One of the things I love to see when I’m out and about is old couples walking hand in hand or laughing together.
It’s such a potent statement that yes, against all odds and no matter what the world says, love can last a lifetime.
Those couples who’ve managed to keep the spark alive even after decades and decades know just how to make their relationship work.
That’s actually tricky because “what works” can look different from couple to couple.
But no matter what those are, there are some universal no-nos that we should all try to avoid if we want our relationship to stand the test of time.
Let’s check out what these are:
1) Taking your partner for granted
At the start of every relationship, the idea that you would take your partner for granted is unthinkable. After all, those are the days when everything about them fascinates you, and when you try to bend over backwards to make them feel happy and loved.
But as the years go by? That starry-eyed feeling is definitely going to wear off. And that’s completely natural. It settles into a quieter and much more comfortable feeling, as if your partner fits you like that ratty old sweater you love.
However, it does bring with it the danger that you’ll become so comfortable with each other that you’ll begin taking each other for granted.
What does that look like?
Well, for one, you might forget to show appreciation for the little things they do. Or you might be so used to their presence that you fail to notice when they need something – whether that’s affection or emotional support.
So, no matter how many months or years you’ve been together, always remember that your partner isn’t obligated to be with you.
It’s a choice they make. Every. Single. Day. That’s always worth the time it takes to say “thank you” or surprise them with acts of kindness.
2) Refusing or forgetting to communicate
This is another thing that can easily lead your relationship down the drain.
I once found myself in a relationship where I felt that my partner should know me well enough to instinctively know what I was feeling.
So, when it turned out he didn’t, I felt sorely hurt and disappointed.
That was my mistake – expecting him to be a mind-reader. I should’ve done the responsible thing, which was to express myself.
Honest, open communication is the bedrock of any lasting relationship. And it’s not just about the heavy stuff; even in the little things like who’ll be doing which household chores, communication is the key.
With constant and open communication, you’ll be less likely to have any festering hurts inside. This leads me to my next point…
3) Harboring grudges
I think we all know by now that keeping our feelings bottled up does us no good. And yet, it’s insanely hard to avoid sometimes, isn’t it?
Not everyone finds it easy to tell their partner that they feel hurt, especially if it’s something inconsequential.
But you know what? Sweeping those feelings under the rug isn’t fair either.
Because every time you do, you aren’t giving your partner a chance to rectify the issue. Or to show you they understand. For all you know, they might not even be aware they’d hurt you and once they know, they’d be so apologetic about it.
Meanwhile, since you’ve been harboring a grudge, you may have been thinking all sorts of negative thoughts about them – they’re selfish, inattentive, not a good partner, neglectful, etc.
That negativity can erode your relationship if you let it go on and on. So, again, communicate. Let them know how you feel, then forgive.
4) Letting dating fall by the wayside
If you’re going for the long haul, you can’t let dating be a thing of the past. That’s something that often happens when couples move in together. They think, do we still need to go on dates when we’re together all the time now?
Apparently, yes, dating is still an essential ingredient in healthy relationships. Because it keeps the spark alive.
Have you heard of the 2-2-2 rule? Many couples (me and my husband included) believe in its power to keep the romance going.
Basically, we have date nights every two weeks, go on a weekend trip every two months, and a week-long trip (or longer) every two years.
Of course, you can have your own dating schedule however you wish. But the thing to remember is, it’s about the quality of your interaction, not the quantity.
After all, what good is going on a date if your mind is still back at the office? Make sure you’re present and fully invested every time you’re with your partner.
5) Forgetting your individuality
Speaking of spending time together, I’d like to touch on when doing everything together as a couple can become problematic.
When couples become too entwined, they run the risk of losing their sense of self. In some extreme cases, it could even lead to codependency.
And that shouldn’t be the case.
The best relationships are the ones where both partners are there for each other, but also maintain their own individuality.
They might share a common hobby, but they each still have their own interests and friends. This gives them a sense of independence and also infuses the relationship with a dose of freshness.
So, no matter how in love you are with your partner, set aside time for you to do your own thing. Spend time with your friends and don’t be afraid to claim your personal space and alone time.
6) Comparing your relationship to others
It’s human nature to compare. We see couples, both in our real lives and on social media, and sometimes instantly, we think about the ways our partner is lacking.
I wish my partner was sweeter. I wish we could be that happy. I wish we had more romance…
Do those thoughts sound familiar to you?
The thing is, we never know what’s really happening behind closed doors. Whatever we see, those are highlight reels. Or a brave front.
And even if it’s really true that they’re happy, the reality is, it has no bearing on our own relationship.
So, appreciate the unique bond you have with your partner, whatever that looks like. Your own relationship is beautiful in its own way.
7) Playing mind games
What are some examples of damaging mind games? Here are a few:
- Suggesting a breakup every time there’s a disagreement
- Trying to make your partner jealous
- Testing your partner’s loyalty
- Withholding affection
Such tactics can erode the trust and security of your relationship. Instead, choose love. Sincerity. Trust. Communication. When you operate from a place of openness, you can’t lose.
8) Invading your partner’s privacy
Ah, this one’s something that commonly happens in relationships – one partner might feel entitled to the other one’s privacy.
They might read texts, snoop through emails, or go through personal belongings…
You might say, “Well, if they’ve got nothing to hide, it shouldn’t be an issue.”
I’d say, no, there is an issue. It’s not a matter of secrecy; it’s a matter of boundaries.
We all have our boundaries. I certainly wouldn’t be okay if someone went through my phone without my consent, even if I have nothing to hide. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be, too.
And in the context of relationships, invading your partner’s privacy sends them this message: You don’t trust them.
Believe me, that’s going to snuff out their warm feelings towards you faster than you can crack their phone’s passcode.
9) Trying to change your partner into the “ideal partner”
Right, the “ideal partner.” We all have one in our heads, don’t we?
Real talk: the ideal partner is the one you already have, if only you’d accept them the way they are.
After all, that’s who you fell in love with, right?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever call them out when they mess up. Of course we should, because that’s a way to help them grow and be better.
“Be better”, meaning they don’t have to fit into a preconceived mold that’s completely different from who they are at the core.
When we try to change them to fit our ideal, we’re practically saying, “You’re not enough.” That’s going to make them feel inadequate and unappreciated – and that doesn’t bode well for a long-lasting relationship.
10) Losing respect for your partner
Finally, we get to respect – another foundational element of a healthy relationship.
If you or your partner lapse into disrespectful behavior, it might be time to reassess how you deal with conflict.
It’s not even just about yelling or bickering with each other. Disrespect can show up in subtle ways like sarcasm or eye-rolling, which are, by the way, the top predictors of relationship failure, according to relationship experts.
In fact, in the words of psychologist Peter Gray in Psychology Today, “in relationships, respect may even be more crucial than love.
Let that thought guide you in those moments when you feel like snapping at your partner.
There’s more to it than this list, but hopefully, it gives you an idea of what not to do if you want your relationship to last.
And one more thing – keep working at it. Those old couples we see holding hands? I’m pretty sure their relationships weren’t always smooth sailing. But they kept talking, kept trying, kept choosing to love.