Don't let these ruin your relationship.
They're sneaky. They strike when you least expect it—heck, you might not be aware of them—but they can send shockwaves through your relationship. We're talking about relationship saboteurs, those icky, undercover forces that erode and undermine your bond.
Women really are from Venus and men from Mars, at least when it comes to how we relate.
"When you don't understand each other's communication styles, it can create a huge misunderstanding between you," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance"), psychotherapist and author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together. "Both partners can develop hurt feelings, resentment can build, and the resulting arguments and struggles can actually destroy the connection that holds a marriage together."
Solution: Learn your partner's language.
"Women need to know how to ask men for what they want directly, and in a rational, not emotional manner," says Tessina, who adds men respond much better to "honey, will you take out the garbage?" than to "the garbage can is overflowing, and it smells bad."
On the flipside, men need to dial into women's feelings when they want something. "Women do not always respond to a direct request. They do better when feelings are talked about," says Tessina. So instead of "wait till the game is over, honey," try "I'm sorry it's bothering you, sweetheart, I'll take it out as soon as there’s a commercial break."
It has been said that “expectations are resentments under construction.” Healthy boundaries in a relationship are good; setting exacting specifications for how your partner and relationship should behave can spell disaster.
“These unmet expectations, and a person's reactions to the unmet expectations can leave your partner feeling confused, or like he or she is not enough,” warns Ramani Durvasula Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist.
Solution: Keep checking in with yourself and be aware.
“The key to awareness is being authentic with yourself about your narratives and expectations,” says Durvasula, who suggests paying attention to petty differences and looking for patterns: Are they about money? Do they happen when you compare yourself to others? Are you holding expectations in the relationship that your partner does not know? Are you talking out of both sides of your mouth, one minute saying that you are so happy to have such a sweet guy and the next castigating him for not being a good provider?
“It is critical to deconstruct your narratives and really face up to what is yours versus the voices of others,” says Durvasula.
At times, it may feel like your partner is intentionally causing you pain, whether it's not answering your text within five minutes or throwing you the 'wrong' birthday party, but more likely they're triggering a primal reaction in you. That's when you boil over, shut down, or retreat—and ultimately shut out your partner.
"When you do this dysfunctionally, your partner hears: 'I’m not that into you anymore,'" says Ken Page, LCSW, New York-based psychotherapist and author of Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy.
Solution: Identify and manage emotional triggers.
Action plan: Take an inventory, take a deep breath and take five. By noticing what stirs you up and sets you off, you can find healthier ways to deal with triggers without punishing your partner. "The key is learning to change those reactions in a way so that when things are difficult, we know the path to get closer to our partner instead of pushing them away," adds Page.
Cinderella and Prince Charming may have lived happily ever after, but thinking relationship are all rainbows and roses is a fairy tale.
"The assumption has to be that your relationship will tarnish if you're not doing the work," says Page. "Like silver, you have to polish it again and again, and sometimes it takes elbow grease." If not, distance and resentment grows, conversation becomes less intimate and sex diminishes.
Solution: Polish your relationship.
Work doesn't mean punishment; it means expressing your need, focusing on your own work rather than trying to change your partner, and sharing your most vulnerable parts. "Tell your partner how much you adore them, what you love that they do in bed and what you love that they do out of bed," adds Page.
This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.