When you find yourself in a good relationship, you probably feel like you have to do anything and everything in your power to keep it. That's not the case. Often times the things you think you need to do are actually the things you need to stop doing if you want your relationship to succeed.
When I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I saw plenty of couples who were doing so much work to keep their relationships together. But they were not doing the right kind of work. They were working to be something they thought thy should be instead of being their best selves. Not to mention the fact that one person can't be doing all the work in a relationship. But that's a topic for another article.
The following list of things you should stop doing in your relationship is the result of countless sessions with countless couples who were giving it their all and still somehow messing everything up. If you take your energies and focus them in the right way, you can build something real and honest and unbreakable. It's a goal you both need to be behind one hundred percent, obviously, but it's totally doable.
1. Being Who Your Partner Wants You To Be
If your partner wants you to be the perfect spouse, to be a certain weight, to look a certain way, to have a certain job, to clean, to raise the children, or to build a certain image, they're not giving you the freedom to be yourself. You shouldn't be with someone who doesn't want you to be anything other than the best version of yourself. Living your life in service to this idea of who others want you to be will bite you in the ass one day, when you wake up and realize half your life is gone and you don't recognize yourself and you haven't done the things you dreamed of.
2. Keeping Things Bottled Up
A lot of people (of all genders, but especially women) are raised with an idea that being angry is bad manners. That disagreeing is rude. That it's somehow spiritually evolved to let everything fall away like water off a duck's back. Then those people, who have a lifetime of resentments and things they've wanted to say for years, suddenly explode over something very tiny. Or worse, they wake up and realize they hate their partners for no obvious reason. It's because they're poisoned with everything they didn't say. You can find ways to communicate things you don't like, things that make you mad, or ways your partner is annoying you without being mean. It's part of creating healthy boundaries.
3. Not Setting Boundaries
And while we're on the subject of boundaries, let me just say that if you want your relationship to last, you need them. Think of them as operating instructions for your partner to follow. They're loving guides that let others know how you want to be treated. You need to be able to say "no" and to draw the line about certain behaviors that make you uncomfortable or unhappy. You need to be able to ask for your needs to be met. You need to be able to carve out time for self-care. If you can do these things, you will take tons of stress off of your partner's shoulders that they didn't even know they were carrying. Trust me.
4. Being Inseparable
If you want your relationship to last, you have to stop spending all of your time together. A relationship is healthiest when it's made of two healthy individuals, and healthy individuals spend solo time with their families and friends, pursue their own interests, and spend some time alone. If you're used to being together all the time, it will seem hard and weird at first. But trust me, it will add a level of happiness and fulfillment to your lives and your relationships that you didn't even realize you were missing. Make some friends. Get a hobby. This is so important.
5. Playing The Victim
When your partner upsets you and hurts your feelings, do you play the victim and demand apologies, attention, gifts, and sympathy for days (or weeks) on end? I know it's satisfying to play the victim, but it's not something you should do in a healthy relationship. If you truly need time and apologies, that's one thing. But otherwise, you need to talk things out, look for solutions, resolve issues, and make a plan to avoid similar issues in the future. It's not easy, but it's what you do if you want your relationship to last.
6. Keeping Secrets
If the words "don't tell my partner" come out of your mouth when you go out, go shopping, or just in general, you're sabotaging your relationship. Unless, of course, you're talking about a surprise birthday party. Sneakiness and secrets are forms of dishonesty. They can be viewed as betrayal. What's worse, they break down trust. And no trust means no long-lasting, happy relationship. Keep your secret-keeping to a minimum. If you can't be honest about your spending or your free time, then you're probably not with the right person anyway.
7. Faking Orgasms
Personally speaking, I think it's OK to fake orgasms once in a while. But if you're always faking it, then you're probably not having the most satisfying sex. Years of unsatisfying sex can cause resentment. It can make you start to feel inadequate. It can even make you feel like you're in the wrong relationship. Instead of faking it, you need to take some time to communicate, teach your partner, try new things, and figure that whole orgasm thing out. Plus, faking it is kind of like lying, and it can hurt the precious, necessary trust you've built.
8. Playing A Role
There's this underlying, unwritten narrative to our lives that's easy to get caught up in. It goes something like this: go to college, date, get married, get a fab career, buy a house, have some kids, and so on and so forth. It's an easy trap to find yourself in. If that's what you want, then awesome! Do that! But if it's not what you want, make sure you're not just living your life according to the expectations of others. Make sure you're not just doing what you "were supposed to be doing." I heard this from so many women: "I did everything I was supposed to do." What you are supposed to do is what makes you happy. There are many, many different ways to live a meaningful life. You get to decide your role.
9. Marinating In Negativity
You should genuinely like your partner. You should have fun together. You should be cheerleaders for each other. You should laugh. You should give compliments and do nice things for each other. You can't come from a place of negativity too often. You can't criticize and judge and correct and disagree all the time. You can't expect they'll disappoint you and act accordingly. You can't assume the worst. Too much negativity is an easy way to kill a beautiful thing.
No relationship or person is perfect, and if you're doing one of these things right now the biggest thing it probably means is just that you're human. All you can do is try to make a change and work toward a better relationship every day.
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