There are a lot of amazing things about being married: knowing that you’ve chosen a partner for life, having a constant companion, and getting a forever teammate. But it’s also undeniable that even the most incredible marriage is not free of challenges. Some of the obstacles you’ll encounter are completely out of your control (health crises, job loss, and family dynamics, just to name a few), but many are totally avoidable if you know what to look for. Ahead, find out what relationship experts say are the most common mistakes they see married couples making, plus how to dodge them.
1. Taking Each Other for Granted
Listen up, because this is a big one, people. “Couples get so comfortable with one another that they stop noticing and appreciating all that their partner does for them and the relationship,” says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community, Relationup. “More importantly, they stop acknowledging and expressing gratitude for their partner’s efforts.” So next time your spouse does something nice for you, know that a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way.
2. Not Saving Money Together
It’s no secret that cash is often a subject of contention in marriages, but some of the friction around money can be solved by simply saving more of it. “Money is an integral part of a marriage and it is very tempting to jump into the ‘married lifestyle’ with nice cars, a nice home and nice vacations instead of building up your emergency fund and saving enough for retirement,” notes Scott Carroll, M.D., author of Don’t Settle: How to Marry the Man You Were Meant For. Make saving a priority from the beginning for less stress down the road.
3. Spending More Time Planning the Wedding Than The Marriage
Planning a wedding is fun, but planning your actual marriage is way more important. “Couples don’t talk about their future goals, how they’ll handle issues like finances or in-laws, and they don’t create a plan to work together,” points out Amy Morin, psychotherapist, lecturer at Northeastern University, and author. Instead of focusing all your energy on the act of getting married, spend some time talking about what happens afterwards, too.
4. Undermining Each Other
The whole good cop, bad cop thing can go too far. “This happens most frequently when children are involved, but it can happen with extended family and friends,” says Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer at BeenVerified.com. “It is important that the relationship presents as a unified front. Undermining discipline, decisions about plans, or just general principles of the relationship will stir resentment and anger between the two. Make sure that differences are discussed privately beforehand so that the decision is a consensus.”
5. Not Being Totally Invested
Meaning they’re too quick to make their exit when the going gets tough. “It seems so easy for couples to call it quits today,” says Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, a certified relationship coach and blogger. “Marriage is a commitment that comes with its good days and bad. Couples must stay invested and committed even when things feel a little funky.”
6. Relying on Each Other Too Much
“Regardless of your relationship structure, one person can’t meet all your needs,” points out Kait Scalisi, MPH, an intimacy educator. “Having a strong community of friends and family strengthens your relationship.”
7. Using Sex as a Barometer for The Relationship
Sex matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters. “Often stresses in the relationship will be reflected in a diminished desire for sex by one or the other,” says Kenneth Jedding, LCSW, a psychotherapist and author. “Sex will ebb and flow in a long marriage and, frankly, a long marriage, if good, will be about love more than sex.” In short, sex isn’t the be-all and end-all of your relationship, so it shouldn’t be the only way you measure the success of your marriage.
8. Thinking You Don’t Have to Court Each Other
Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you should stop trying. “So many people feel that once they’ve found the one, that they don’t have to put in the work into the relationship,” says Stef Safran, a dating and matchmaking expert. “Romance and courting is something that people often say they miss when they get married. Remember to show your partner that they are special with words, gifts, romantic gestures.”
9. Not Being Friends Anymore
They say that couples who are best friends last forever, and there’s a good reason for that. “I have my clients plan dates together that aren’t typical dinner and a movie dates,” says Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist, certified sex coach, and intimacy counselor. “Couples need to work on building their friendship, which will lead to a solid foundation for their partnership—and can help keep them together for a lifetime.”
10. Never Fighting
“Arguing too little can be just as bad as arguing too much,” Carroll says. “Holding in all your frustrations just leads to resentment or if you try to block your frustrations from your conscious mind, it goes into your subconsciousness where it causes all kinds of psychological and physical problems. This is why it is so important to learn how to argue well in a healthy way, so you don’t take cheap shots at each other and you aren’t afraid to discuss—and even argue about—the issues you need to.”
11. Fighting for Control
“Many couples get into the dynamic of fighting for control, whether it is by trying to dominate the handling of financial issues, spending habits, or how to raise the kids,” notes Steve Mindel, J.D., a certified family law specialist and managing partner of a law firm. “To keep a relationship healthy, the goal is to strive for balance. Sit down together and decide who gets to be the captain of what.” That way, you’ll each have your own domain to have a say over.
12. Waiting Too Long to Try Therapy
Many couples can benefit from therapy way earlier than they expect. “By the time they see a marriage counselor, they are looking for permission to get divorced,” Morin says.
13. Forgetting to Talk About Sex and Desire
“In the beginning of relationships when everything is hot and new, sharing fantasies and being experimental may be an integral part of the getting-to-know-each-other process,” says Shula Melamed, a relationship and wellness coach based in NYC. “As time goes on, some married couples may rest on the laurels of all that history instead of continuing the conversation as the years and relationship progress.”
14. Having Unrealistic Expectations
There’s no sugarcoating it: Marriage is challenging. “Sometimes couples forget there are imperfections in life, in people, and yes, in marriage,” Cunningham-Sumter says. “Their spouse has flaws and will make mistakes, as will they. That has to be okay. Marriage is the real deal; it’s not a trial run or a fairy tale. It’s two real, imperfect people trying to make life and love work.”
15. Spending Too Much Time Together
“Many couples makes the mistake of trying to spend too much time together and this time, inevitably, doesn’t amount to quality time,” says Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “If you spend all of your non-working time with your partner, you’re bound to find yourselves engaging in dull, repetitive activities like running errands, staring at your phones, or surfing the web.” That’s pretty boring, and if you’re bored, that’s not a great sign.