It’s one thing to make remarks about your haircut or wishing you’d spend less on comic book memorabilia, but if your partner asks you to change — your job, your religion, your studies, or something else you consider to be the core parts of your personality — that’s a major red flag, says Fran Walfish, PhD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and co-star of Sex Box on WE tv. “An important part of being in a successful relationship is to give up trying to control other people, especially your spouse or partner,” she says.
Instead of trying to change you, a good partner is going to support you in achieving your goals. But what it they don’t agree with something serious?
Give them your phone passcode
Secrets between partners can be a relationship breaker, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to have a little privacy. This is particularly important when it comes to issues like your phone and your social media accounts. “Asking to go through your phone or demanding your passwords is a major boundary violation,” says Michele Kerulis, PhD, a professor of counseling at Northwestern University.
When your partner feels the need to frequently check your phone or email, then the real concern is that they don’t trust you— and that’s the problem that needed to be solved, not the pattern on your screen swipe, she explains. “Trust is the foundation of a healthy and respectful relationship. If you don’t have trust then you’re probably with the wrong partner,” she adds.
Make sure everything is exactly equal
“There simply are no fifty-fifty splits of responsibility in a great marriage. Great couples learn to sacrifice and serve one another, even if it isn’t totally ‘fair’,” Dr. Walfish says. In reality, in the best relationships, it can be hard to say who gives more because the partners don’t keep scores, she explains.
Nothing kills love like trying to tell who has more to do with cleaning the bathroom or doing dishes— not to mention all the emotional math is stressful. The reality is, there will be moments, like during a job loss or illness, where you’re going to have to do all the hard work because your partner isn’t able to give anything. However, these moments usually work out, and your partner can pick up the slack when you need help. But the secret, she says, is that they don’t even complain when it’s their turn to give all.
Keep a bad secret or lie for them
You should never feel like you have to keep an immoral or illegal secret for your partner or lie on their behalf, says Shirani Pathak, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Soulful Relationships. Secrets and lies of all sorts are deeply detrimental to your relationship, and it’s cruel for your partner to put you in a situation where you feel like you have to choose between their love and doing what’s right.
“If your partner has something to hide and lie about, the best most loving thing you can do is let them deal with the consequences of their own actions,” she says.
A partner cheating, just “just once,” can, and sometimes does, ruin a relationship, says Dr. Walfish. A serious indiscretion may be resolved with therapy if all parties are able to work together and heal, but if the cheater asks for a “pass” or expects you to only “get over” when they claim they’re sorry, that’s a death knell for your marriage. It’s even more destructive if your partner has a history of cheating, she adds. You can’t expect something as serious as infidelity to simply be “forgiven and forgotten.”
Give up your job
Some people define their masculinity through their willingness to be a breadwinner in a relationship, and while it works for some couples, it may harm others — especially if it needs you to lessen your talents, skills, or career opportunities in deference to his ego, says Dr. Walfish. Once couples realize that there is no secret for a perfect relationship, they can open themselves up to the happiness they might not have had otherwise.
“I have observed couples establish, nurture, and create very happy, successful relationships in which the female partner becomes the primary breadwinner and the male partner brings in a significantly smaller figure income but shores up the difference by picking up extra load in homemaking, taking care of the children, cooking, and other household duties,” she says.
Try bondage in the bedroom
Sex is such an intimate experience, and your partner should always respect your bedroom needs and desires— and that doesn’t involve coercing or shaming you to do something you’re not interested in, says Dr. Pathak. “If you have already said no to a sexual act, whatever it is, your partner should refrain from asking you over and over,” she says.
This type of badgering demonstrates that your partner doesn’t respect you and places their sexual desires on top of your personal comfort and safety. (And pressuring you to do something sexual is rape, whether you’re married or not.)
Forbid you from talking about something
Whether it’s their mother, ex, or their princess Leia fantasies, we all have difficulties that we’d rather avoid talking about. But avoiding talking about issues that affect both parties in the relationship can be extremely harmful, particularly if your partner doesn’t consider your feelings, says Dr. Kerulis. “Your partner should never ask you to not talk about your feelings. Holding things in is simply toxic while talking things through allows you to get to the root of a problem,” she says.
People sometimes see tough conversations as nagging or pushing a button, but that doesn’t mean discussions shouldn’t happen, instead, you may need counseling to help them develop better communication skills. Oh, and your partner should never ask you to “stop crying” or to say things like “you can’t get mad.” Your feelings are your feelings.
Put up with abuse from their family
Dealing with in-laws can be difficult, as there are always landmines that are already part of the relationship. But although you do need to accept your partner’s relationship with his or her parents, that doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate being humiliated, demeaned, ignored, or otherwise hurt, says Julienne Derichs, a licensed counselor and relationship expert at Couples Counseling Today.
“Your partner should not ask you to ignore the rude or disrespectful things their friends or family say to you. Your partner is the guide for how your loved ones treat you, so if they let them get away with treating you badly you don’t have a chance; and if they ask you to ‘just let it go,’ it won’t get any better,” she says. “Your partner needs to stand up for you and should not ask you to ignore bad behavior.”
Break up with your best friend
It’s ok if your partner doesn’t like your sister, best friend, or maid of honor, but they should still respect your relationship with them. Your partner should never ask you to choose between them and someone else you love or demand that you cut ties with friends or relatives simply because he or she doesn’t like certain people, says Jennifer C. Walton, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and a relationship expert.
It’s important for them to tell you their feelings and to point out how they feel that these people are negatively influencing you, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide who stays in your life.