Hugh Wilson
23 November 2010 14:23 | By Hugh Wilson, contributor, MSN Him

Ways men ruin their relationships

Grumpy couple in bar (© Getty)

Most relationships don't end because of out-of-the-blue infidelity, or because of a blazing row in the street, or because one partner walks away without warning or explanation.

No, most relationships end because of a creeping indifference that tunnels into the foundations of even the strongest partnerships - if we let it. We stop putting our partners first, pulling our weight in the relationship and having fun together.

And inevitably we grow apart. But it doesn't have to be like that. Below are five ways men tend to ruin their relationships, and how you can nip them in the bud before it's too late.

We stop helping out

Man helping woman with coat (© Getty)

In the first flushes of romance, a man will hold doors open for his new love, carry her heavy shopping bags home and refuse to let her lift a finger when he invites her round for dinner.

It's a chivalry that rarely lasts. After a few years together and a stretch of cohabitation, some men can't even bring themselves to help out with the hoovering. As Kate Taylor, relationship expert for dating website, says that's sometimes because women simply have a lower mess threshold than men. Nevertheless, housework wars have the power to wreck otherwise solid relationships.

"To avoid this issue coming up in your relationship, make sure you don't take your partner for granted," says Taylor. "It's important to share the workload. Remember it's the small and thoughtful gestures that show your partner how much you love them."

So run the hoover round before she comes home for work, or hang the washing out without being asked. It doesn't take much to make a difference.

We stop having fun

Couple toasting in pub (© Getty)

At the start of a relationship, most couples do everything together. But as time goes on many of us start to split our lives into two contrasting areas - couple stuff with girlfriends or wives, fun with mates.

For a relationship, that's a fast track to ruin. As Kate Taylor puts it, "those that play together, stay together." Those who stop playing together slowly drift apart.

If you have a relationship worth preserving, find things you can do together, and set aside time every week to do them. According to Taylor, studies show that, although men and women enjoy some more gender-specific activities, they also have lots of interests in common. So choose something you'll both enjoy and invite her along.

We stop talking

Couple talking outdoors (© Getty)

When we stop talking, we stop communicating, which means small problems are left to fester into big ones. When we were first going out we told each other everything. When we stop discussing stuff, we start to undermine the relationship.

But that doesn't mean to say that good relationships have to be about non-stop chat, says Kate Taylor.

"At the beginning of a relationship, couples see each other less often and have more to talk about which helps them to connect," she says. "Once you move in together it's only natural that you know more about one another, but it is still important that you share your day - it's just about choosing the right time to do it."

Kate says that if you're the sort of man that needs half an hour to wind down in peace when you get home from work, make sure your partner knows. That way she won't be offended by your silence. But make time for a proper chat later in the evening.

We stop listening

Couple in bed (© Getty)

Clichés tend to contain a nugget of truth, and when some women complain that their men "never listen" they can have a point. Listening means being fully engaged in the conversation, rather than keeping half an ear on her problems with the lecherous line manager and half an ear on the football scores.

And not listening gives the impression that you don't appreciate her concerns. That can lead to frustration and, eventually, dangerous resentment.

"Encourage your partner to tell you if she feels you're not listening to her, so as to avoid her building up any sort of resentment towards you," says Taylor. "It's all too easy for these things to go unnoticed for too long, meaning that when issues are finally raised it may be too late."

And remember, she doesn't expect you to have all the answers: she just wants you to listen to the problem. "Listening is a very important romantic skill as it encourages intimacy," says Taylor.

We start comparing

Men watching women in pub (© Getty)

You know how it goes. You're in the pub with a mate who is busy extolling the virtues of his new girlfriend, and you start to feel the first twinges of envy.

Why don't we have sex so much, you think, or so adventurously? Why doesn't my partner dress in designer clothes and edible underwear? Why can't she prepare a Ramsay-standard steak dinner?

The first thing to remember is that the bluster of a pub bore is usually to be taken with a pinch of salt. The second thing to remember is that comparing your partner to some imagined ideal is a fruitless and ruinous pursuit.

In relationships as in everything, the grass always seems greener on the other side. Right until you leap over the fence and realise it was all a trick of the light, and the grass is actually wilted and yellow.

"Don't worry about what other people have - you'll never know truly what their relationship is like, so don't even think about it," says Taylor. "Instead, focus on the great things you and your partner have got together."

If you do start comparing, it's hard to stop, with potentially devastating consequences for your relationship. And most of the time what you're comparing your attractive, warm and caring partner with is nothing more than pure fantasy.

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