will help to solidify your connection, foundation, and future.”
11. Forget to say “please” or “thank you”
It may seem trivial, but the little things add up! Just as Allison Abrams, a psychotherapist and relationship expert in NYC:
“Gratitude is an essential part of a healthy relationship. Focus on the positive qualities of your partner and the strong aspects of the relationship rather than the flaws. Expressing gratitude for the good things helps to not only maintain respect and appreciation for one another, but is key to deeper intimacy.”
12. Only celebrate the “little things”
Another side-effect of being married for years is the tendency to overlook minor celebrations, and anniversaries. Obviously you should strive to celebrate the bigger celebrations with more flamboyance, but that doesn’t mean letting the other minor celebrations slip through the cracks.
“Everyone (usually) remember the big things like birthdays and anniversaries, but healthy couples also look for little ways to celebrate like getting a good review at work or having a baby finally sleep through the night,” Margolis says.
13. Sweating the small stuff
In marriage, you have to grow some tough skin, and learn to let the little things go. There’s too much going on in your lives to sweat the small stuff!
“Let go of the little things that bug you about your partner and instead focus on what you value about your relationship,” says Kincaid.
14. Have a negative mindset
No one likes a “Negative Nancy”–you know the type. The kind of person who only focuses on the the negative side of things.
“Having a healthy relationship entails focusing on the positive qualities of your partner and of the relationship rather than the flaws. This is especially true during challenging times or conflicts when it’s all too easy to get laser-focused on what’s wrong,” Alison Abrams claims.
15. Constantly criticizing or belittling your partner
“A healthy relationship includes supporting and accepting your partner for who they are, without judgment,” Abrams says. “What it does not include is criticizing or belittling or trying to change someone. Once those behaviors enter into a relationship, it can be very difficult to recover.”
16. Disrespect your spouse
No one likes to be undermined, and no one likes to be blatantly disrespected. After all, you’re supposed to be a team, right?
“Respect for one another is a necessary ingredient for a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship without respect is like apple pie without the apples — it’s just not possible!” says Abrams.
17. Refusing to compromise
As you can probably imagine, refusing to meet eye-to-eye on a constant basis can rub you (and your partner) the wrong way!
“Compromise is very important because it shows your significant other that you respect their feelings and desires. It’s a guaranteed way to let them know that they are valued and the relationship is not one-sided,” explains Dion Metzger, MD, a psychiatrist, professor and author of The Modern Trophy Wife.
18. Make your partner read your mind
Don’t overwork your spouse, folks. Trying to read each other’s minds is never a solid strategy and is the complete opposite of proper communication.
“Mind reading is a myth! You can’t read your partner’s mind and they can’t read yours, no matter how much you love and ‘know’ each other. Say what you need — don’t make them guess,” advises Dattilo.
19. Having any semblance of contempt for your partner
“The biggest relationship killer is contempt. While it can be normal for one person to carry all the weight in the relationship for a brief time, those periods have to be negotiated and acknowledged in order to prevent resentment and other negative feelings,” says Harold Jones, PhD, a licensed therapist.
20. Assume you know what your partner means
You know the saying, “If you assume, you make an a** of ‘u’ and ‘me'”.
“Everyone says communication is the key to any successful relationship. While this is true, it’s really the type of communication and how it’s performed that’s critical to the success of the relationship,” Jones says. “Understanding the words your partner is saying isn’t necessarily the same as understanding what they mean. Instead of assuming, ask clarifying questions until you both understand.”
21. Try to be right all the time
To err is human, moms and dads. You’re not ever going to be right all of the time, so have some humility and embrace the fact that you’re not all knowing.
We all know people who have to be right all the time and it’s frustrating to deal with them. Know when to relinquish the need to be right in your conversations with your partner and try to listen to them,” advises Thomas Gagliano, author of The Problem Was Me. “It’s more important to maintain closeness than to be right.”
