The dating world is often harsh and chaotic. Finding somebody who is worthy of your time can be a difficult and dirty job. Nonetheless, we are compelled to enter such an unforgiving world for the sake of the desired outcome: a good relationship. Once you’ve found such a coveted gem and settled nicely into a comfortable relationship, you don’t want to throw it all away with a nasty misstep. Below are nine common relationship killers and how to avoid them.

1. Being Critical

It is said that a little constructive criticism can be positive. This is the case, of course, for everybody except your girlfriend. Although suggestions are generally considered acceptable, particularly if she asks for them, putdowns and unwarranted negative input are expected from her mother, not her lover.

If you correct her, tell her how to dress or generally act as though you know best, she will feel nitpicked and self-conscious. Every smart woman knows that she shouldn’t spend her time with a man who doesn’t make her feel good about herself. When in a relationship, be kind and generous, pick your battles, and only give her advice if she asks for it. Also, temper your criticisms with compliments.

2. Making it Obvious That Your Career Comes Before Her

Your job is important to you, and as such, it’s important to your girlfriend. She’s likely very proud of your successes and wants you to do well. On the other hand, if you start staying late at work every day, if you frequently cancel dates for last-minute business obligations or if you constantly hang out with your coworkers after work hours, she will get ideas about your priorities.

Although a woman appreciates a focused and ambitious man, she also expects you to make time for her. Think of it this way: What fun is having a great career and lots of money if you have nobody to share them with?

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3. Cheating

Physical cheating is never acceptable unless you and your girl have an agreement about such behavior. But cheating isn’t limited only to sexual misconduct — there is a second type of cheating that can be nearly as hurtful. In this sense, read the word “cheating” as emotional cheating — committing to somebody else in a girlfriend-y way. This means having a female friend that you relate to better than your girlfriend, that you spend more quality time with or that you enjoy more.

This type of cheating applies to very serious relationships in which your girl would expect full disclosure and sharing. If you’re relating that well to somebody else, chances are you’re short-changing your girlfriend. This doesn’t mean you can’t have other friends or even other really close friends — it just means that your girlfriend wants to feel like you trust her and confide in her. She doesn’t want to be second-best. And if she is, she’ll notice.

4. Becoming Unkempt

Style is by no means infinitely important, but if you go from GQ to P.U. as soon as you’re comfortable with her, she’ll be sure to keep her distance. This tells her two things: 1. You were just putting on a facade to attract her, and 2. She’s not important enough for you to maintain that facade. If she was attracted to you when you were wearing well-cut suits, chances are that’s what she likes, and she may stop being attracted to you if all you wear are sweats and jerseys. If you’re into sweats and jerseys, that’s how you should go out onto the market.

5. Being Snappy

Now that you and your girl are getting closer, she’s around more. And now that she’s around more, her habits are becoming less novel and charming. You find yourself lashing out at her every so often and talking to her like she’s your little sister. You act as though you’re annoyed by her every move. You’re not, of course, but you just feel comfortable enough to inform her of your preferences — bluntly.

Unfortunately for you, she probably won’t accept this behavior for a very long period. Instead of being short with her, try to realize when you’re getting annoyed. Then, decide rationally whether this particular annoyance is worth fighting over or not. If it’s not, do your best to leave it alone. If it is, then try to let your girl know calmly. Chances are she’ll be glad to know what bothers you, and she may even have a few suggestions for your habits.

6. Being Controlling

This one is age-old. Many people in relationships suffer from fanatic controlitis. You get jealous of her guy friends. You tell her not to spend so much time gossiping with her girl friends. You tell her she spent too much money at the shoe store. More than anything, you tell her where and when she should go out.

Although women have a reputation for being clingy, they also enjoy their independence. Chances are your girlfriend lived her life pretty successfully before you entered the picture. It is equally likely that she can still manage her own time and money without your help. There are situations in which she may want your input or advice, but otherwise, don’t be pushy with advice or demands. Instead of demanding time, ask for it. Unless you want her to duck out when she sees you coming into a room, you have to give her space and let her make her own decisions.

7. Judging Her Friends and Family

If you find her friends, her sister and her mother annoying, you’re going to have an awfully hard time. They’re going to be around quite often, and she’ll talk about them even more. It’s important to try to see what she sees in them. If her posse is a bit shallow, try to find some substance, and if her mother is overbearing, try to realize she just wants to help. You have to understand that these people are her foundation and that she’ll be very defensive about them. If you try to see the good things in them, you might actually start to like them.

Also, avoid direct confrontation with all her favorite people, even if they egg you on. Do your best to get along with those closest to her because fights with them will translate into fights with your girl. If you can, become their favorite guy; it’ll pay dividends in the end.

8. Becoming Disinterested

Men often believe that the way to attract women is to be aloof. Even if that works in the beginning, it is certainly not the case once you become serious in a relationship. Your woman remembers what it’s like to be wooed. She’s also keenly aware of the fact that if you don’t pay attention to her, a lot of other men will. If you stop complimenting her, stop taking her out or asking about her life, she will feel neglected. Recognize that she doesn’t have to be around you; you have to make it worth her while. If you want to keep her around, you need to make her feel like she’s special. Look her in the eye. Call her in the middle of the day from time to time. When you think she looks pretty, tell her.

9. Not Making Time for Her

You promised Joe you’d watch the game with him. You haven’t been to the gym enough lately. You have to run errands. Although you may want to do all of the things you did when you were a bachelor, you also have to make time for your girl. It’s tough, but sometimes you and your girl will both have to give up time with pals in order to spend time together.

It’s All About the Small Things

If you want to keep a woman around, you should make her feel important, special and competent. Any of the behaviors listed above will indicate that you’re taking her for granted — and if there’s anything a woman hates, it’s being taken for granted. So make those small gestures; after all, if she’s worth keeping, it shouldn’t even feel like an effort to you.