relationship mistakes to avoid

We all know that divorce rates are high, but what is more shocking is that on average marriage that ends in divorce In the UK lasts about eleven and a half years. In the US, the average age of a marriage that ends in divorce is only eight years. If we factor in all the relationships that broke up who did not end up in marriage, it gives a true perspective.

Historically, many couples stayed together even when they were miserable because our societal and religious norms dictated it. Today if you don’t take good care of your partner or spouse, they won’t stick around long enough to fix it. That is why I urge you to take some active steps towards fixing any mistakes you are making now before it is too late. Here are ten common relationship mistakes to avoid and actions you need to try and remedy before you lose the one you love.

1. Taking your partner for granted

When was the last time you complimented your partner? We all know that we have to positively reinforce the good behavior of our children and our pets, but we forget how important it is to do the same with our partners.

Compliment your partner frequently. Ask them about their work, hobbies, and anything that is important to them. I was guilty of ignoring my husband yesterday. I had been to the dentist and when I came home I forgot to ask my husband how his meeting with a client went. Later that evening he said, “Not that anybody asked me, but I made a big deal that is going to benefit us all through the coming year.” He came home feeling taken for granted because I was so focused on myself that I forgot to ask him how things went. I did apologize and praised him.

Take a real interest in how your partner is doing. Compliment them on whatever they do that is good. Be sincere and don’t overlook the small things either. When my husband wakes up before me, he always brings me a cup of coffee in the morning. He deserves praise for that. If he does the dishes or takes out the trash, I thank him.

Tell your partner that you like his or her hair, or physique, or whatever they have that you like. When we don’t praise our partners, somebody else will – like that certain someone at the office. That is how people go astray and start affairs with somebody who pays attention to them.

2. Not fixing yourself up

Dress for your mate. Wear your hair like your mate prefers it. I know some women that save their hair, nails, and makeup for when they go to work or out with friends. It is important to look good at home too. I am lucky that my husband thinks I look just as good without makeup, but for some reason, he really notices my hair. That is why I brush my hair first thing in the morning (as well as my teeth of course). I also make sure that I look good around the house. Wearing ratty sweats with bleach stains should be saved for cleaning projects.

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You should have some variety. Also, wear what they like to see in bed, at least for a while! I know some guys that have bought beautiful lingerie for their wives and it just gets put in a drawer. If sleeping in a t-shirt is sexy to him, wear that. Take what your partner wants to see into account. Men are guilty of this as well. My husband kept wearing the same three workout shirts every day at home until I was ready to burn them. If I never see them again, I will be happy. He also likes to cut the sleeves out of a lot of T-shirts. I bought him some different shirts so I would have a change of scenery.

3. You are not fun anymore

While we were dating, my ex-husband and I went out almost every night to dinner, to a party or club, went dancing, and did a lot of fun stuff.  After we got married, we never went dancing again. He loved to stay home and watch TV. It was almost like he thought, “Now I’m married and I don’t have to do anything.” Eventually, we got a divorce.

The things you did to attract your mate, you need to keep doing after you are in a committed relationship. If you have kids, get a babysitter at least once a week and go out and do something fun. If you need to stay home for date night, watch some shows that you both like. Try watching Will & Grace, Big Bang, or some other funny show. Binge-watch Games of Thrones, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Billions, The Walking Dead, Colony, or Grey’s Anatomy. Agree on a movie or anything you both like. Watch a movie together after the kids go to bed. Play games. Keep it fun.

4. You bring up the past

If there have been infidelities, financial mistakes, or career obstacles in the past, do not bring them up anymore. I know one couple where the guy cheated while they were engaged. Fifteen years later, she still brings it up whenever they have a fight. You cannot change or fix the past. Hopefully, you both learned something from it, but to have a good relationship you have to live in today.

Don’t let anyone belittle you over past mistakes. If your partner brings up something from the past, walk out of the room calmly. If you are the one bringing up old stuff over and over, you may need to journal about it and learn to deal with it or see a relationship counselor to help you. Otherwise, you are destroying today’s life by dwelling in the past.

5. You nag, bitch, and complain

I have studied motivation for many years. One thing I can tell you is that criticism doesn’t make people want to change. If your partner has a drinking problem, for example, screaming at him won’t make him want to stop drinking. You should go to AL-Anon meetings for those whose family or friends have problems with alcohol or leave the situation. You should let them experience the consequences of their actions and never call in sick for them or pick up broken things off the floor.

