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The 5 most overlooked bad habits in relationships + how to fix them

If you ask people what breaks relationships apart, they might say money, lying, or cheating.

The 5 most overlooked bad habits in relationships + how to fix them

If you ask people what breaks relationships apart, they might say money, lying or cheating. And that is true.


But, like death by a thousand paper cuts, there are even more insidious everyday habits that hurt relationships too.

For nearly three decades, I’ve had a front-row seat to thousands of relationships. My ongoing research—a long-term study funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1986—gives me the opportunity to study, closely and over time, critical patterns in marriage and divorce, romance and relationships.

Today, here’s what I know for sure: Small stuff is a big deal.

To create a truly happy, healthy relationship, every couple, of every stripe, should take the most overlooked and under-discussed relationship killers to heart.

Here are the 5 most overlooked bad habits in relationships + solutions to help.

1. Skipping ‘me’ time.

Many couples say that space, or giving each other plenty of time for self, is the single most important reason they think their relationship survived. Time alone gives partners those vital moments to process thoughts, pursue hobbies, and develop new topics to talk about! Too much space or separateness isn’t good, but partners who pursue their own hobbies, interests, and friends tend to be happier than those who depend on each other for everything.

Solution: Talk to your partner about the benefits of me-time, and emphasize that you still want couple time too. Don’t keep secrets, and share with your partner some of the fun or funny things that happened during me-time.

2. Assuming you know each other.

Couples who have been together for many years sometimes believe that they know everything about their partner. Unlike when they were first dating, they stop asking each other questions and learning more about each other. Such loss of curiosity can be lethal. I call this the silent dining syndrome. Couples go out together to a restaurant but then don’t talk.

Solution: To stay happy in a relationship, partners need to talk to each other every single day, for at least 10 minutes, about anything other than the home, kids, work or their relationship. Ask questions to each other, just like when you were first dating! A side benefit of getting to know one another again is an increase in passion and excitement.

3. Staying mum about ‘minor’ annoyances.

A lot of couples sweep little annoyances and pet peeves under the rug. Over time, though, these small everyday irritations can add up and put a relationship on life support. It’s actually the small, everyday irritations that can accumulate if not dealt with and become big problems in relationships.

Solution: Contrary to popular belief, couples need to sweat the small stuff in their relationship to be happy and together over the long haul. Bring up the annoyances in a constructive way: Pick the right time and situation to discuss, ditch all other distractions, use your “I” statements, and avoid using the words “never” and “always.”

4. Waiting for special occasions to express love.

Many couples make the mistake of waiting for special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or Hallmark-type holidays, to express loving feelings to one another. One key finding from my study is that when husbands do not receive frequent affective affirmation from their wives (defined as words, gestures or acts that show him he is noticed, appreciated, and loved) that couple is two times more likely to divorce.

Solution: Do or say something frequently to show your partner that he or she is valued and noticed. Sometimes a goodbye peck on the cheek or a thoughtful compliment is all it takes to make a partner feel loved and appreciated.

5. Seeing the glass as half empty.

Many couples only talk about what’s going wrong in their relationship. They end up focusing on the negative aspects of their relationship. In my study, couples who also concentrate on what’s working well—on the glass half full—were much happier over time than those who purely try to “fix” their problems.

Solution: Make a list of the top five things that are going well in your relationship and work on strengthening those positive aspects. Focusing on what’s going well in the relationship motivates you both to move forward in that relationship. Also, an optimistic approach will rub off on your partner and attract you to others who are seeing the world as “half full.”

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Life

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

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Life

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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News