Relationships are difficult, even in the best of circumstances.
When you’ve got habits that drive your partner crazy, you’re in for a rough ride—or a quick breakup.
However, some behaviors are common enough that we don’t think of them as threats to our relationships. For instance…
1. Not Splitting up the Chores
A study from the University of Missouri, Brigham Young University, and Utah State University showed that married couples are significantly happier if they share responsibilities around the house.
“But wait,” you might be saying, “I pay more of the bills.” That might be true, but parity is important; the study showed that relationships were healthier when “family work tasks” were divided more or less evenly.
The good news? So long as you’re both handling chores, you don’t have to split everything up in a perfectly equal manner. “We found that it didn’t matter who did what, but how satisfied people were with the division of labor,” one researcher said.
2. Sleeping in the Same Bed
This one sounds counterintuitive. If you’re sleeping in separate beds, your relationship is surely on the rocks, right?
Nope. Couples who sleep in separate beds may benefit from better sleep. After all, it’s fairly easy to get a good night’s rest when you don’t have to worry about someone snoring, rolling over, or getting up to go to the bathroom. Better sleep can mean better moods and fewer arguments.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that somewhere from 11 to 23 percent of couples sleep in separate beds. There’s a wide gulf between those numbers because there’s a stigma associated with the practice. Researchers believe that some couples may not want to reveal that they’re sleeping separately.
Of course, these couples can still “sleep over” if they feel like it; the separate beds simply accommodate different sleep patterns. If your partner has difficulty sleeping, this can be a great way to stem feelings of resentment (provided that you’ve got the room and the budget for an extra bed).
3. Going on Dates to the Same Places Over and Over
Sure, you’ve got a “favorite place,” and there’s something romantic about going back to the spot of your first kiss every once in a while. But too much routine can be dangerous. There’s nothing romantic about boredom, and monotony can defeat the purpose of dating.
Instead of sticking to the same routine, try setting goals to visit new places at least once per month (or once per week, if your schedule allows it). Above all else, never stop dating.
4. Spending Every Moment Together
Likewise, there’s such a thing as spending too much time with your partner. Alone time is vital to a relationship; it gives you space to process your own feelings, work on your own hobbies, and live a life of your own. That independence can be an important factor in a healthy relationship, and without it you may start to experience resentment for your partner.
It’s crucial that you take some time to yourself on occasion—and that if your partner asks for alone time, you don’t misinterpret the request as a sign that the relationship’s in trouble.
5. Not Communicating When You’ve Got Problems
The American Psychology Association notes that couples are happier when they’re able to communicate openly. That may mean bringing up difficult subjects from time to time.
“Researchers have found that communication style is more important than commitment levels, personality traits or stressful life events in predicting whether happily married couples will go on to divorce,” an article on the APA’s website states. “In particular, negative communication patterns such as anger and contempt are linked to an increased likelihood of splitting up.”
That means that you need to address difficult subjects in a kind, receptive way. Otherwise, your partner will react to how you brought the subject up rather than the subject itself, and you’ll likely be headed for trouble.
In particular, avoid yelling, insulting your partner, or withdrawing completely from the discussion. In a passionate argument, you might use one of these tactics anyway—and that’s okay, too, provided that you’re willing to apologize and work toward healthier expression in the future.
6. Ignoring Good News About Your Partner
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the way that couples react to their partner’s good news was a major indicator of a happy relationship. Researchers measured three types of reactions: excitement, pride, and indifference.
Indifference, unsurprisingly, failed to impress the research subjects. Two months later, the couples with the excited or proud reactions to “positive event discussions” were much more likely to remain together and rate their relationships as happy.
So what’s the takeaway? The next time your partner walks through the door with good news, however minor, think about how you’re reacting. If you tell them to be quiet because you’re watching a television show, that reaction can reverberate through the relationship.
As you might have guessed, this is also the case for other interactions. Positivity really makes a significant difference in couples’ happiness, so try to keep an eye on those “positive event discussions.”
7. Focusing on Your Smartphone
According to one survey, 75 percent of women in committed relationships believe that their partners’ smartphone usage affects intimacy. This, in turn, leads to lower relationship quality and lower life satisfaction.
That might not sound too shocking these days, but it’s a problem: 25 percent of respondents said that their partner had even written texts while in the middle of face-to-face conversations.
Even if you’re a skillful multi-tasker, using a phone sends the signal that you’re not interested in what your partner has to say—or that you’d rather be somewhere else. Learn when to focus on the other person.
Just as importantly, you should know how to react when your partner asks you to ditch the phone or tablet. “Don’t get defensive if your partner expresses disdain at your constant texting or gaming,” said Dr. Sarah Coyne of Brigham Young University. “It’s somebody’s way of saying they’d like to connect with you in person.”
8. Communicating Mostly Through Text Message
By all means, send your lover a nice comforting text while you’re at work, but if you’re communicating about a tense or difficult subject, pick up the phone. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a loss.
When we read a text, we put our own interpretation into it, whether we like it or not. We make assumptions about tone, occasionally seeing sarcasm when it isn’t really there or interpreting signals of love as signals of indifference.
In one study from 2005, test participants could only identify serious or sarcastic statements 56 percent of the time. That’s not much better than chance.
This is your relationship we’re talking about. If you need to say something important, pick up the phone so that you don’t leave anything up to interpretation. Dashing off a quick text might feel like the same thing, but unfortunately, the human brain isn’t quite set up for this type of communication (yet).
9. Worrying About Money
Financial issues are the most common source of relationship stress. The American Psychological Association notes that 75 percent of Americans reported experiencing financial stress in 2015, and we doubt that the number will change much anytime soon. Even in the best financial times, money worries are a common issue.
Whether you’re arguing about how much to save, how you’ll pay your bills, or whether to make a major purchase, the point is that you’re arguing.
Chances are that you assume you’re in the right—a SunTrust Bank survey found that most respondents believed that they had the more virtuous spending habits—but you should treat financial arguments with clear, open communication.
Try to find compromises wherever possible. Stay level-headed and don’t bring insults or other negative persuasion tactics to the table. In the long run, it’s not the amount of money that’s important to a relationship, but the way that you handle your disagreements is certainly a crucial indicator of whether you’ll stay together.