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Somehow, we know that screaming at our kids to clean their rooms doesn’t work. However, consequences and reinforcing approximations of good behavior do work. Being critical of your spouse slowly chips away at the relationship. Keep your negative opinions to yourself as much as possible and start noticing anything good and positively reinforcing it. People experience love by how they feel around the other person. If you are constantly pointing out things they didn’t do or should do better, they will find someone who makes them feel good.

6. You are not affectionate

You need to touch your partner frequently. We pet our dogs, but not our mates. Kisses, foot rub, back rub, and hugs are all the little things that help us feel loved. You may have heard of failure to thrive and how it was discovered. In the early 20th century, people noticed that in the clean, sterile nurseries of orphanages of the US many babies had failure to thrive. At the same time, the babies in Mexican orphanages thrived and grew well even though the conditions weren’t as antiseptic or orderly. It was discovered that the Mexican caretakers of the infants held, carried, and touched the babies frequently and the nurses caring for the US babies did not. Human beings need human touch and affection, just like our pets do.

If we are from a culture that doesn’t express much affection, we may have to work harder to do this. It can make all the difference in your mate’s health and outlook. I even saw a study where rabbits were fed junk food, and in one group they were talked to sweetly and petted. The other group was just treated as typical lab animals. I am sure you can guess that the rabbits who were petted and spoken to kindly didn’t suffer all the ill effects from junk food that the other group did.

7. You don’t have sex very often

Partners very rarely have the same sex drive. You need to be willing to please your partner in some way even if you aren’t really in the mood. Some people withhold sex as a punishment, and this is especially dangerous when we have Apps that allow us to find someone to go to bed with almost immediately. I am not saying if your partner wants to engage in bedroom activities five times a day, that you should accommodate them. I am saying though generally if your partner wants intimacy and you don’t, go ahead and do what you can. Many times you will get in the mood as things progress. I have realized that when I am in the mood, it is important not to put it off because I might not be in the mood later. So my husband engages even if he is busy or initially not in the mood. He also lets me know when he is really in the mood and even if it is a “quickie” until we have more time, we go ahead.

If you have small kids or other heavy responsibilities, schedule time for sex. Another problem some women have is when they don’t feel good about their bodies, they don’t want to be intimate. Turn down the lights, dress up as a character or do whatever you need to boost your confidence. Men are way less critical of our bodies than we are. If you catch yourself saying bad things about your body, stop. Later, listen to some Louise Hay affirmations and start looking in the mirror and saying good things to yourself about your body.

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8. You spend too much time apart

I don’t know if you have ever seen the show, Married at First Sight, but one of the newlywed husbands spends almost every night out with “the boys” while his wife is sad and lonely at home. I predict divorce in no time. I know a guy who played golf so much that he hardly spent any recreation time with his wife. I remember we had a party once and she came alone because he was still out on the golf course. They got divorced.

I know a couple where she loves to travel and he hates to go anywhere. She had to convince him to go to Hawaii for their anniversary. Now she goes on trips all the time by herself because she loves it. It is okay to have separate hobbies and interests as long as you take the time to do things together. However, if spending time with friends ever becomes more important than spending time with your spouse, one of you is bound to meet someone else at that bar or resort.

9. You argue about money

The fact that opposites attract can actually be a good thing in the long run. For example, I am a spender and my husband is a saver. Even though we initially had some big conflicts over money, we finally realized that we each had to compromise. We now know that we balance each other out.

It is okay to each have separate checking accounts and if you both work, try having a third account where you both contribute proportionally to what you earn. We have a rule though that if either of us wants to spend over $1000, we have to consult the other one. Never make the mistake of thinking that all the money belongs to the breadwinner if someone is staying home with the kids. The caretaker or homemaker shouldn’t have to beg or get an allowance. They should pool resources as needed.

10. You are not supportive

Your partner has their own hopes and dreams. If one of you wants to continue their studies, learn a language, or do a marathon you need to help them. My husband and I are listening to Italian language lessons when we walk the dog since we are going to Italy soon. When I went back to get my Master’s degree and later my Ph.D., he always proofread my papers and did anything he could to help.

Learning and growing together will keep your relationship fresh and healthy. Don’t regret the sacrifices you have to make to build the dreams you both want to enjoy. Help your partner achieve all they want.

I hope that this list of relationship mistakes to avoid will help you along the way. There is nothing more satisfying in life than having a great loving relationship with your partner. It is work, but it can be fun. Appreciate and take an interest in your mate. Every day you should ask yourself, “What can I do to make my partner’s day better?” I believe you will both end up happy this way.

Jane is a former college professor turned businesswoman. She owns two businesses in Charlotte, NC and is the author of Power Path to Love. Jane is happily married and has advised many people on how to improve their relationships. She also has done a series of brief YouTube videos on how to increase prosperity and positivity.

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