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A single mistake may not cost you your marriage. But commit any of these spousal sins, our expert says, and your marriage could turn sour. Here are the most common relationship blunders to avoid in your marriage — and what healthy best practices to do instead.
1. Agreeing to things you don't really want to do.
Says Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage, "Signing on to something you don't support — what I call making a concession — sows the seeds of resentment, and resentment kills relationships." To avoid making resentment-forming concessions, Doares suggests following what she calls follow the policy of joint agreement. "You don't take any action unless both of you are on board," she describes. "It should take two yes votes to move forward. One no means you either abandon the idea or keep talking about until the reasons for the no are resolved. This requires both of you to be honest with yourselves and with each other."
2. Keeping score.
It's a no good, just-plain-bad idea to keep count when it comes to what each of you does in the relationship, Doares says. "It sets the two of you up as adversaries instead of partners, and it leads to focusing too much on what your partner isn't doing as well as to frequent arguments where each of you defend your own contributions and minimize your partner's." So rather than thinking of your marriage as a 50/50 endeavor, Doares encourages you to view it as each of you giving 100 percent. "You each made promises to each other without making it conditional on the other one's behavior, so recognize that you are a team," she says. "One member of a team can't win while the rest of the team loses. You win or lose together."
3. Not spending regular time with each other.
Says Doares, "Marriage doesn't necessarily require work but it does require attention. Nothing thrives on neglect, and marriage is no exception." She warns that spending minimal time with one another — think: less than 30 minutes each day — allows you to only act on a superficial level that can't sustain a lasting connection. "Make sure you are spending at least 30 minutes a day together without distractions," she advises. "This allows you to stay curious about each other and what you've each been doing while apart. Continuing to date — time alone together with the sole purpose of having fun — keeps the relationship fun and adds necessary novelty."
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4. Not treating each other with kindness and respect.
Sad as it may be, Doares says, "people often treat complete strangers better than they do their spouses, because it's easy to slip out of common courtesies like saying please and thank you when you live with someone 24/7. But this is not loving or respectful behavior." Never stop being kind to one another, Doares says, and make an effort to do little things on a regular basis that show you care. "Continuing to ask your partner if you can get them anything when you get something for yourself, trying to be quiet when they are sleeping, and just being considerate of them as another human being should be the norm," Doares describes.
5. Not making the marriage a priority.
Your marriage is hardly the only thing you have going on. And with so many things and people competing for your time, you may find "the squeaky wheel gets attention — the children, your job, your cell phone," says Doares. "It's easy to let your relationship take a back seat, especially if there aren't any 'real' problems. But marriage behavior should be as good or better than courtship behavior if you expect it to survive." Rather than letting your marriage come in last, Doares says, you should make time for it first. "You tell people what is important to you by how you spend your time," she says. "If you aren't spending time in your marriage, you are telling your spouse that it isn't important to you. Finding a sustainable balance between work, home, and self can be challenging but it is doable. It is also necessary for the long-term health of your marriage."