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20 Common Marriage Killers to Avoid

These toxic behaviors could undermine your relationship. 

Even the strongest marriage can be fractured if taken for granted—but it doesn't have to be that way. "No one enters a serious relationship waiting for it to fail; we all want to be half of the couple that beats the odds," Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, tells Psychology Today. "While we know that around 45 percent of all marriages will end in divorce, we always want to believe that we can do better than the other 45 percent and actually keep the 'happily ever after' going strong." Here are 20 things that could be undermining your marriage, according to experts.

No Communication


Communication is crucial to a long, happy marriage "Talking with your spouse is one of the best ways to keep your marriage healthy and successful," says the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). "Be honest about what you're feeling, but be kind and respectful when you communicate. Part of good communication is being a good listener and taking the time to understand what it is your spouse wants and needs from you. Keep the lines of communication open by talking often, and not just about things like bills and the kids. Share your thoughts and feelings."

Technology Obsession

hot of a young woman using a cellphone after an argument with her husband.

Don't let technology get in the way of your relationship. "In the world of technology crazed, iPhone carrying, Facebook posting mania—it's no joke that we find our time slipping away into the inanimate,  instead of investing it into the intimate," Licensed Professional Counselor Debra Fileta says via Biola University. "Unplug, disconnect, shut down- and invest in your spouse."

Letting Things Stay Broken


Don't forget to try and fix things when they go wrong. "Every couple fights and experiences problems, but one factor that can really make a difference, experts find, is how well we recover from these negative moments," according to UF/IFAS SMART Couples. "Next time things get a little 'broken,' be sure to bring a 'repair' to the table with love, honesty, and good humor. There can be a hundred different ways to do this. The important thing is to make the effort with an open heart."

Stressing Out


"It's so easy to take our stress out on our spouse," Fileta says. "We can get into the habit of holding things in until we're in the safety and comfort of our marriage—and then we explode. From financial problems, to illness, job-loss, and grief, healthy couples allow their stress to pull them together, by relying on each other, sharing it with one another, and carrying the load together."

Not Showing Appreciation


Don't forget to show appreciation, even for small things. "Appreciate each other, your relationship, your family, and your lives together," says URMC. "Show gratitude when your partner cooks dinner, helps the kids with their homework, or does the grocery shopping. It may help to take a few minutes each evening to tell each other at least one thing you appreciated that day."

Constant Criticism


Watch the tendency to always complain about your spouse. "There are always things that can annoy us about our partners," according to The Ohio State University. "However, when it moves into criticism there can be real problems in the marriage. Criticism involves attacking someone's personality or character—rather than a specific behavior—usually with blame. Criticism tends to be generalizations rather than about a specific issue. This one can often sneak into relationships because moving from airing a complaint—which is very healthy—can often be confused or turned into a criticism."

Selfish Behavior


The foundation of a healthy marriage is consideration for one another. "Marriage is one huge, ongoing, life lesson in 'unselfishness'. And we'll either allow the experience to make us better, or we'll grow bitter." Fileta says. "Putting someone first is an incredibly hard task because our flesh is wired to choose self. Each time we say yes to ourselves, we're saying no to our marriage, because marriage is not about him vs. her, it is we vs. me."

No Personal Time


Everyone needs alone time, especially once kids enter the picture. "Alone time is just as important as couple time. Everyone needs time to recharge, think, and enjoy personal interests," says URMC. "That time is often lost when you're married, especially if you have kids. Go out with friends, take a class, or do volunteer work, whatever you find enriching. When you're back together with your spouse, you'll appreciate each other even more."

Unrealistic Expectations


"No one can be everything we might want them to be," according to Amherst College. Healthy relationships mean accepting people as they are and not trying to change them.

Not Guarding Your Marriage

Bride and groom at wedding

Loose boundaries are bad for marriage. "We tend to think about offensive play in marriage, forgetting that defensive strategy is just as important," Fileta warns. "We can be doing all the right things, while still failing to keep out the things that are harmful. Draw a circle around your marriage, and protect it by guarding your emotions, your interactions, and the way you spend your time."

Holding Grudges


Learning to forgive is crucial for long term happiness. "Everyone makes mistakes. Your spouse may hurt your feelings or do something that upsets you, and that may make you angry, even furious," says URMC. "But it's important to deal with your feelings, let them go, and move on. Don't keep bringing up the past."

Not Following Through


Keep your word to your partner and don't break promises if you can help it. "If you make plans with someone, follow through. If you take on a responsibility, complete it. Healthy relationships are trustworthy," says Amherst College.

Different Bedtimes


"Does one of you tend to trundle off to bed early while the other one stays up reading, working, watching TV, or on the Internet?" says UF/IFAS SMART Couples. "It's a familiar situation for lots of couples–especially if someone has to get up early, or if one of you is a 'night owl' while the other is a 'lark.' But you might want to see if you can change up this habit, at least some of the time. Research suggests that couples who go to bed at the same time report less conflict, more serious conversation, and more sex. Time to snuggle up."

Speaking In Anger


Don't have serious discussions when you're angry. "Cool down before talking," says Amhert College. "The conversation will be more productive if you have it when your emotions have cooled off a little, so you don't say something you may regret later."

No Quality Time Together


Make time for each other just to connect and have fun. "With work and family responsibilities, it can be easy to lose the romance factor," says URMC. "Plan special dates, either to go out or just stay at home. If you have children, send them on a play date while you relax, talk, and enjoy each other's company."

Telling Lies


Lies may undermine your relationship. "Why is a small lie just as dangerous as a big lie? Because they both have the same impact on intimacy," Fileta says. "Honesty in marriage is like the chain that holds you together. Removing one link, or ten links does the same thing- it causes separation. If you've made mistakes in your relationship or have been hiding things from your spouse, now is the time to seek truth and confession; because a relationship riddled with dishonesty, is no relationship at all."

No Special Rituals


Special rituals can make your marriage stronger over the long term. "Adding a few more couple rituals to your day, year, or routine can help the two of you build a special shared culture that is just about the couple," according to UF/IFAS SMART Couples. "Whether it's 'Wednesday Donut Day,' a daily sunset walk with the dog, a nighttime prayer together, or the way you celebrate the new basketball season, these moments will help create memories and bring you closer."

Agree To Disagree

Agree To Disagree written on paper note pinned with red thumbtack on wooden board. Business conceptual Image

Learn to accept differences of opinion. "Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling are serious threats to the success of a marriage," says URMC. "The more a couple engages in these destructive activities, the more likely they may divorce. Studies indicate that spouses who stay together know how to disagree or argue without being hostile and to take responsibility for their actions. They are also more likely to respond quickly to each other's wishes to make up after fights and repair the relationship."

Trying To Change Your Partner


Don't marry someone and think you can change them. "People cannot change their basic essence even if they try, and it is futile to demand that they do so," says Andrew Christensen, professor of psychology at UCLA. "To love and marry someone, you must accept the essence of the other person; you must accept who he or she is."

No Physical Affection


Physical affection is important in marriage. "In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we may forget to slow down and physically connect with our spouses," according to UF/IFAS SMART Couples. "We're not …talking… all kinds of physical connection, from handholding to long hugs to daily kisses and caresses. Data show that people in physically affectionate relationships are happier and more satisfied."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more