1. Getting mired down in details–Relationships are all about negotiation, but hashing out every tiny decision can leave little room in your lives for conversations that count. Use a couples app like Avocado, which lets you keep running lists, chats, and calendars that each of you can check during downtime, so you don’t feel like you have to make a million decisions the second you finally reconnect in person.
2. Putting the kids first–It doesn’t mean that your kids are second-class citizens. It’s about recognizing a separate connection between you and your spouse that is different than the one you have with the kids. Date nights and sex dates can keep your bond strong, but it’s also important to be together on everyday parenting decisions. When your kids know you’re a unit, they won’t play you off of each other, which creates friction.
3. Not dreaming enough–Before marriage and kids, you had a pretty long list of things you wanted to try but as you get older and family life becomes more consuming, it’s easy to give up on those things. But “accessing your passions” and the things that make you keep you self-aware and give you and your partner ways to connect. Getting tickets to see a visiting South African band or buying your guy a yearlong membership to the museum not only keeps you both in touch with the things that make you tick, but also provides plenty of date-night opportunities.
4. Being Mrs. Fix It–Frame the issue as a puzzle you need his help solving. It lets him feel indispensable, which is appealing. Saying something like, “You’re the Expedia wizard, and I think your skills and a bottle of wine would be a great way to get the vacation plans sorted” will get the job done. Plus, that experience will be a whole lot more fun than nagging him.
5. Ignoring a rough patch—Not addressing issues on can be more detrimental to your marriage than just admitting things aren’t working as well as they should be. Tell your spouse how you feel and focus on solutions. Maybe it’s inviting your parents over for a week to help with the kids, or clearing a weekend to hang out together. If that doesn’t do it, a few therapy sessions might.
6. Using the words always and never—These words are dangerous in a relationship because the more you use them, the more your partner becomes a character or ideal instead of an individual with flaws and quirks who doesn’t always behave the way you assume he or she will. Being conscious of when you use these words will make you less likely to say them in arguments.