A Doctor Shares With Us Which Behaviors Could Ruin Your Marriage

Most of us get into marriages or long-term relationships not really understanding the gamut of demands this life-long union will make on our time, mental health, and physical capabilities. After spending years of having to only worry about our own emotions and responsibilities, suddenly there's another person in the equation. Is my spouse having a good day today? Why are they cranky? Why won't they listen better? Wasn't it just last week that they were down with the flu? These are, perhaps, some of the silent questions we ask ourselves, day in and day out. 

Navigating these challenges (both separately and together) is part and parcel of building a strong foundation. But it is not always easy — probably why some people believe it's actually healthier to be single

Conflict resolutions is one big area. While we might be inclined to think that the obviously big things like infidelity and drug addiction are the only things that might cause arguments, there are other behaviors like poor communication, fighting about money in your marriage, power struggles, and emotional neglect that can ruin things too, shared New York City neuropsychologist and Director of Comprehend the Mind, Dr. Sanam Hafeez exclusively with Health Digest. "Conflicts related to power dynamics, control, or decision-making authority can create significant tension," explained the doctor. Let's take a closer look at conflict and a few other behaviors we should watch out for.  

Not fighting properly

You may have heard that the art of handling conflict is not about avoiding it at all costs but about learning to fight properly. In fact, conflict is unavoidable in a marriage, so it's important to find the right tools that build on what you have and not ruin it. It's vital that we learn to flex healthy communication muscles during conflict, according to Dr. Sanam Hafeez. "Poor communication is a significant factor, with couples struggling to express their needs, listen actively, and engage in open, constructive dialogue," explained the neuropsychologist. 

It is also important to be aware of the usual "hot zones" when it comes to conflict, like finances, power struggles, and emotional neglect. When it comes to money, everything from having different goals to who spends how much on what can become a problem, according to the doctor. And with power dynamics, the concerns might be related to who calls the shots when it comes to the relationship. Emotional neglect is about partners feeling "unsupported or neglected emotionally," per Dr. Hafeez. 

Psychologists suggest approaching conflict areas with inquisitiveness, empathy, kindness, respect, and a willingness to apologize when needed, instead of name-calling, belittling, and other unhealthy tools (via TIME). It is important to remember that toxic relationships can do damage to your body

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Avoiding mental health concerns

Sometimes, the stressors within a marriage can be further compounded if one or both partners are going through depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. The strain from this can even lead to divorce in certain cases, shared Dr. Sanam Hafeez. "Mental health challenges can create a wedge between partners, making it tough to connect on an emotional level and fostering misunderstandings," explained the neuropsychologist. 

And it doesn't stop there. Not taking care of your mental health can also spill into how you connect with your spouse physically and impact your relationships with those outside of your marriage (friends and family) too, according to Dr. Hafeez. It really is one of the surprising ways marriage can affect your health

"If these challenges aren't tackled head-on, conflicts can become a recurring theme, potentially leading to a decision to end the marriage as a way to break free from the ongoing struggles," added the expert. Which brings us to another point. It is important to understand when mental health concerns may require the help of a professional. This is where counseling comes into play. Whether it's couples therapy or individual counseling, getting an outside perspective can be eye-opening. If your partner is unwilling to get help, first take care of yourself and then learn about their particular struggles if possible, per the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. Enlist the help of friends and family. When it comes to couples therapy to improve on relational issues, try and get to the root of why they don't want to go and see if they'd be willing to try alternatives (via Healthline).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Using sex tactics that can harm a marriage

While it's certainly important to spice things up in the bedroom for greater intimacy and the emotional health of a long-term marriage, there are some sexual behaviors that can ruin a marriage. 

Using sex as a weapon is one of them, according to Dr. Sanam Hafeez. "Using sex as a tool for control, punishment, or reward can create power imbalances and diminish emotional connection within the marriage." Not discussing your and your partner's sexual needs, desires, or concerns can also cause a rift, added the doctor, and so can a primary focus on the physical act of sex minus the emotional connection. There's a lot that goes into good sex — trust, emotional intimacy, open communication, and eye contact are a few, according to sex educator Sarah Byrden (via NBC News). 

Forcing your partner to engage in sexual acts they aren't comfortable with is also unacceptable, added Dr. Hafeez. "[This] can lead to emotional trauma and broken trust." Speaking of trust, it goes without saying that extramarital affairs can be a serious breach of this, according to the neuropsychologist. They can be very challenging to come back from. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Having different health behaviors and poor health

While we might not think of this as something significant when it comes to marriage or a long-term union, opposing health behaviors can cause strain in a relationship, according to Dr. Sanam Hafeez. 

"Dissimilarity in health behaviors and poor health as predictors for divorce may be linked to the strain physical well-being imposes on a relationship," explained the NYC doctor. Think about it. When was the last time you wanted to wake up early and go for a run together? Are you always mindful of reading food labels when your partner reaches for high-sugar treats without a bat of an eyelid? Are you struggling to find common interests or activities you can do together? This could ruin the quality of your bond, according to Dr. Hafeez. 

"Additionally, dealing with poor health, whether through chronic conditions or unhealthy behaviors, often introduces stress, financial strain, and changes in roles within the relationship," explained the Director of Comprehend the Mind. Sometimes, poor health is unavoidable but other times, it isn't. If you're able to keep yourselves as healthy as possible for yourself and for the sake of your relationship, this can add to the quality of your union. Health-related issues can have a ripple effect on a marriage too, per Dr. Hafeez. "[They] may impact emotional and physical intimacy, communication, and overall satisfaction, contributing to a higher likelihood of divorce as partners grapple with the complexities of health-related issues."