All the stress, anxiety and friction can take a toll on your relationship with your spouse. While lying and cheating may seem like the most obvious relationship killers, other little things, or everyday habits that harm your relationship, too.
Says mum of two Y M Ng of her spouse of nine years, “He’s a great dad, but one thing we fight about most these days, is that he lives life as though he’s single ― he doesn’t think twice about heading out for supper with friends, or spending hours on video games.”
Whether it’s shirking responsibility, or disrespecting one another, we round up some of the most common and overlooked dangerous behaviours wise couples avoid carrying out.
1. Frequently rolling your eyes
Ever find yourself doing this when your spouse messes up in the kitchen, or forgets to pick up the eggs on his way home from work? Well, this little 2-second gesture can be very disrespectful to your spouse. Evonne Lek, a family therapist at Reconnect Child and Family Therapy notes that eye-rolling can signify contempt for the other partner. “Even though it’s not said, this non-verbal communication can break down the marriage quickly,” she says.
“I know my hubby hates it, but I can’t help it when I’m frustrated!” gripes C Koh, who’s a mum of a 6-month-old baby girl. Lek advises that people like Koh should be aware of their own feelings, so as not to set aside their own views, nor hold back from expressing them.
“If you disagree with your partner’s opinion, say it in a way where it is not criticising the other person. Speak respectfully and agree to disagree if you cannot find agreement,” she adds.
“Behind the mismatched expectations, there are often common goals… That’s why pre-marital counselling is important ― so, you are aware of the other’s expectations.”
2. Having mismatched expectations
Differing expectations is a common problem in marriages. For instance, the husband and the wife may not have talked about the time to spend with the in-laws on weekends, and end up with differing opinions.
“But behind the mismatched expectations, there are often common goals ― in this instance, both parties ultimately want a deeper emotional connection with the family,” Lek shares. “That’s why pre-marital counselling is important ― so, you are aware of the other’s expectations."
3. Giving the silent treatment
If you’re no stranger to arguments in a marriage, then you’d know that the silent treatment never works. Giving the silent treatment is a manipulative tactic that goes against the grain of encouraging communication, and it leaves important issues unresolved.
“Also known as ‘stonewalling’, it means that the partner doesn’t respond to whatever the other has to say,” Lek explains. Apart from the extreme frustration experienced by the person who is being “stonewalled”, he or she may feel lonely and helpless. “I often hear how couples use this as a strategy to cope with their negative emotions. They do not want to voice their thoughts and feelings as they think it will lead to a fight. So, they do this for the sake of harmony,” says Lek.
The truth is, giving the silent treatment is unhealthy and it breaks down marriages. Lek adds, “Couples should be aware of their behaviour and learn to be articulate about their feelings.”
4. Shirking responsibility
Responsibility in a marriage can come in many forms. There is financial responsibility, and being responsible for the kids, for instance. In relationships where one party is shirking responsibility, it could be because he or she feels “under attack and being criticised, and hence they are defensive and want to protect themselves,” says Lek.
You should also be responsible for your spouse’s feelings and the time you put in to grow your relationship. “When we take responsibility for our actions and words, we acknowledge that our partner’s needs are important to us,” Lek adds.
Another example is making decisions. Having the same amount of say in resolving an issue lets each spouse feel respected and valued.
“They do not want to voice their thoughts and feelings as they think it will lead to a fight. So, they do this for the sake of harmony.”
5. Conflicts over money issues
Yet another common cause of conflict in marriages stems from money issues. Lek notes that the issue is often easily resolved with a budgeting plan, but the problem can be difficult to solve if the couple is not on the same page about how the money should be spent.
“If you focus on why the person wants to spend the money, you may find that there are hidden dreams and values that will help the relationship,” says Lek. For instance, maybe your partner wants to save, so you can both retire in another country, or maybe you want to spend the money you have because you appreciate the time you have with your partner now.
6. Bringing up past mistakes
When a couple has been together long enough, they go through plenty of ups and downs. There may have been past hurts and past mistakes that inevitably get brought up every now and again during the marriage.
Says Lek, “When a partner brings up past mistakes, it is possible that they are seeking reassurance that they will not be hurt again.” For instance, when a partner brings up past extramarital affairs, he or she is still going through the pain, so it may be necessary to help him or her through this difficult time.
However, if you raise past mistakes, for instance, how he or she does the household chores, you may “give the impression that you do not trust your partner’s ability to do things right”, Lek explains. “This creates a feeling of negativity in the relationship and might lead to defensiveness.
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