22. Let things fester until you explode
Do we really need to explain why being passive aggressive over time is a bad quality in a person with whom you’re spending the rest of your life? If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: communication is key. Don’t let things add up until you have a random burst of rage.
“Don’t let resentments build up. Let’s face it, being in a relationship means having a lot of tough discussions over time,” says Ashley Taggart, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Learn the skills that will allow you to have difficult conversations in a healthy manner.”
23. Say “nothing” when your partner asks you what’s wrong
Having been with your partner for as long as you have, you’re bound to be able to tell when something is wrong. If you’re considerate enough to address the elephant in the room and ask what’s wrong, they should (or you should) be able to answer with a response other than, “nothing.”
Even if it remains confrontation and/or talking about the bitter or harsh truth, the road to repair, change and growth is completely dependent. Or at least that;s the theory suggested by Holly Richmond, a somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist.
24. No holds barred during fights
As much as communication is key (and it is), that doesn’t mean you have the right bring up everything and everything during a fight. There’s an appropriate time and place for everything, after all.
“It’s essential for couples to figure out what they are actually fighting about. Delete the details of an argument and you quickly realize it wasn’t about being on the phone too much, spending too much time with friends, or not picking up around the house — it was really about not feeling seen and heard, not feeling cared for, or feeling taken advantage of,” Dr. Richmond says.
25. Wait for them to apologize first
Let’s grow up, hubbies and wives. There’s no need to play games, or stand firm ground over something trivial. If you’ve slipped up, apologize…eventually they’ll follow in the same footsteps.
“When in conflict, you need to take a step back, get all the thoughts about the other person out of your head, and become self-reflective enough to figure out what your part is in the conflict,” says Shushansky. “Then decide what changes you can make to try and better the situation.”
26. Utilize the “silent treatment”
We’re not in 2nd grade anymore. The silent treatment is not effective, and won’t get you anywhere in marriage. Sometimes the best way to approach something is to not say anything at all, but that doesn’t extend to intentionally shunning your partner.
“Voicing your needs, both from the relationship and day-to-day, is an essential component to a healthy relationship. Don’t stay silent and hope they’ll figure out what you need from them. Instead, speak up!” House explains. “Don’t be abrasive. Don’t be passive. Don’t couch. Don’t hide. Be honest, direct, confident, and loving.”
27. Point the finger (of blame) when something goes wrong
“Always be willing to look at how you contributed to any given problem and take responsibility for your behavior. It’s easy to get defensive about your actions or self-righteous about another’s. It’s much harder to be self-reflective and see how you might have contributed to things,” says Rhonda Milrad, a Los Angeles-based licensed clinical social worker and founder of the Relationup app.
It’s not hard to see why lying to you spouse isn’t just a bad idea or habit, it’s downright toxic to your marriage and overall happiness.
“Many couples who face serious challenges have, at the core, a breach of trust in the relationship. This includes lying or withholding information,” says Nancy Pina, a licensed relationship counselor. “Healthy couples maintain the utmost integrity with one another, which leads to not only mutual trust but also a sense of security.”
29. Irradiate stress
Being stressed is–for the most part–uncontrollable. Moreover, venting you stress is perfectly fine, but transferring your stress to your partner or just being a big ball of stress all the time is poor quality in a spouse. So, look for outlets and try to manage that stress in your life.
“Laughter is just good for the soul. Especially with the stresses of everyday life, it’s easy to fall into the pit of worry or feeling overwhelmed,” Dr. Metzger says. “Laughter gives a rush of the ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain and is such a great way to enjoy your partner’s company. You will always have the best memories of times spent laughing.”
30. Only do “your” chores
“Remember that strong and healthy relationship develops out of the small things that happen on a daily basis, like helping to do the dishes or take out the garbage, rather than big things that take place less frequently,” says Taggart. “A relationship is like a garden — in order for it to thrive, it must be tended to daily.”
