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Five ways men ruin their relationships

14:00 Thu Mar 29 2012
Hugh Wilson
Five ways men ruin their relationships
Yes, it appears you've done something to annoy her, but what is it? (Thinkstock)

When you're suddenly in the doghouse, or you've broken up, have you ever wondered why and how you ended up there? It's usually one (or more) of the following five reasons.

If your relationship has started to get a little bit fractious — or you've split up — you need to understand why. Small disagreements can turn into big problems if you let them simmer.

But whether you're arguing a bit more than you used to, having less sex or spending long evenings barely exchanging a word, the reasons aren't always obvious. You might think you must have done something wrong but, at the same time, it might not be at all clear what it is.

You're not alone. Experts reckon that men sometimes drive their partners away without even knowing it. They ruin otherwise healthy relationships in ways they may find surprising or not even think about.

So here are five of the worst culprits, along with why they can turn good relationships bad and what to do to make sure they don't.

1. Bad habits could be ruining your relationship
In relationships, the little things mount up. Letting your toenails grow to outlandish lengths, even though you know she hates it, is fine....once or twice. Saying "phwoarrrr!" every time an actress undresses on telly is funny, until she tells you it's not. Belching loud and proud while she's eating is no problem, except it probably is.

Reining in a few of your bad habits is not tantamount to being 'changed'. It's not being 'under the thumb'. It's just common courtesy to someone you love and respect.

"These things are only acceptable if you're perfectly happy for females to do them too, so if you don't want us belching away in front of the TV while swooning over Ryan Reynolds strutting his stuff, then it's probably best to tone down the laddish behaviour and save it for your time with the boys," says relationship expert Kate Taylor.

2. Being anti-social to or about her friends
You might not like some of her friends very much, but you don't have to show it. Remember, her friends are a reflection of her. She likes them — probably loves some of them — so if you actively dislike them you're telling her all sorts of things she doesn't want to hear.

At the same time, gushing over people you don't have much time for can appear shallow and fake. So go for the third way. Be polite, be friendly, but don't be too fawning in trying to ingratiate yourself with her 'besties'.

"We don't mind if you only tolerate our friends," says Kate Taylor. "As long as you're polite and don't refuse to attend social gatherings simply to avoid our friends, you're fine."

3. Being threatening or argumentative
We don't mean being physically threatening — no man in his right mind would do that. But there is a certain argumentative style — practised by both men and women — that deals in absolutes. You might think her behaviour requires a definitive statement of your intent, a black and white representation of just how angry or upset you are. But what that means in practice is that you reach for the nuclear option during spats and threaten the entire foundations of the relationship.

Maybe you calmly say that sometimes you wonder if "any of this is worth it". Maybe you angrily blurt out, "I JUST DON'T NEED THIS!" Whichever it is, the effect is much the same.

"This really is hugely damaging," says Taylor. "It destroys trust and it's a pure power-play, as you're attempting to increase her insecurity in the hope it'll make her more tolerant. In reality, it should lessen her respect for you. Threats like these usually reveal you don't feel you can get what you want by compromise or communication, so you're choosing to 'go nuclear'.

"It's awful. Build a relationship on trust and mutual care-taking, and if you're genuinely unhappy, end things amicably — don't just threaten to."

4. Always or occasionally taking the easy route
It's your anniversary so you thoughtfully send her an e-card. It's your turn to cook something a little bit out-of-the-ordinary so generously you pay for a take-away. You've not seen her for a few days so you kindly send her a text.

Maybe in your relationship this is just the way things are done, and if so that's fine. But many women would consider these examples — and many others — as taking the easy route or, more damagingly, not putting any effort in to the relationship.

OK, the take-away may be lovely, but it doesn't represent your desire to do something really nice for her, something specifically from you. Similarly, if she hasn't seen you for a few days she might really want to hear your voice (even if it does mean missing the first round at the pub with the boys). As for e-cards — "an e-card is just a way of telling your partner, 'I forgot you'," says Taylor. "Everyone needs to feel important and it's vital you nourish your girlfriend's appetite for romance and reassurance, because only then can she truly open up to you," she continues. "Our libidos run on oxytocin, a hormone that is boosted by cuddles, kisses, and a feeling of trust. Every time you go out of your way to make us happy, our desire increases. If it doesn't come naturally to you, use your phone to set reminders and jot down notes of things she says she'd like."

5. Not doing your fair share of housework
You might have guessed this one was coming. Study after study has suggested that one thing that's guaranteed to turn her off and drive her away is your refusal to pitch in with the housework. That's not just true if you're cohabiting. If she regularly has to pick dirty pants and mouldy crusts off the floor of your room just to feel like she can stay the night it's going to lead to negative conclusions about your potential as a long-term bet eventually.

"Cleaning the loo, picking up your boxer shorts, clearing away the dishes and changing bed sheets are all nurturing jobs that fall under 'motherly love' rather than 'loving relationship'," says Taylor. "So clean up. Ten minutes spent doing the dishes will pay for itself if you want a partner who does more than just clean up after you."

What it all amounts to is that little things can make a big difference. You may think they're trivial, and in the great scheme of things they may be, but they all add up to a picture of you that might be less than appealing. And that's a shame, because a few minor adjustments are all it might take to get your relationship right back on track.

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