We're always looking for relationship advice. We never stop wondering if we're doing it "right," because romantic relationships — marriages, specifically — are complex. But when people search for advice, they often forget to consult the best resource we have: marriage counselors.
Because really, why sort through magazine columns when you can look to a trained professional? So here's a handy first step: one Reddit thread specifically called for the input of marriage counselors. The burning question? To name the most common mistakes that couples make. Regardless of what stage your relationship is in, it seems like that info would be good to know!
So check out these insightful answers. Your current or future relationship might thank you!
Nobody said marriage was easy.But then again, it's not supposed to be, is it? It's a partnership between two people, and that partnership needs to be navigated with care. So here are a few tips to consider!
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.Expecting one person to be everything for them. You need friends, coworkers, a support system, and hobbies. -fairiefire
This should be an obvious mistake:Keeping secrets or lies. -fairiefire See, it should go without saying that lying to your spouse isn't good, but...I guess marriage counselors still need to say it.
Keep the past where it belongs.
I went to 5 sessions with my wife during a tough period. The best things we learned from that is:
Never lash the other with past misbehaviors when trying to resolve a current issue. We have been married 17 years so there is limitless crap we can pull out of our history together to highlight past wrongs and that just derails what could be a quick resolution.-mrmrmrj
Solve problems instead of making new ones.
When one half says "I am not happy about X", do not respond with "ok but I am unhappy with Y." Fix X. Get settled. Then bring up Y if you still need to.-mrmrmrj
Recognize that getting help isn't a failure.Counselor here. Just want to say how awesome it is you and your spouse went and got the help you needed. Wanted to highlight the importance of getting help early enough, too. Many of us tend to view marriage counseling as a sign of total failure and only resort to it as a last-ditch effort when one or both halves of the marriage are already wanting a divorce. Because of this, marriage counseling can often end in divorce. If couples had gone in earlier when issues were first coming up, they likely could have kept a healthy marriage alive. -EDaniels21
I mean, think about it.If you're having problems and seek a counselor to help, that's not a failure--that's dedication to the relationship, making sure it's as strong and happy as possible!
Don't mistake your marriage for a game of ping pong.
Keeping score. A partnership is a team, not a competition. Whether a person keeps score of everything they have done or everything their partner has done, it is a death knell for the relationship. This is one of the most common causes of resentment in a relationship, and you see it often when people use absolute terms to describe themselves or their partners (I.e: I always..., she never...). Remembering that each person has his/her own needs, abilities, skills, and boundaries are essential to a healthy couple.-natgoeshome
Unless you ACTUALLY married a psychic...your partner isn't psychic.
Expecting that because your significant other knows you better than others and is around you most, that they are aware of all of your thoughts and feelings. Your partner is not psychic, and no matter how often they are around you or how well they know you, they cannot pick up on every nuance to determine how you are feeling and how they should respond. That is called emotional babysitting, and it cascades into a host of problems and unnecessary hurt.-natgoeshome
Sometimes you just need to listen.Not listening, most people listen to respond and don't listen to hear. This is what I spend the most time teaching couples how to do! -cplkm
If you can't talk comfortably with your spouse, that's a problem.
Lack of communication/comfort with discussing difficult topics. Or one partner is uncomfortable with discussing a topic which leaves both partners feeling frustrated or dissatisfied.-maxpowerphd
Take responsibility for your own shortcomings.
Blaming their partner for all issues in the relationship and not taking ownership of their own role in dysfunction/issues.-maxpowerphd
Not expressing gratitude towards your partner on a regular basis. Experiences and expressions of gratitude can have a really positive effect on psychological well being as well as relational strength.-maxpowerphd
And you don't have to save the gratitude for huge things.It can have such a positive impact on how someone experiences their day. It doesn't have to be anything big either, be grateful that your coffee was good or traffic was lighter than normal or how your partner gives the best hugs or it's a nice day outside, etc. Find something you are grateful for and take time to appreciate it! -maxpowerphd
Intimacy is important.
Not giving intimacy in their relationship enough attention. This includes but is not limited to sex. Many relationships start with the "hot and heavy" phase where intimacy can come naturally. As this phase diminishes many couples do not spend the time and energy to consider how to maintain a healthy level of intimacy now that it doesn't just come naturally.-maxpowerphd
Everyone makes mistakes.Also, please keep in mind that every relationship is a partnership. Very rarely have I seen these type of issues in relationships be all the fault of just one person. For instance, it's not "only women" that engage in the mind reading mistake despite the stereotypes that people want to perpetuate. This mistake occurs regardless of gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, etc. -maxpowerphd
Because again, relationships are complicated.These issues are usually dynamic and complicated in nature and are a result of cognitive/emotional/behavioral/interpersonal patterns of each partner interacting with each other. If you feel these issues are all your partner's fault I would encourage maybe trying out individual counseling to talk about how you feel and learn more about how your cognitive/emotional/behavioral/interpersonal patterns may influence your experience in your relationship. -maxpowerphd
There are a few recognizable precursors to divorce:
Currently a student in a Clinical Psychology Doctorate Program, focusing on Marriage and Family.
