You know when you see a couple that looks like they are straight out of a storybook? Like the stars aligned and they were basically put on this earth to be with each other? Take Ken and Barbie, for example. From the outside looking in, they are perfect, but here’s the reality: every relationship has its issues, even theirs. Some are so big that they can’t be ignored (like a lack of communication or trust issues) and others are so minuscule that it’s hard to even tell that they are affecting your relationship. While the larger issues can obviously put a major strain on your relationship, we also need to watch out for the small ones. Ahead, we’re breaking down 9 small things that could be negatively impacting your relationship along with how you can make changes for the better.
1. Not having enough alone time
In order to show up as the best version of ourselves in our lives, careers, friendships, and relationships, we have to prioritize our relationship with ourselves first. But this is near impossible to do if we don’t spend enough time by ourselves. When you’re in a happy and healthy relationship, it’s not uncommon to want to spend all of your time with your partner, but time apart to do individual hobbies, spend time with friends, or indulge in self-care is crucial since these are the things that allow us to recharge and show up as a better person, friend, and partner. Try taking yourself on solo dates, booking a workout class, grabbing coffee with a friend, or taking on a new hobby if you find that all you’ve been doing lately is spending time as a pair.
2. Not expressing gratitude
They say that it’s the small things in a relationship that make a big difference—like helping the other person with dinner when they’ve had a long day, doing a chore for them because you know they hate doing it, leaving a note on the counter saying to have a good day, or giving them a hug just because. These things communicate to our partners that we care about them, but when it’s not reciprocated or acknowledged, it can feel like our efforts are wasted or not appreciated. Simple things like saying thank you more often, expressing gratitude, and letting the other person know how much you appreciate them can go a really long way in a relationship.
3. Holding grudges
So you’re still mad about that one time they told you that they would be home on Saturday morning to help around the house, totally forgot, and booked a tee time? Been there. But don’t hold it against them forever. I understand being frustrated with our partners every now and then (that’s so normal and I’d be worried if you never were), but grudges have a way of festering into something so much bigger if they aren’t let go. They become the catalyst of every argument and they make everything your partner does just a little bit more annoying because of that one time they did something wrong. For the health and happiness of your relationship, don’t hold grudges; however, if what aggravated you becomes a pattern, have an honest conversation about it.
4. Not complimenting each other
The only thing better than receiving a kind, genuine compliment from your partner is giving them one and seeing their eyes and smile light up. At the beginning of a relationship, we do this a lot. Like when we hear them laugh for the first time and think it’s so cute, we say something like “Oh my gosh, you have the greatest laugh.” Why is it that as time goes on, we stop saying things like that? Do we just get used to each other’s quirks and qualities? Do we think that they already know what we love about them? Probably. But don’t let that die out as time goes on because complimenting your partner (and being complimented by your partner) is and always will be something that means so much to one another. This is because it’s not about the compliment itself—you can say anything from “Your hair looks great today” to “You’re such a good listener” and what it really is communicating is that you see, appreciate, and care for each other.
5. Forgetting little moments of intimacy
When was the last time you kissed each other goodbye in the morning before work? Or the last time you cuddled on the couch? Maybe physical touch isn’t really your thing (that’s OK!), but lacking little moments of intimacy can have a negative effect on your relationship as a whole in more ways than one. Especially in long-term relationships, things like kissing each other goodnight before bed or hugging one another throughout the day can fall by the wayside. This can lead to you two feeling more like roommates than partners if you live together or it can cause one or both of you to feel like you’re not getting your needs met. What works for one couple may not work for another and there’s no rule book that says how intimate you’re supposed to be with one another, however, it’s important to consider and talk about to make sure you both feel fulfilled.
6. Stress at work
Work takes up the majority of our time, so if the majority of our time is filled with stress, it’s hard to turn it off during the hours we’re supposed to be relaxing or spending time with friends and loved ones. But this can have a negative impact on our relationships in small ways and in big ways alike. For example, if you or your partner is frustrated with work, it’s easier said than done to “leave work at work,” meaning, those frustrations bleed into your home life, causing less patience and a shorter temper. Similarly, if there is a lot going on in your work life, you may be spending more time working and less time with your partner. But rest assured, it is possible to have a thriving career you enjoy and a happy relationship. These affirmations and tips for better work-life balance can help.
7. Not sleeping enough
Not getting enough sleep can affect anyone’s mood, making it nearly impossible to show up as our best selves in our lives, careers, and you guessed it, our relationships. If you or your partner are not getting quality shut-eye, it can cause all sorts of problems like having a shorter temper with one another, not being able to be present in conversations due to exhaustion, and even resentment if one partner is to blame for the other’s sleep interruption (coming to bed late after work, snoring, or rolling around.). If this is negatively affecting your relationship, try these helpful sleep hygiene tips or—and hang with me here—consider sleeping in separate beds.
8. Lack of date nights
We talk about the importance of incorporating regular dates all the time around here—they can help you form a deeper connection, increase intimacy, improve communication, keep the spark alive in your relationship, and so much more. You and your partner could be seriously missing out on all of these things if you aren’t prioritizing them. Planning regular dates is usually something we do at the beginning of a relationship, but as time goes on, they are just as important (if not more important!) to continue doing. Try going on a date once a month to start, and you might find that you enjoy your quality time together so much that you start to plan them more often.
9. Spending too much time on your phone
You know when you’re scrolling aimlessly on your phone and you completely forget that a world outside your little flashing screen exists? Because same. Picking up our phones is so addicting and for a lot of us, can become an all too familiar bad habit—so much so that it can have a negative impact on our relationships. If you find that you or your partner are on your phone before bed instead of talking to each other, are picking it up in the middle of a conversation you two are having or are even checking it at the table during dinner, that can seriously impact your ability to be present and connect with one another. Try these things instead: turn on DND during date night, put your phone down when they get home so you can really pay attention when they tell you about their day, and put your phone in another room before bed so you can talk, cuddle, and connect.