There are deal-breakers—watching an episode when you said you'd wait—and then there are the innocuous-seeming, niggling little things that worm their way into the hairline cracks of a relationship until the whole thing combusts. (Sometimes without you even knowing why.) Here, Wendy Strgar, relationship expert and author of Sex That Works, outlines five bad habits to avoid if you don't want to end up alone, face-first in a pint of dulce de leche, and/or the single parent of a half-crispy cactus garden.
1. Over-Relying on Digital Devices (Mom Was Right)
Strgar says phones and other iScreens are the "number-one culprit" for driving us apart. "Our attention is the most generous thing we can offer someone we love," she says. "Which explains why feeling heard by someone is akin to feeling loved by them. Being perpetually distracted by the incoming feeds on our devices sends the message that you are not that important, even if you are sitting across the table from me." So 😘 when you're not together, but IRL 😘 when you are.
2. Not Knowing How to Talk to Each Other (Are You Sure You're Not My Mom?)
But all the same, texts and Snaps and Insta Stories can't replace genuine, grade-A talk. "Emotional connections do not fit neatly into these abbreviated communication devices and so are often misunderstood, creating hurtful feelings and conflicts that could have been avoided had real conversations occurred," Strgar says. "Many couples have lost the conversational skills that help us get closer. The most intimate connections in our life are fed by the vulnerable moments of true self-disclosure. Expressing our feelings face-to-face is how we grow together." SOUNDS SCARY BUT OKAY.
3. Always Looking for Something New/Better
Strgar calls this one the "one foot out the door syndrome," in which we fixate on what's wrong with our partners instead of where the relationship is working. "The really sad thing about keeping one foot out of the door is that you never really know what the relationship could be—it is a fundamentally different experience when two people are deeply engaged in making something work together."
4. Always Looking at the Supposedly Better Relationships on Social Media
Stop it. (But it's so hard.) "Images of other couples' happy moments are not a realistic portrait of their life together, but it is easy to think that everyone else is really in love—more so than you are." As with appearances and possessions and undisclosed fit tea sponsored posts, comparison is toxic.
5. Losing the Spark (LOL but Also Aww)
"Treat your sex life the way you do other important aspects of hygiene in your life," Strgar says, probably not talking about hair-washing. "Taking responsibility for your own sexual needs and being willing to learn together about how to meet each other's is one of the most powerful mechanisms we have to strengthen our relationships." Ayyyyy.