You’re having the same argument again
It’s another day but the same fight. You’re scolding him for leaving dishes in the sink. You have to remind her to call on her way home from her doctor’s appointment. Or your issues are deeper, like whether or not to have 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. Learn about the sex problems marriage counselors hear about all the time.
One partner is always criticizing
Negativity can lead to a collapse in relationships. “I know a couple right now in the midst of a divorce due mostly to putdowns and criticisms,” says David Simonsen, PhD, LMFT, who practices in Olympia, Washington. Words can be powerful and dangerous. Whether your partner is nitpicking or simply not appreciating you, you can be deeply impacted by his or her words. “The words we use and the tone we use can be powerful enough to cause someone on the receiving end emotional pain and even psychological damage,” says Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, a couples therapist in Los Angeles. “If you’re with someone who is hypercritical on a chronic basis, then you’re likely in a toxic relationship. If you’re in this situation, you need to ask yourself why you stay.” Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re the subject of criticism. “It’s most likely not about you,” says Dr. Simonsen. “It’s about your partner and something going on with him or her. The more you make excuses for the putdowns, the more likely you are to have a relationship that ends.”
One or both of you hold onto grudges
You won’t let it go that he was on a business trip on your birthday. He can’t forget you didn’t make it to his company holiday party. Holding onto something, aka a grudge, is toxic for a relationship. “The problem is that these feelings of resentment are like rust,” says Dr. Brown. “They can silently erode our ability to trust our partner.” He says that in order to get over a grudge, let your partner know how you’re feeling. Be in the same room or touch each other to help resolve whatever the grudge is about. It’s fine to be angry at one another, but resentment can be destructive. “The key to a lasting relationship is moving into and through the anger, rather than swallowing it until it comes up in a destructive way,” says Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist.