Can you tell if your spats have veered into territory that relationship experts identify as dangerous? Check out the warning signs—and what you can do about repairing your bond.
You show a fundamental disrespect for your partner
It starts with a mile complaint like “You didn’t do the dishes.” But it escalates into a general criticism such as “You don’t help around the house.” That evolves into passing judgment on personality: “You’re a selfish, lazy slob.”
“This doesn’t happen overnight, but it gradually chips away at the foundation of your marriage,” says Lesli M. W. Doares, a marriage consultant and coach with a private practice in Cary, North Carolina, and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Work. Gilda Carle, PhD, relationship expert and author of Don’t Lie on Your Back for a Guy Who Doesn’t Have Yours, says arguments should never start with “you”: “‘You’ language is synonymous with finger pointing like ‘You did this, you did that,’” says Dr. Carle. “Where can a partner go from there? He can only come back with attacks on you. Before you know it, disrespect is rampant, nobody hears the other, and the true grievances you have go unheard and unresolved.” You’ll be surprised by these other secrets of happily married couples.
When you fight, you insist that you’re right
Yes, it can be tough to say, “I was wrong,” but in a relationship, it must be done. “My grandma used to say, ‘Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?’” says Bonnie Winston, celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. No one is right 100 percent of the time. Instead of figuring out who is right, you should be figuring out how to make things work. “When fighting about small things with your significant other, try to let them go,” says Winston. “Of course, the issues that mean the most and are important to you can be argued over, but in a mature way.” She recommends taking time to come up with exactly what you want to say. “Candidates in a debate don’t raise their voices and spew out unrehearsed words,” says Winston. “The ones that are the most effective have a well thought out viewpoint.” Feeling like you need to be right really can impact your relationship. “The need to be right in an argument is divisive and can lead to resentments in the relationship, especially over time,” says Antonia Hall, MA, a psychologist, relationship expert and author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life. “If you can’t remember that you’re a team, and focus on the root of what’s really causing conflict, there’ll be hurt feelings that can create desires for separation. Here is what your fights reveal about your relationship.
You disagree about having kids
You likely talked about having kids before you got married. But feelings can change. Perhaps one fears kids will get in the way of a career path. Or you want to give up trying after fertility issues have made it difficult to start or add to a family. “If you’re not on the same page about having kids, this will lead to resentment,” says Brooke Wise, founder of Wise Matchmaking. “Being a parent is a huge commitment physically and emotionally. It’s not something you can just compromise on or do for the other person. You have to be all in or it won’t work.” It’s unfair to talk someone into or out of having kids, says Doares. “Parenting is hard enough when both people are on board,” Doares says. “Being talked into it will only create resentment.”
You’re having the same argument again
Here you go again. You’re scolding him for not changing the toilet paper roll. You have to remind her to call on her way home from work. Or your issues are deeper, like what religion to raise your kids. Believe it or not, you’re not arguing about what you think you’re arguing about. According to The Gottman Institute, repeating conflict in your relationship represents the differences in your lifestyle and personalities. “This might lead to divorce if you let the arguments seriously escalate, fight dirty, shut down, refuse to talk, or excessively blame,” says Marni Feuerman, a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Boca Raton, Florida. You may need to compromise and do some give and take to end the constant battles and differences. Make sure you know the subtle signs of a toxic relationship.