Romance isn’t just about a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. A satisfying relationship can also make people feel happy and healthy For better or worse: interpersonal relationships and individual outcome. Lewis, J.M. Timberlawn Research Foundation, Dallas, TX. Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, 1998 May;155(5):582-9. . But keep in mind that successful relationships aren't just about rainbows and butterflies—a healthy partnership requires communication, respect, and plenty of good habits from both people. So when dating that special someone, avoid stalking their ex on Facebook, keeping feelings bottled up, and splitting the double cheeseburger every night Social anxiety and romantic relationships: the costs and benefits of negative emotion expression are context-dependent. Kashdan, T.B., Volkmann, J.R., Breen, W.E., et al. Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. Journal of Anxiety Disorders 2007;21(4): 475-92. More information than you ever wanted: does Facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy? Muise, A., Christofides, E., Desmarais, S. Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2009 Aug;12(4):441-4. . These (and 17 other) bad habits could make a great relationship take a turn for the worse.
Save the Spark—Your Action Plan
1. Trying to improve him/her.
News flash: There’s no such thing as a perfect person, so don’t expect unrealistic changes. Reminding him or her to make the bed is one thing, but trying to radically change shyness or anxiety is another—and could be ignoring the underlying causes for those issues in the first place.
2. Finding faults with the fam.
The ’rents may be harder to handle than your significant other. But even if there’s some clashing of heads, don’t focus on the family’s faults. Getting criticism from family members can make people feel depressed and hostile—which means some tense holiday dinners Association of perceived family criticism with health behaviors. Fiscella, K., Campbell, T.L. Primary Care Institute Highland Hospital, Department of Family Medicine, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, NY. Journal of Family Practice 1999;48(2):128-34. . Besides, the situation can’t be worse than what Gaylord went through.
3. Engaging in constant PDA.
Getting it on in public can not only make bystanders uncomfortable, it may also compensate for a lack of real communication. Stick to hand-holding and quick kisses, and save the rest for the bedroom (or the cell phone?).
4. Fighting in public.
As if PDA weren’t bad enough. Arguing in public can embarrass the couple and make everyone around feel awkward, too. Talk it out in private, please.
5. Avoiding fighting.
Love isn’t all good, all the time. Disagreements are bound to happen, and arguments can be a healthy part of a relationship. Never having conflict may make compromise impossible. Just don’t make fighting an all-day affair.
6. Not talking it out.
If something is wrong, the other person probably can’t read your mind. When a problem comes up, speak up at the right time. One study suggests young couples are less stressed when they talk out their issues than when they keep their feelings bottled up. And don’t forget to say, “I love you.” Expressing emotions—positive and negative—can benefit that bond Social anxiety and romantic relationships: the costs and benefits of negative emotion expression are context-dependent. Kashdan, T.B., Volkmann, J.R., Breen, W.E., et al. Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2007;21(4):475-92. Epub 2006 Oct 12. .
7. Forgetting to forgive.
People make mistakes, and holding on to grudges may not only hurt a relationship—it could also cause unwanted stress and anxiety. Sympathy may be easier to give if we realize it will benefit our health Forgiveness, physiological reactivity, and health: the role of anger. Lawler-Row, K.A., Karremans, J.C., Scott, C., et al. Department of Psychology, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C. International Journal of Psychophysiology 2008;68(1):51-8. .
8. Timing discussions badly.
Conversations about important issues, like relationship expectations and financial blunders, all have their time and place. Don’t bring up serious topics when someone’s stressed, like at the end of the workday or right before hosting a party. Set up a time to talk when both people are relaxed.
9. Keeping score.
Sure, relationships should be about give and take, but don’t keep track of every little detail (For example: I paid for the last six dinners, and you only paid for five!). It can cause unnecessary tension.
10. Being melodramatic.
No relationship is perfect. So don’t create unnecessary drama in every scenario. If a mate forgets to take out the garbage, there’s no need for a scene. Take a few breaths and address the problem calmly.
When two people want to make it work, trust is key Commitment, pro-relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C.E., Foster, C.A., et al. Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1999 Nov;77(5):942-66. . Have confidence in your mate and respect their privacy: Don’t snoop through texts, emails, or bedroom drawers. (Definitely don’t use this!)
12. Allowing jealousy to take over
. Doubting your partner may be a symptom of a larger problem: relationship insecurity. And women who feel insecure in their relationships may be at greater risk for health issues like a weakened immune system Attachment security and immunity in healthy women. Picardi, A., Battisti, F., Tarsitani, L., et al. Center of Epidemiology and Health Surveillance & Promotion, Italian National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007 Jan;69(1):40-6. . Some advice for reducing envy, at least temporarily? Stay off Facebook and other social networking sites More information than you ever wanted: does Facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy? Muise, A., Christofides, E., Desmarais, S. Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2009 Aug;12(4):441-4. .
13. Letting go.
Sometimes when partners feel too secure with each other, they end up putting on a few pounds, possibly because they’re less physically active Entry into romantic partnership is associated with obesity. The NS., Gordon-Larsen, P. Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Jul;17(7):1441-7. Epub 2009 Apr 9. Emerging adulthood and patterns of physical activity among young Australian women. Bell, S., Lee, C. Research Centre for Gender & Health, University of Newcastle, Australia. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 2005;12(4):227-35. . Try being a power couple to stay both happy and healthy.
14. Constantly comparing.
15. Doing everything together.
17. Not being honest with yourself.
Don’t just be honest with a companion. Stay real about what you need in order to stay satisfied. Is a long distance relationship really worth the work? Is it okay that they’re working all the time?
18. Lacking self-confidence.
Not feeling confident in a relationship can really do some damage: Low self-esteem is sometimes linked to low sex drive, which could make things less heated in the bedroom. Getting active, setting goals, and even smiling can improve self-confidence. But don’t forget that an unhealthy relationship can actually cause low-self esteem, so steer clear of someone who makes you feel less than great.
19. Forgetting why you’re in it.
Remember to ask yourself why you two are dating, and what you want out of it. Does a partner want to put a ring on it while you want to remain casual? Being with someone for the wrong reasons is one slippery slope!
20. Taking him or her for granted.
Always remember why you love that special someone. Showing gratitude and paying attention to that good person by your side will only make the relationship stronger Beyond reciprocity: gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Algoe, S.B., Haidt, J. Gable, S.L. University of Virginia, VA. Emotion, 2008 Jun;8(3):425-9. .