9 Habits That Happy Couples Avoid At All Costs

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Sure, you’ve heard plenty about what you should do to have a happy, healthy relationship —but what about all the things you should avoid? Turns out, staying in love for the long run is equally about what you don’t do. (Looking for more ways to have your best year ever? Try the New Year, New You Rodale Challenge today! ) We asked real couples and relationship experts to share some of the major no-nos to nix.

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Yes, you read that correctly. “We make a conscious decision to let the dynamic of the household be that the marriage comes first. If we want to be together for 40-plus years and the kids are only in the house for 18 of them, we need to make sure that when we’re done raising them, there’s a dynamic, passionate relationship still standing. That means we say no to making our weekly schedule only about the kids. An added bonus is that we don’t overschedule them with too many classes, activities, and sports.” — Lana W., married for 5 years

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It’s tempting to think that if your partner just bought himself a new pair of shoes, you should be allowed to splurge on something for yourself. Or that because you picked up the kids from school, you’re entitled to a night off from homework duty. But it doesn’t work that way. “There are no measuring scales in happy marriages. These couples want the best for each other and realize that keeping score or trying to have a 50/50 marriage is no way to live if you want to be happy. And as the professionals say, 50/50 doesn’t work in relationships because we’re not fractions. We are whole people. And when you give your whole heart to someone and they do the same for you, you can trust that putting your thumb on the proverbial scale is never needed.” — Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts

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Happy couples never ignore simple requests their partner makes for their attention. When one is in the kitchen making tea and looking out the window and exclaims, ‘Look at that bird!’ the other puts their paper down and looks up. And they never stop daily affectionate greetings. They give each other a hug or kiss upon returning home every day.” — Laurie Watson, couples counselor and sex therapist

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“Having four kids and two careers means that our brains have to be in a million places that aren’t incredibly sexy. We get in the mood and part of that is not letting too many days go by without at least making out. Your spouse is the only one you get to do that with: It’s a sacred exchange that needs to be practiced.” — Lana W.

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“A little playful joking is one thing, but we try not to tease too much, especially the kind of teasing that turns sarcastic. We’ve found it’s a really ineffective way of communicating and often masks some underlying frustration—or even resentment. It never, ever ends well.” — Mary P., married for 17 years

10 Little Things Connected Couples Do 

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Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an attack on your partner at the core. A complaint is: ‘I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.’ A criticism is: ‘You never think about how your behavior affects others. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish!’” — John Gottman, PhD, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

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“Although it’s tempting, we never go down the road of comparing ourselves to other couples. It’s fine to notice how the Smiths make raising kids seem like a breeze, or the way John always buys Claire such thoughtful gifts, but when you start comparing your own relationship, things get messy fast. It’s better to compare how you’re doing compared to where you were yesterday, or last year—and remember that you can never truly know what goes on in other people’s relationships.” — Sarah H., married for 12 years

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“We don’t get our needs for snuggling and affection met by our kids alone. Yes, they are adorable to cozy up with and even occasionally sleep with, but too many times we see couples who get hooked on it and their spouse is left out in the cold.” — Brian K., in a relationship for 10 years

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“Of course, arguments aren’t pleasant, but there’s no point in worrying about them as if they’re the death knell in a relationship. Rather than stressing about whether they spell doom, it’s better to consider them a normal part of a healthy relationship. We don’t even have to fully resolve them to feel OK—it’s fine to agree to disagree on things that really aren’t a big deal.” — Jennifer K., married for 21 years

By Naomi Chrisoulakis

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