As much as we'd all love for it to be true, relationships aren't like fairy tales. They take more work than people realize, especially when one or both of you make one of the most common relationship mistakes. Most relationship mistakes have fixes, though, which is a good thing. Because last I checked, there was no manual for a partner who feels misunderstood or a partner who crosses on of your boundaries. It's a lot of trial and error. A lot of screwing up and forgiving.
As a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, a big chink of my work was helping couples overcome massive problems. What I learned from this work was that almost all of the giant, seemingly insurmountable problems started off as little problems. These little problems went unchecked, until they snowballed into something so big, there was almost no recovering.
But you're smart. You know that knowledge is power. And now that you know these common relationship mistakes and how to fix them, you can avoid the rocky road that leads to resentment and anger. You can be on the side of love and positive growth.
1. Not Setting Up Boundaries
Not setting up boundaries is probably the biggest, most common problem I saw in relationships. If we don't teach each other how we want to be treated, they won't know. Boundaries are essential to keeping the peace and being respectful in a relationship.
The Fix: When your partner says or does something that makes you uncomfortable, you have to let them know. This is how you lovingly establish boundaries. Try saying things like "Instead of X it would be better for me if you Y." Like, instead of yelling, "I would rather you took time to cool off." You can also be more direct, like "I don't want you to say 'I hate you' to me, ever, even if we're just playing." Boundary created.
2. Not Voicing Concerns
You partner is not perfect, so you can't treat them like they never do anything wrong. On the other hand, you don't want to be a constant critic. Both scenarios lead to resentment, frustration and anger on both your parts.
The Fix: You have to learn the difference between when a situation is something you should just let go, and when you need to speak up. This is hard and takes time. But it's worth doing. Otherwise, those little things that bother you will build up into big regrets.
3. Not Being Independent
One plus one does not equal one. People tend to get lost in relationships, which is not healthy. Maintaining independence while also fostering your closeness is the best way to go, Otherwise, you're creating this co-dependent soup that fosters more problems than it solves.
The Fix: Do your own thing once in a while. Have and hang out with your own friends. Keep doing your hobbies and working toward your personal goals. Spend alone time with yourself. You have to have a life outside of your relationship, too.
4. Making Unrealistic Promises
When you make unrealistic promises, that means you will eventually break those promises. Breaking promises is a great way to damage the trust you worked so hard to build in your relationships. Better to skip making promises you can't keep.
The Fix: Instead of saying "I will never hurt you" say, "I will do my best to never hurt you." Instead of saying "I'll handle it" every time there's a problem say, "we'll handle it together."
5. Depending On Each Other Too Much
If you're completely dependent on your partner, what will you do if your relationship ends suddenly? Being too dependent isn't healthy. Not only does it make things harder if the relationship ends, but it can keep you trapped with a lack of options.
The Fix: You have to be able to stand on your own as a whole, individual person, should your relationship end. Figure out whatever it takes to get there, and go for it, even if it's just baby steps. Learn how to use the bus. Take online classes. A little independence will make positive changes in your relationship, even if that seems counter-intuitive.
6. Not Making Time For Play
Play does amazing things for the friendship component of your relationship. Happy couples play, in whatever way works for them! They enjoy each other's company.
The Fix: Play! Be silly. Sing songs. Dance. Do fun things. Go on dates. Watch funny movies. Tell jokes. Goof around. Laugh. Whatever it takes to make each other smile and feel the light-hearted joy of being together.
7. Getting Lazy With Affection And Romance
Humans need touch to survive, and the chemicals in your brain that create those loving feelings thrive on touch. A relationship without touch is one doomed for failure.
The Fix: Create routines, at fist, like always kissing goodbye, or always hugging when someone gets home. Then, whenever you think about it, add in little things, like squeezing a knee on the train, holding hands during Netflix time, or even just randomly touching while you're running errands.
8. Trying Too Hard To Please Each Other
Trying too hard and doing too much sets up unrealistic expectations, which always lead to disappointment. You can't do everything and be everyone to your partner, no matter how much you may want to. This is especially problematic if one person is doing all of the pleasing in a relationship.
The Fix: Work on being your best self. Let your partner work on being their best self. You'll get into a rhythm soon enough. Be good to each other in a natural way. Go the extra mile once in a while, but not every single time you do something. It's not sustainable.
9. Not Communicating Changing Needs And Feelings
Couples can grow apart or grow together. To grow together, you have to keep getting to know each other, time and time again, month after month, and year after year. If you're not regularly checking in with each other on an emotional level, you'll soon lose your connection.
The Fix: Talk often. Discuss big, important things, like jobs, interests, kids, and family on a regular basis. Ask questions. Support each other during times of growth and change. Learn a little about the things that interest your partner.
10. Not Appreciating The Small Things
Big things are wonderful, but the bulk of life is made up of little things. If you don't appreciate the little things, and occasionally treat them like big things, you're in for a life of disappointment.
The Fix: Say "thank you" when you notice your partner doing something, even something small, like taking out the trash when it's your turn, or holding the door open. Practice gratitude for each other. Work harder to notice all the things your partner does for you that might otherwise go unnoticed. Pumping gas, or getting you a coffee can be a powerful way to show love.
11. Not Doing The Work
Relationships are hard. They're a lot of work. Sometimes you have to overlook the fact that you're super tired and you just want to go home because you promised you'd go somewhere with your partner. Sometimes you have to work hard to stifle criticism and find a more loving way to express your feelings. It's all part of the game. If you get too comfortable in your relationship, and you get lazy, then you're in for a bad time.
The Fix: You have to do the work. There's no other way to say it. Sometimes you have to suck it up and do things you don't want to do. If your partner and your relationship are worth it, you'll find a way.
You won't be able to avoid making all of these mistakes. But the good thing about that is the opportunity it presents to learn and become the best partner you could possibly be. Because no one becomes #RelationshipGoals on accident.
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