Relationships can often feel like a learning curve. Whether you've been together for six weeks or six years, it's totally normal to make mistakes in your relationship. But sometimes — when feelings and tensions are running high — it can be difficult to tell if a mistake is just a little trip up or if it has more significance for your relationship. The first thing to remember is that mistakes are not always a bad thing.
"It is actually important for couples to make mistakes," relationship coach Carla Romo tells Bustle. "This is essential for learning one another's boundaries for building mutual respect. It also creates an opportunity to communicate with one another effectively."
So, mistakes can totally be a good thing. But how do you know when they're just part of learning about each other versus when they're actually revealing some holes in your relationship that may be impossible to patch? Well, it all depends on the mistake. Try to consider whether it seems like it is a genuine accident that anyone could make or whether it says something about your relationship. Here are five mistakes that actually don't mean your relationship is doomed — and a few that do.
1. Getting Too Comfortable
It's really easy to get too comfortable and stop making as much of an effort in your relationship. "The mistake that nearly every couple makes is really easy to recognize, but is often only noticed in retrospect," Maigen Thomas, relationship coach, tells Bustle. "We all tend to get in a groove in our relationships and reach a point where we can start 'relaxing' a little bit. That groove, if it goes without notice, becomes a rut."
But it's so easy to fix — as long as you both can commit to putting in a little more time and energy to make things work, there's no reason this mistake has to be a lasting one.
2. Being Defensive
Pretty much everyone under the sun gets defensive from time to time. Sure, it's not the best way to handle things, but it happens. "It’s better to own up to your actions without having to defend them," Anita Chlipala, relationship expert and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couples' Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. And you might get there — eventually. As long as you or your partner can come around and admit you were being defensive, you can move on.
3. Forgetting An Important Date
Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and the owner of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells Bustle that forgetting a birthday or anniversary, especially early on in the relationship, isn't the kind of mistake that you should end a relationship over. But she also says that if they constantly forget birthdays and important dates, that can be a sign that they're not as invested as you think they are. So be sure to think about whether it seems like a mistake or part of the bigger picture.
4. Having A Moment Of Jealousy
Like forgetting a birthday, jealousy is something that's totally understandable from time-to-time, but a problem in larger doses. As long as you handle small bouts of it responsibly, you both should be able to move through it.
"Jealousy isn't necessarily bad, rather it signals to you that your emotional needs or feelings may be unmet," Samantha Burns, Couples Counselor and Dating Coach at Love Successfully, tells Bustle. "Whether you're seeking security and validation from your partner, or wanting to know that you are a top priority, it's important to determine what the underlying reason is for your jealousy. Before you let the green eyed monster completely take over, ask yourself what you can sort through and emotionally manage on your own, then once you're clear on your needs, communicate with your partner directly. In a healthy relationship, your partner shouldn't fire back with insults or make you feel more crazy, jealous or insecure. Rather, he or she should listen, try to understand, and validate or reassure you."
5. Hurting Your Partner's Feelings
When you hurt your partner's feelings or they hurt yours, it can feel like the end of the world. But you have to decide if you just made a mistake because you didn't know their sensitive spots or if you were actually being nasty to one another. If it's the former, that's OK. "In the early stages of a relationship this can happen by accident," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web radio show, tells Bustle. It can take a while to know what your partner is sensitive about, so you both need to take some time to figure each other out.
Some mistakes are just part of the learning curve — but there are some little mistakes that can actually be much more damning.
Here are the seemingly little mistakes that can mean your relationship was doomed from the start, according to experts.
1. Being Selfish
Sure, it may seem like everyone's selfish from time to time, but being truly selfish when it matters is a bad sign. "This can easily happen in the beginning because the both of you are still learning how to share a life together," Bethany Ricciardi, a relationship expert at TooTimid, tells Bustle. "You might be used to doing your own thing and can't remember the last time you had to check in with someone. Or, you just simply aren't used to having to consider anyone else's feelings or schedule." In either case, a relationship can't function if one of you is too selfish.
2. Avoiding Confrontation
Sometimes, you just want to pretend everything's perfect. "You may just brush things under the carpet," Jane Reardon, licensed therapist and founder of RxBreakup, tells Bustle. And that might seem like a little mistake, for a while — but if you can't handle confrontation or disagreement than your relationship will suffer. "This can eventually lead up to a heated dispute that may result in a breakup/divorce," Reardon says.
3. Ignoring Red Flags
Letting things slide and ignoring red flags might feel like you're just giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but it can be a huge mistake in the long run. "Many people discount some warning signs because some other aspect of the person or relationship are good," Lesli Doares, couples coach and communication expert, tells Bustle. "But not addressing these aspects can be fatal long-term. Maybe someone has the right job or the right look but doesn’t listen. But if you want to be in a relationship or not be alone, there is a good chance that you are ignoring red flags."
Mistakes are a part of every relationship — and not all of them are a bad thing. But if they're the type of errors that show that you're unkind, unwilling to communicate, or unrealistic, the relationship will suffer in the long run.