31. Be selfish
“To have a healthy relationship, you need to consistently focus on your partner instead of yourself. I call it taking a ‘reverse selfie’ — this will not only make your relationship more durable but also more enjoyable,” explains Patrick.
32. Refuse to seek help from outside sources
Sure, you’re a team. And, sure, you can rely on each other for pretty much everything. But eventually, you’re going to need to seek outside help from experts, peers, or anyone willing to aid your struggles. Sometimes an outside perspective is all that’s needed.
“Many people don’t want to dredge up their biggest problems in front of a stranger. But a good relationship therapist can be very helpful if you find yourself consistently falling into ‘gridlock’ conversations where you have the same fights over and over without ever resolving them,” Taggart advises.
33. Let the romance fizzle out
Never sacrifice that romantic side of your relationship. No matter how long you’ve been married, strive to make your loved ones feel…well, loved. even if it’s just one night out of the week, never let of of that romantic side that won them over in the first place.
And yes, that means NEVER skip date nights.
“It is easy to place romance on the back burner as your relationship progresses and you become familiar with each other. But, just like everything else, if you do not actively pursue romance, you are bound to lose it,” say the Turks.
34. Be a slave to routine
There’s nothing wrong with having a weekly plan or strategy, but don’t let yourself fall too far into that routine or you risk becoming…boring (queue the dramatic music).
“Neglecting your relationship is detrimental to the overall health and mutual happiness of the union. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when couples get into a fixed routine, shifting their focus to raising children, work, hobbies, or other goals. Eventually you get so caught up in your routine that you fall out of sync with your partner,” says Pina.
35. Openly expect or openly reject sex
“People have different sex drives and you’re not always going to be on the same page about it and that’s fine. But healthy couples have good sexual communication, recognizing their needs and not resorting to sarcasm, guilt, or defensiveness. They think of ‘our sex life’ as a community property they both invest in,” says Wendy Walsh, PhD, a relationship expert and author of The 30-Day Love Detox.
36. Let kids kill (or completely slow down) your sex life
“After kids come along, it;s easy to let intimacy in a relationship. But it’s more important than ever to keep that part of your relationship going so that you feel like a team. Make time to sizzle together because keeping your relationship strong ultimately helps your kids,” Suzy Olds, PhD, founder of After Nine Tonight, a company dedicated to helping married couples spice up their sex lives post-kids.
37. Avoid being vulnerable
“You will only truly get to know your partner and his or her needs and desires until you open up yourself,” Dr. Olds says. “The depth of your relationship depends on embracing vulnerability.”
38. Prioritize your kids over your relationship
We’re not saying that you should overlook your kids…we’re saying that sometimes you have to think about your marriage on an equal ground, because as we learned, a healthy relationship benefits your children as much as you.
“Many couples mistakenly make the children the center of the family when it is the marriage which should be the priority,” says Pina. “Without a firm, emotionally healthy foundation in the relationship, the rest of the family does not function well.”
39. Have emotional or physical scars
“Once the trust is broken through infidelity, whether emotional or physical, there is a very long road back to recovering a semblance of that unique shared bond,” Pina says.
40. Confuse your wants and needs
We all have wants and needs in a relationship. That doesn’t change no matter how long you’ve been with your S.O.
“We all want many things from our relationship but what is it we really need? Think communication, respect, mutual adoration, mutual admiration, financial security, affection, and partnership — not things like houses or fancy vacations,” House says.
41. Discourage or make fun of your spouse’s goals
No one likes having rain ruin their parade. No matter if you don’t approve, or if your partner is far from achieving his or her goals, you have no right to discourage them or make fun of their aspirations. Try to be supportive of your partner whenever you can!
“It’s so important to support your partner’s goals, even if they’re not necessarily something you would have picked. Discuss your individual and coupled goals early on in your relationship. Then check in with each other on a regular basis and ask how you can encourage and support them in reaching those goals,” Spaulding explains.