It’s not just about the fights, but how they happen, too.
It’s a familiar scene: A fight breaks out between you and your partner, all because one of you didn’t communicate what you really wanted. Inevitably, the line, “I’m not a mind reader!” will be used. New research suggests that these types of arguments could do more than cause temporary tension—expecting your partner to know what you’re thinking could signify relationship anxiety and feelings of neglect. Here, five more sneaky habits that could be chipping away at your relationship.
1. Giving the ‘silent treatment’: Although the silent treatment might seem like a great move in the moment, researchers have found it can be a sign of greater, long-term trouble. A recent study from Baylor University showed that withdrawing during a fight was a sign of unhappiness in the relationship.
2. Avoiding rom-coms: A mushy film might not be your top pick for movie night, but the opportunity to watch relationships onscreen may actually have some undercover benefits. A three-year study from University of Rochester looked at various couples’ therapy programs, and found that people who watched movies about relationships and then discussed them afterwards had a 50 percent lower divorce rate. So, no matter how much he protests, skip the thriller.
3. Sleeping on opposite ends of the bed: U.K. researchers found that only 66 percent of couples who slept more than 30 inches apart reported being happy in their relationships, compared to 86 percent of couples who slept less than an inch apart. And since you’re getting closer anyway, consider this—94 percent of couples that slept while making contact with their partner reported high relationship satisfaction.
4. Taking the long route to work: A 2013 study of Swedish couples examined how long-distance commuting affected their marriages—and a longer ride to work correlated with a higher chance of divorce. Of course, you can’t always control how far from home you work, but you should have a conversation about how the commute affects other aspects of your relationship—for example, if you can’t seem to ever make it home in time for dinner.
5. Keeping your phone on the dinner table: We know your phone can be bad news for your health, but it might also be affecting the quality of your relationship. Researchers from the University of Essex found that even having a phone nearby can lead to lower relationship satisfaction. You may not be checking your texts during a heart-to-heart, but the mere presence of a phone can still interfere with closeness and intimacy.
6. Texting each other 24/7: Here’s another strike against cell phones—researchers at Brigham Young University found that resolving conflicts or making important decisions over text led to lower relationship quality for women. For men, receiving frequent texts also correlated with lower relationship quality. The good news is that sending affectionate texts was healthy for both men and women—so if you want to say “I <3 you” now and then, go for it, but save the heavy talks for face-to-face.