If you aren't already familiar with it, I would recommend taking a look at John Gottman's work on romantic relationships. He is one of the best-known researchers on this topic. Perhaps his most famous work is The Four Horsemen - in a 30-minute interview, Gottman was able to accurately predict which couples would divorce based on their interactions with each other, particularly when those interactions included:
Let's shake it up with a tip from a divorce lawyer!
Divorce lawyer here.
Talk. About. Money.
Talk. About. Sex.-WholeMilkStandard
When you think about it, divorce lawyers know all the classic mistakes too.If you're marrying someone with a shitty credit score, you should know how and why they ended up with it, lest you find yourself in their shoes very quickly. A credit score can cost thousands and take Y E A R S to rebuild. Know if they have any tax liens or liability. Are they paying child support and do they have any kind of garnishment? Who is going to be responsible for managing the finances? How many credit cards does the other person have and what are their balances? I've seen money kill a lot of marriages. -WholeMilkStandard
And yeah, you've gotta talk about intimacy to make it work.Another one a lot of people don't think of is actually talking about sex, not just having it. Do you enjoy the sex you have? Would you like to have more of it? Less? Would you like to see it change? Do you or the other person have any weird kinks? Just have the talk. Different sexual wavelengths can be difficult to reconcile. -WholeMilkStandard
Vulnerability is better than anger.
Therapist here, have served couples.
Number one problem I see is overactive threat response creating anger and rigidity. People don’t stop to turn down their defense mode and lose sight of love because all their energy is going towards being right or controlling the outcome. Of course, that control comes from a place of fear, but fear and vulnerability feels too dangerous, so it typically gets expressed as anger, frustration, or rigidity.-WhyAreYouUpsideDown
And don't drive your therapist nuts!Surrender to not having control, accept what’s in front of you, and cultivate compassion. Please. Because y’all rigid couples who just can’t prioritize empathizing with each other over your fear response are driving me nuts! :) -WhyAreYouUpsideDown
"Repair attempts" are an interesting concept.Wife has a degree in marriage and family counseling. One of the bigger factors in a successful marriage are couples responding to “repair attempts" during arguments/conflict. Rescue attempts are often little jokes or olive branches to help overcome issues and arguments. -KaptainKompost
Here's an example:Edit: people keep asking for an example. My wife didn’t buy movie tickets in advance for date night this last Sunday and it was sold out. It sucked! She laughed and sheepishly said, “well, at least we get to spend more time together staring longingly into each other’s eyes!" That was her rescue attempt. It works two ways though, I also have to respond positively to it... which I did. We did a lot of staring longingly into each other’s eyes last Sunday. -KaptainKompost
Practice makes (almost) perfect!Edit 2: I thanked my wife for the internet points and told her why. Her response, “that’s funny because you’re not even responsive to rescue attempts, idiot!" I can’t stop laughing. -KaptainKompost
Remember you're on the same team.As soon as a couple stops being on the same team, fighting all the bulls**t of life together, things fall apart. Get on the same team. Get behind each other's goals. If you're not on the same team, you're just going to wind up annoying the f**k out of each other. All that bulls**t of life is going to be beating you down and your life partner is just going to be part of it instead of a refuge. -thudly
Don't scare your partner away without meaning to!
When your significant other brings something to your attention, that they need/want, don't react harshly if it's something they've refused to bring up sooner. Getting loud or defensive "Why didn't you bring this up sooner!" will make them shy away from bringing things up again due to negative reinforcement/backlash.
This is especially true if they've been victims of any kind of abusive relationships.-McCl3lland
You're definitely not just roommates!
One of the most toxic things I have found in doing marriage counseling is when couples think of themselves as individuals who happen to be together and not as a couple. (Not that I’m advocating enmeshment.)
That’s not really a marriage. That’s having a roommate, or perhaps less than that even.-Negromancers
There's a reason for all those vows.
Marriage is a union of two people. That’s what the unity candle and sand and knots are all about. There is a bringing together of two lives that is inseparable.
If either member still conceptualizes themselves as a solely autonomous individual whose actions and dispositions impact only themselves, things will go bad eventually.-Negromancers
Make sure your priorities are straight.They go bad because it results in a person caring more for themselves than their spouse. This is seen where couples spend money behind each other’s backs because “it’s my money, why does it matter?" When couples keep secrets from each other, which inevitably results in pain. This is seen when couples don’t stop to consider their spouse’s thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams, abilities, and strengths alongside their weaknesses. -Negromancers
It's not too late to fix the mistake.The remedy to this is behaving as a unit in small ways and in large. If you’re getting something from the fridge, see if your spouse wants something. It even helps in arguments; no longer is it spouse against spouse but it’s the married couple against the issue causing stress to the unit. -Negromancers
Think about how something will affect your partner.
When one person considers a course of action, their thoughts ought to be about how it impacts the unit.
Tl;dr “and the two shall become one flesh so they are no longer two but one."-Negromancers
Believe it or not, there's even a right way to fight.
People don't learn to fight. You have to fight fair in a relationship. People go nuts when they get mad and some couples never learn to fight in a way that honors the person you are fighting with. It is so important to learn to respect space, don't assume motives, and take turns in explaining your views.
It's a big deal and I work on it quite a bit in counseling.-probablynotapreacher