Break these habits before they break your relationship!

I often write about good relationship habits, so this month, I thought I’d explore some of the bad habits I see in my counseling practice that lead to strife and struggle in relationships. Hopefully, if you recognize any of these habits in your own relationship, you’ll work together to fix them.

1. You place social media above real communication.

This is a big problem, especially with younger couples. Feeling that you’ve discussed something because you’ve texted, or because it’s on Facebook is not the same as actually communicating. Spending your free time surfing Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter instead of “face time” with your partner is a bad choice.

2. You fight in times of stress.

Whether it’s a bad night’s sleep, trouble at work, lack of sex, or being ill or in pain, nothing is a good excuse for fighting. When you’re cranky and out of sorts, it’s your responsibility to know that and ask for some extra space or find a way to take care of yourself. If you let your partner know it’s a difficult day, that gives him or her a chance to treat you more thoughtfully and considerately than usual. But, everyday isn’t a bad day, so if you’re always cranky, take a look at your lifestyle and what you need to improve.

3. You have problems talking about money. 

Money is important, but many couples I see don’t know how to discuss it in a businesslike fashion. When couples don’t talk about money comfortably and easily, they discover problems too late. Are you keeping money secrets? Are you struggling over how your partner spends or saves money? Financial planning is very important for a happy marriage, but financial nagging and haranguing aren’t the ways to go about it.

4. You’re too attached to your phone, tablet or laptop.

I see so many couples at dinner focus so much on gadgets and not on each other. Your gadget is not going to provide happiness and fond memories.

Try this. Leave your phones and devices at home the next time you go out to dinner, and see how much better the conversation between you is. I know the phone is tempting and easy, but don’t let it seduce you into neglecting your relationship and your partner. If you can’t control it, set times when you turn it off so you can focus on an important family discussion or romance.

5. You struggle about your respective in-laws or let them meddle too much.

Once you marry, you and your partner become primary family. You need to discuss your in-laws and how to set boundaries with them. If your families have different styles and traditions, negotiate with each other first, then present a united front to your families. It’s time to “put away childish things” and change your relationship to your parents and siblings. Closeness to them is important — but not at the expense of your couple relationship.

6. You apologize instead of compromising.

If you’re apologizing too much, consider that your partner is possibly abusive. If you did it before this relationship, then it’s probably a self-esteem issue. Either way, it’s a good time to go for therapy and get it sorted out. You need to learn how to stand your ground when it’s appropriate. Apology is a good thing. It’s a way to heal small rifts between you, but not if it’s all one-sided.

7. You put off time for fun.

This is a common, chronic problem for Americans today. We value work, and don’t see how important recreation is. But you need your down time, too. And if all the fun goes out of your marriage or your life, you probably aren’t a happy camper. Hark back to your dating days to see what you used to do for fun, and schedule time for some of that.

8. You use work to avoid problems at home.

Yes, work is easy. You usually know what you need to do — it’s specific tasks with a goal. Relationship problems are much messier, you can’t control them by yourself, and you must have maturity and mutual respect to work together to solve them. Consider problems at home as just another task, like jobs at work. Your mate is your team partner, and you need to create a strategy for working together to solve them. Tackling problems at home head-on, like you do the business problems, will leave you much more time for fun and happiness.

9. You forget the small signs of love. 

Being “cool” is popular, but don’t ignore how important tenderness is. Affection, politeness, and everyday sweetness are the WD-40 of your relationship. They make everything run smoother. Try a little sweetness or tenderness, and see what happens. Everything gets easier.