While every couple has those big arguments that can change the course of a relationship, sometimes it’s the little things that can really matter.
We all fixate on the biggies: financial problems, the stress of having or trying for a baby, in-laws, differing opinions on the big life stuff… But sometimes it can be something as small and insignificant as who is taking out the bin again that can set the tone for your relationship — and even make or break it.
In this article, we’ll be looking at some of those seemingly small everyday moments that can make or break a relationship. Read on to find out more.
Brushing off their feelings
The way we respond to our partner’s changing emotional states can make or break a relationship. What might seem like a throwaway comment to one of you might actually be an attempt by the other at opening a dialogue about a wider issue — so try to pay attention to these cues.
Let’s say your partner comes home from a hard day at work, throws their bag down, and slumps onto the sofa in silence.
Perhaps you might respond with an attempt at cheering them up with a bright, optimistic comment. In this emotionally tense moment, the way you respond will have a significant impact on their mood.
You might think that you’re cheering them up by being chirpy and trying to take their mind off their bad day, but this can come across as brushing off their feelings or not taking their problems seriously enough.
In this situation, your partner might instead prefer sympathy or a listening ear — to sit down and have a gripe about work with no judgement (and preferably a hug or two). If they don’t feel like they are getting the emotional support that they need, they might snap at you or shrink further into themselves (which of course will lead to further, bigger arguments).
Of course, it all depends on your other half and your relationship with how you treat these situations — everyone is different, and what works for one couple won’t necessarily work for another. But these seemingly meaningless moments are important because they are indicative of a deeper emotional vulnerability; small social interactions are often just the tip of a greater emotional iceberg and a whole lotta unspoken tension.
Not paying attention when they talk about work
This is a big one — but it seems so insignificant at the time, right?
Let us paint you a picture (yes, another one): you both come in after a busy day and reconvene in the kitchen for some much-needed wine and whining. You both take it in turns to bitch about your co-workers, your unreasonable boss or your never-ending to-do lists. But what happens if one of you isn’t really listening and you get caught out?
If you struggle to name a single one of your partner’s colleagues, or you’re still not entirely sure what they do and you’ve been together for three years, then it’s definitely you.
It’s pretty disheartening to find out that someone switches off when you’re talking, or that the things that matter to you — no matter how insignificant — don’t matter to your other half.
Time to turn that behaviour around before your partner realises — and before you fall into a pattern where you start switching off constantly when they’re talking. Trust us, this is not a recipe for a healthy, happy and long-lasting relationship.
Try putting your boredom to one side; find out about their day, practise active listening, ask them follow-up questions, and delve a bit deeper into their days. Who knows, you might even find some juicy nuggets of gossip.
How you socialise with friends as a couple
Hanging out with your mutual friends is a normal part of being in a healthy relationship.
Yes, you’ll both have your own friendship groups — girlfriends or boy mates that existed long before your coupledom — and you probably enjoy having a bit of time with them on your own. Sometimes it’s nice to not just be one half of a couple, or to reminisce about your teenage years or time in school together without worrying about whether your boyfriend/girlfriend feels out of the loop.
But what happens when you socialise as a couple? Whether it’s a mutual friendship group, or you’re hanging out with your partner’s circle of friends, problems can arise.
We’re not talking about huge arguments blowing up, but the tiny, seemingly insignificant stuff. Maybe when you’re recounting a tale together, you keep butting in over your partner and interrupting them. Or perhaps you can be a bit disparaging towards your other half, making jokes at their expense when you’re both with your friends — stuff that you don’t even realise can be upsetting, but your partner will hold onto.
As well as creating awkward moments when you’re with your friends, these little moments can cause cracks in your relationship that widen as time goes by.
That’s why it’s so important to remember that you’re a team. Don’t make fun of your team mate in front of friends, don’t talk over them, and back them up when they need it. It’ll make a big difference to your relationship.
It sounds so tiny, doesn’t it? But it’s true — something as small and everyday as doing the dishes can make or break a relationship.
It may feel petty, but housework can cause tension to build up in any relationship. This could be down to a few things — who does the housework, when it gets done, and how it is done. Perhaps one of you is fed up of always being the person to take out the bins or clean the bathroom. Maybe one of you doesn’t meet the higher cleaning standards of the other.
Household chores are minor and monotonous really, but that doesn’t mean that the damage they do to your relationship is minor. These things can build up all too easily, with the result being you both lashing out at each other over the hoover.
Nip this in the bud before it gets to this point and you both end up stressed and unhappy. Try to allocate out chores fairly and evenly. You could take it in turns to do certain tasks each week, or stick to the ones you prefer if that works for both of you.
The point is, it needs to be fair. And it isn’t fair if one of you is carrying the mental load (sometimes known as emotional labour) of running your house. This includes everything from household chores, to organising your social calendars, remembering family birthdays, looking after finances and more — storing this information in your brain as a never-ending to-do list.
In heteronormative relationships, the mental load is almost completely borne by women — take a look at this amazing feminist comic on the gender wars of household chores to find out more about what we’re talking about. If it seems all too familiar, perhaps it’s time to start talking and sharing the load more.
While every couple has those big arguments that can change the course of a relationship, it’s the little things that can really matter, building up over time. Pay attention to these little everyday moments and how you respond to your partner — it could make or break your relationship.