Ever feel that your relationship suffers from a unique brand of frustration, tension, distance, or any number of other troubling feelings? The reality is, there is struggle in every romance. "If you are experiencing disillusionment, well, join the human race," relationship expert Helen LaKelly Hunt tells Yahoo! Shine. LaKelly Hunt and her husband, Harville Hendrix, PhD, are co-creators of Imago Relationship Therapy and have been helping couples for more than 30 years.
Hendrix, author of the best selling book, Getting the Love You Want, started examining the question, "why do couples fight" in the late 1970s. After studying and working with thousands of couples, he and LaKelly Hunt have found that there are 10 common bad habits couples engage in that make relationships miserable and can lead to break-up or divorce.
1. Be critical. Even "constructive" criticism can make your partner defensive and reduce the feeling of safety in a relationship. Being harsh and judgmental when angry can trigger a "flight or fight response."
2. Insist your partner be exactly the same as you. Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt say "absolute compatibility" is an express route to a dull relationship. If you insist your partner have the same feelings and perceptions as you do, it can lead to despair and misery.
3. Flee from intimacy. If you habitually avoid being physically or emotionally close with your partner through escaping into work, hobbies, television, or other activities, you risk creating a divide between you and your partner that may become impossible to breach.
4. Play the blame game. Using "you" language when upset will make your partner put up their defenses. When your goal is to communicate in a way that fosters intimacy, use statements that begin with "I feel" instead.
5. Bargain. Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt say that both "giving conditionally and receiving cautiously" erode relationships. They warn against doing something for a partner only when you want something in exchange.
6. Be casual about romance. No relationship can be spontaneously joyful forever. Once the initial excitement of a new romance wears off, some couples think their relationship is over and give up trying. They risk missing out on experiencing a deeper kind of love.
7. Focus on the negative. If you constantly think and talk about your partner's flaws it can amplify your discontent. Hendrix points out that a paradox of most forms of couples therapy is that you spend your sessions complaining about your partner—something that can actually be detrimental to your relationship.
8. Refuse to listen. Thinking you are the right all the time and engaging in a one-way monologue is a great way to end up in a relationship…of one, warn LaKelly Hunt and Hendrix.
9. Hide your needs. If you don't express what you need and want to your partner, you'll constantly feel deprived and frustrated. Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt say it's crucial share "the things that truly touch your heart."
10. Expect a fairytale romance. Fairy tales are just that and eventually we all have to come down to earth. Demanding the fantasy go on forever prevents your partner from ever being their authentic self and fosters resentment and distance.
Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt know from firsthand experience how hard it is to sustain a genuinely loving commitment. About 15 years ago, after working together and raising five kids, they found themselves on the brink of divorce. Using their own methods, they worked their way back to what they say is a renewed love that feels as genuine as it did 30 years go. Their most recent book is Making Marriage Simple: 10 Truths for Changing the Relationship You have into the Relationship You Want.
Also on Shine: You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married): Lessons for Marriage Learned From Divorce