Photo: Charlotte Jenks Lewis
When it comes to relationships, we often focus on the big things: Money, kids, religion. But, "it's the small things that end up making or breaking a relationship," says psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman. Here, our experts say, are seven small things that can make a big (and often bad) difference to your twosome.
1. Your partner is a rabid sports fan (and you're not).
It may not seem tough to cheer on your partner's team, but, "having to build your life around every game can be really trying," points out Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage. Sure, you can appreciate the finer points of a well-executed sack — but you can't appreciate it seems more important to your sports-loving partner than you do. Over time, this can cause tension, Doares warns.
2. Your partner isn't a great listener.
When you were first dating, you thought your partner was just excited when he or she couldn't wait until you'd finished your sentence to interject his or her opinion. Now, his or her habit of interrupting hurts. "Frequently interrupting or letting their attention be diverted elsewhere sends a clear message that what your partner feels or needs to express is just not important to you," explains Coleman. On the flip side, "deep listening does just the opposite."
3. Your partner spends a lot of time on the phone.
If you're a Chatty Cathy, beware: "It's great that you have great relationships with other people, but not so great if you are spending time with them instead of your partner," says Doares. "It also can be problematic if you are sharing things about your relationship or what your partner is doing that they don't know is being shared. This is also true if you spend a lot of time on social media with what for your partner may be complete strangers."
4. Your partner uses the phrase, "yes, but ..."
According to Coleman, "When a partner is being vulnerable and asking their partner to own up to something they have done that was wrong or hurtful, and their partner says, 'yes, but,' they are acknowledging what is being expressed, but then dismissing it as incorrect and refusing to take any responsibility." Two small words with a really big impact. "Being able to apologize and accept responsibility for one's behavior and its impact on your partner says I love you like nothing else," she says.
5. Your partner has bad table manners.
When it comes to table manners, "not waiting for you before they start eating or leaving you at the table when they're done is disrespectful," says Doares. And, if you feel disrespected, resentment can build up, meal by meal. "Same goes with taking the last of the food without finding out if you want more, talking with their mouth full, or reading at the table," Doares adds.
6. Your partner doesn't pitch in when you're pooped.
You can handle almost anything — almost all the time. But when you're stressed, tired, or overworked, you could use a helping hand. "Ignoring the distress of one's partner communicates a lack of caring," says Coleman. "It says, 'it's your responsibility — deal with it and don't expect me to put myself out to help you.' But jumping in to help and saying, 'take it easy, I've got this,' is a love language that everyone speaks."
7. Your partner doesn't think of you.
You may not mind the first time your partner gets up for a snack and doesn't ask if you'd like anything from the kitchen. But by the tenth time, you may get a little testy. "Checking in with you about whether you want something to eat too, need a glass of water when they head to the kitchen, getting a plate down for you, whatever it may be, is a sign of awareness and generosity," says Doares. "Only thinking about themselves in these circumstances is self-centered and does not bode well for the long-term health of your relationship."