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Paulette Kouffman Sherman, a psychologist and the author of Dating From the Inside Out (Atria Books/Beyond Words, 2008) and When Mars Women Date (Parachute Jump Publishing, 2012), shares some common relationship saboteurs – and how to fix them.
1. Playing the blame game
If one partner blames the other person for his or her unhappiness instead of taking responsibility for his or her own feelings, it can quickly take a toll on the relationship.
"This sabotages the relationship because you can never change the other person, you can only change yourself," explains Sherman. "Plus, the other person gets defensive," she adds. The more you push someone, the more likely they are to eventually push back.
The fix: Stop pointing the finger whenever something goes wrong. If something has caused a fight, it's likely that both partners are to blame in some way. "This can shift by having both partners practise being accountable for their contribution to the issue," says Sherman.
There are times when one person will be jealous or untrusting of the relationship, which often stems from not feeling lovable or confident in themselves, notes Sherman.
"This sabotages the relationship, because when a person feels unlovable it is not usually possible for their mate to convince them otherwise," she explains.
The fix: If this thought pattern sounds familiar and you feel unworthy of the relationship you're in or the love you're getting, you need to work on loving yourself in order to feel deserving. Most importantly, you must change your self-talk, says Sherman. When negative thoughts crop up, don't focus on them. Instead, focus on something you love about yourself, be it your sense of humour, your keen eye for decorating or your impeccable soufflé-making skills.
3. Communication roadblock
Sometimes partners shut down and stop talking to each other, which can wreak havoc on how your relationship works or even end it altogether. Not communicating your feelings to each other can cause couples to drift apart and it can lead to what Sherman refers to as an "emotional divorce." This means that you've lost your emotional connection, which is what brought you together in the first place.
The fix: Find a way to get talking again. "This can be improved when couples create a safe space again to share feelings and really listen to one another without judgment," says Sherman. "They need to redevelop teamwork and intimacy over time."
Try getting out of the house and going for a walk to talk, or make a point to set aside time to reconnect daily.
4. Lack of acceptance and appreciation
When two people have been together for a long time they often forget to appreciate each other and instead just focus on responsibilities (like paying bills and getting food on the table). This is a relationship no-no, says Sherman. "Everyone wants to feel appreciated, valued and special," she explains.
The fix: "Couples can reignite appreciation by complimenting each other and becoming each other's biggest fans again," says Sherman. Start by saying thank you when your partner does something for you, whether it's clearing the table after dinner, picking up groceries or remembering to put gas in the car.
5. Forgetting about fun and romance
Due to stress, family obligations or simply being together for a long time, couples sometimes get to a point where they stop making time for romance, passion and all of the other fun things that pulled them together in the first place.
"They get comfortable and this can sabotage the relationship because it is no longer fun, inspiring or exciting," says Sherman. "You stop getting to know each other and stop learning about the world together."
The fix: Give your relationship a serious reboot by refocusing on romance. "Couples can do this by having a date night where they do something fun and romantic," suggests Sherman. Find a babysitter and add regular date nights to your schedule so that there are no excuses. Then go and do the things that used to make you happy as a couple to help bring back the spark.
Maintaining a strong, healthy relationship isn't always easy – but don't make it even tougher by sabotaging what you have. Focusing on open communication, appreciating what your partner does for you and putting effort into reigniting a sense of romance and fun can go a long way toward keeping your partnership on the right track.