When you need tough love advice, sometimes your friends and family aren’t the best people to consult. You need someone to tell it like it is, not someone who’s going to sugarcoat your flaws and shy away from pointing out any defects in your relationship.
So what aren’t they telling you? Below, experts share eight things you probably need to hear about your relationship.
1. Talking about your S.O. behind his back isn’t good for anyone.
It’s healthy to get things off your chest to friends and family you trust. Still, don’t overdo it when relaying your partner’s latest mistake, especially if you tend to portray yourself as the blameless party, said Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania.
“While venting to others may feel satisfying in the moment, it prevents you from doing the hard work of actually working things out directly with your spouse,” she told The Huffington Post. “Worse yet, it often feels like a violation to your S.O. when personal information is shared.”
Plus, as Wilke points out, who wants to deal with the ensuing awkwardness the next time you bring your partner around your friends?
2. Your in-laws need to butt out of your marriage.
It doesn’t matter how close you are to your family, your mother, father and siblings should not have a defining say in what goes on in your marriage, said Judith Wright, co-author of the book The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer.
“You need to understand that you and your partner are family now. The two of you are a unit,” she said. “Of course you can talk to your family and they should care but your primary emotional bond needs to be with your spouse. Commit to yourself and your partner and give the relationship all you’ve got.”
3. Stop trying to “fix” your partner.
For the most part, what you see is what you get with people. If you hate how dependent your partner is on her parents or can’t stand how her work hours extend into the weekend, recognize that those traits aren’t likely to change once you take the relationship to the next level, said Olga Bloch, a marriage and family therapist in Rockville, Maryland.
“You need to stop hoping and believing the other person will change,” she said. “Unless your partner is able to take responsibility for themselves and be self-reflective, those qualities will never change. You can’t change someone you love, no matter how badly you want it.”
4. You need to cool it with the complaining.
Wondering why your spouse is clocking in so many extra hours at work lately? It may have something to do with how you behave the second she walks in the door, said Bob Wright, the co–author of The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer.
“Why would she want to rush back if you’re complaining and telling her about all the things she needs to do the second she walks in?” he said. “Instead of complaining, you both should work on a more welcoming greeting ritual for when either of you gets home.”
5. Get a life (outside your marriage, that is).
There’s a simple way to keep the mystery and intrigue alive in a long-term relationship: Spend time apart and cultivate interests outside your relationship, said Deb Besinger, life and relationship coach based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“So many couples lose themselves in coupledom and don’t even know what they like outside of their mate,” she said. “Spend time each week away from each other doing something you love and then come back together and share your experiences.”
6. If you dislike so many things about your spouse, why are you together?
If you can’t say anything nice about your partner and your laundry list of complaints is piling up, it may be time to consider why you’re still in the relationship. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should break up, but it’s worth questioning your efforts to maintain the relationship, said Irina Firstein, a marriage therapist in New York City.
“The reality is, sometimes in a bad relationship, people can’t leave because they are worried about the other person and how they are going to take it,” she said. “Be honest with yourself. You’re doing your S.O. a favor by pointing it out.”
7. Stop trying to get even.
An “eye-for-an-eye” is a terrible mindset to have in a relationship. You may feel like your S.O.’s bad behavior warrants retaliation (“He left the dishes in the sink for the millionth time so I’m not going to fold any of the laundry”) but to what end? Instead, address the issue head-on, Bloch said.
“Don’t base your actions on other people’s behaviors,” she said. “If you engage in bad behavior you are just as guilty as they are.”
8. No one wants to hear you argue with your partner.
Airing your dirty laundry and picking a fight in public is uncomfortable for everyone — and it’s probably downright embarrassing for your spouse. Wait until you get home to discuss whatever is bothering you, said Judith Wright.
“If something bugs you, have it out with your partner, in private, not with an audience,” she said. “Unless it’s your therapist or relationship coach and you’re working on it, the conversation can wait.”
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