When things start to go south in a relationship, it’s easy to place the blame squarely on your partner’s shoulders. But chances are, you’re not completely blameless.
Below, experts share seven signs you’re the problem in your relationship — and how to change your ways ASAP.
1. You’re letting your spouse do all the work.
A good relationship is a partnership of equals. Accordingly, responsibilities should be divided up equally. If you’re allowing your S.O. to do all the heavy lifting (making social plans, initiating sex and taking care of the bills, for example), resentment is bound to build up, said Megan Fleming, a New York City-based psychologist and sex therapist.
“So often, people want their partners to lean in first, but then they don’t show up to the relationships themselves,” she said.
If you think you’re guilty of putting your partner on the back burner, Fleming suggests “giving, sharing, appreciating and learning your partner’s love language” to prove you’re still invested in the relationship.
2. You’re unhappy with yourself.
Cliche as it sounds, you really do need to love yourself before you can offer quality love to someone else, said Seth Meyers, a psychologist and the author of Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve. If you’re unhappy about the rest of your life — or feeling uneasy in your skin — it’s bound to impact your relationship.
“Everything is related; being depressed or angry about other parts of your life will impact your relationship in negative ways,” he said.
Practice self-care and make efforts to improve your life, Meyers said. And if you’re just the pessimistic type, try to “be aware of how you come across on a daily basis to your partner,” he said.
3. You stonewall your S.O.
It’s emotionally exhausting to be with someone who stonewalls you after an argument. The next time you and your boo get int a drawn-out argument about who does the most laundry or whatever else, call a timeout. Once you’ve calmed down, come up with a solution that makes sense to both of you. Don’t resort to the silent treatment, Fleming said.
“Too often I see couples freeze their partner out in silence for hours, even days, all because of a fight,” she said. “Slow down and figure out what happened the moment before your emotions hijacked your rational thinking.”
4. You assume the worst about your partner.
When you and your S.O. are working through a problem, give her the benefit of the doubt. She’s probably not trying to draw the argument out and she’s not trying to hurt you. More likely than not, she, too, wants to move past the issue as quickly as possible, said Laurel Steinberg, a New York-based relationship expert and an adjunct professor of psychology at Columbia University.
“Before reacting to something your partner has done or said that rubbed you the wrong way, try to first consider her intentions,” she said. “Did she intend to hurt your feelings or be inconsiderate? Most likely, the answer is no and the problem was simply the result of carelessness or not understanding your expectations.”
And if she really was trying to hurt you on purpose, give some deep consideration to staying in the relationship. “There is no room for intentional cruelty in a loving relationship,” she said.
5. You can’t admit when you’re wrong.
You’re an adult, and you presumably want your relationship to last. To make that happen, stop pointing fingers and take accountability for the mistakes you make with your partner, said Meyers.
“It’s a bad sign if you tend to blame instead of taking ownership for your own issues,” he said. “Men and women who blame always believe that the problem lies with the other person.”
Instead of focusing on who’s in the wrong, focus on how you can resolve the problem and get back to being the happy couple you usually are.
“You have to take the word ‘fault’ out of the equation when you’re looking at problems in your relationship,” he explained.
6. You don’t stay on topic when you argue.
It’s the ultimate argument no-no: You’re having a heated conversation about one thing, and suddenly you go rogue and bring up something that upset you years and years ago. If that sounds familiar, you may be the reason you and your S.O. can’t seem to resolve anything, Steinberg said.
“Stay focused!” she said. “Your concerns will be received better when organized and concise.”
7. You assume you’re not part of the problem.
If you don’t think you’re partly to blame for the less-than-ideal state of your relationship, we have news for you: you are the problem. No one is completely guiltless in a relationship. Be honest about your faults and relationship blind spots and it will do your marriage a world of good, said Michele Weiner-Davis, the author of Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again.
“If things are rocky in your relationship, the only sign you need to know that you’re the problem is if you are one of the partners,” she said. “Relationship problems don’t happen in a vacuum. When the relationship is going well, it takes two people to make that happen. When things are going poorly, it’s both people’s responsibility to work on it.”
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