Sometimes when I tell a bad joke or say something kind of, well, stupid, my wife reaches up, pats the top of my head, and gives me one of those “there, there” kind of looks. It’s about as condescending as it gets.

But it’s okay. You see, it’s a running joke we have with each other from a time we watched a wife do that exact thing to her husband, but in a very serious sort of way. 

All of us do hurtful things to our significant other from time to time, whether intentionally or not. However, it’s the couples who do these hurtful things consistently to one another that end up creating long-term issues in their relationship.  

Truth be told, I’ve done many of the hurtful things listed below at various times during my marriage. But the beauty of a relationship is that hard work makes it better. If you’re guilty of doing some of these things, know that with hard work, you can probably turn it around. If you aren’t doing these things, celebrate that fact with your significant other!

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. I don’t tackle those here.

Here are 7 things healthy couples don’t do:

Apologize when they don’t mean it

I’m a middle child to the core. If there is conflict, I instinctively show up with donuts and a monetary peace offering. When I got married, that didn’t change. I made the mistake of apologizing for things that I inwardly didn’t think I needed to apologize for, and the result was that I started feeling bitter towards my spouse, as though she was the one making me apologize.

The truth, of course, was that I was the one in the wrong. Over time, I realized that I had to either understand why I truly should apologize, or I needed to talk it through more with my wife.

Healthy couples understand that getting long-term resolution, while harder to attain, is much better than forced short-term peace. 

Skip date nights

My favorite night out is a date night with my wife. I love it. It makes me feel so close to her.

Healthy couples realize the necessity of getting away from kids, stress, and responsibilities to inject some romance, fun, and relaxation into the relationship.

This investment always pays off. 

Fight about surface issues

Fighting is hard. It takes years to develop the x-ray vision necessary to see through the surface issues we all start out fighting about, and look into the deeper issues of why we feel hurt or angry.

Are you fighting about being home from work 15 minutes later than you said you’d be, or are you really fighting about whether work is the true priority?

Healthy couples challenge the natural impulse to focus on the surface issues and choose instead to look through to the heart of the matter. 

Believe in “the one”

Watch any movie with a love story in it and you’ll quickly learn how rampant a belief in “the one” really is. The problem with being in a relationship and believing in “the one” is that if you ever get into a rough patch, you begin to question whether you married “the one.” This often causes us to focus on exiting the relationship instead of putting in the hard work to fix it.

Healthy couples understand that hard work and unrelenting love is what makes someone “the one.”

Assume the worst

Couples who constantly assume the worst about each other can significantly damage to the relationship.

Trust is the foundation of every relationship and, when someone assumes the worst, it communicates distrust. Healthy couples understand the damage done by assuming the worst and therefore choose to assume the best, even if the facts don’t seem to line up.   

Split chores evenly  

On days that I happen to do more chores, or take care of the kids longer than my wife, I sometimes hear the voice of the “fairness monster” in my head: Look at all you’ve done today. And what has your wife done today besides absolutely nothing?

This voice is pure poison. Don’t listen to it. If you do, you’ll end up fighting and resenting your spouse.

Healthy couples realize that doing more chores than their spouse is an opportunity to increase the amount of love in their relationship. 

Prioritize work over the relationship

When you do your job well, people tell you as much, and they’ll pay you good money for it. When you compare this with the hard work and stress that at times comes with a relationship, it’s easy to see why people choose to avoid the relationship, and dive into work. 

Healthy couples realize that long term contentment comes from putting in the hard work to develop a healthy relationship. They may work hard at their jobs, but they also recognize that kind of work can’t bring the same kind of fulfillment that only a family can bring.