Whether you’ve been together for a couple of weeks or a couple of decades, it’s always a good idea to assess if we’ve been good partners to our SO.
We want to stop anything from ruining our relationship, especially if it’s something within our control—like our behavior.
Here are 12 of the most common relationship mistakes that you should keep an eye out for, and how you can deal with them.
1) Entering a relationship with the wrong reasons
Let us start off with something that, for all of its importance in building a lasting relationship, is often not given the thought it deserves. And that is the reason you entered a relationship.
Sometimes people get into relationships because they feel like they have become too old to stay single, or because they feel lonely. Or they just want to have sex.
All these are very bad reasons to enter a relationship, and it’s by no means an exhaustive list. There are more things out there that are not worth starting a relationship over!
It’s bad because your primary motivation isn’t love.
The issue here is that even if there’s desire in the mix, the one thing driving you forward is desperation and fear because you feel you have to have a relationship.
What to do:
Think deeply about your relationship and how you feel about your SO. Do you truly love them or do you just need them for whatever reason?
What problems were you trying to evade or solve when you entered the relationship?
You don’t have to break up with your SO but you must face those demons because they will catch you later. Why were you lonely? Why do you always need a companion?
Address these issues because they will creep into your relationship. Fill the void that only you can fill.
2) Making them the center of your universe
Many people have the idea that couples who are in love should be glued to the hip.
Let’s blame the media with their “You complete me” and “I’m nothing without you” messages.
The ideal romantic couple, apparently, is where both consider each other the ‘centers’ of their own little universe. Where one goes, the other follows. And this, unfortunately, is not only incredibly unrealistic, but also very unhealthy.
Without time apart, the relationship will start to feel constricting. Petty arguments will crop up left and right. Tension will build in the relationship with very little opportunities for that tension to be released in a healthy manner.
At some point, the frustrations will begin to undermine the love that exists between the two of you.
This could easily lead to unrealistic expectations and the creation of destructive habits like codependency.
And even if you or your SO like the idea of a clingy partner, there is such a thing as too clingy. And in case the relationship ever ends up falling apart, you’re going to be absolutely devastated because you’ve built your life around them.
Besides, you’ll be more interesting to each other if you both have independent lives.
What to do:
There’s no other way to do it. You need to stop making your SO the center of your world.
Love them for all they’re worth, love them as much as you feel they deserve, but don’t forget that you are your own person.
It’s not easy if you’re both clingy but you have to do this for your own good.
For starters, you might want to try and look for things that can make you happy without your SO. Things that you can say are genuinely you even if it’s just collecting rocks.
You have your own life and so do they. Bear in mind: Not being together 24/7 doesn’t mean you love each other less!
3) Being a bit too distant
So yeah, it’s a bad idea to be too attached and clingy in a relationship and you should give each other space if you want your relationship to succeed. But the reverse of that is also bad.
There are many reasons why people in a relationship might be a bit hands-off with their partner.
For example, sometimes couples just can’t relate to what interests the other. Like you might love gardening while your partner likes to hole up in their room to read a book. And sometimes your schedules might conflict, meaning you have little time for each other.
These are all fine and can be dealt with but some people simply don’t bother, and sometimes this causes couples to drift apart.
Think about it. Can you really call it a relationship if you don’t even really do that much with your SO? Why even call yourself partners anyways if you only talk to each other once in a blue moon?
What to do:
Time and attention are the best gifts you can give someone.
If you are just too busy and that’s why you haven’t been spending as much time together as you should have been, then find time. Seriously. Find time.
And if the reason why you are a bit distant with your SO is because you simply don’t understand their hobbies and interests, then the least you can do is to try to relate and to show that you care about them.
You don’t have to force yourself to like them —and you shouldn’t have to— but you can just be at least curious.
4) You let fights rule your relationship
Okay, so as your relationship with your partner matures, you will start getting comfortable with them and this can then lead to small arguments cropping up here and there. The things you used to find cute are now so annoying!
You shouldn’t let these arguments dictate your relationship.
You shouldn’t start harboring a grudge at your partner because of an argument you had last night. At the same time, you shouldn’t think that simply because you’re getting into arguments that your relationship is doomed.
Arguments are normal, really. It’s nothing too concerning.
People argue with their spouses well into their 90s. What makes relationships successful is not the lack of arguments, but how gracefully people deal with them.
What to do:
Learn to argue well.
Before you even open your mouth to say something, hold their hand. Then learn good communication skills.
And of course, you should learn to forgive. The one thing that makes fights take over a relationship is the inability of the people within it to find it in themselves to forgive their partner. When you don’t —or can’t— forgive, small arguments become catalysts for grudges and ever bigger arguments.
Lastly, don’t make it a habit. Just because fighting is normal doesn’t mean it should happen often. If your SO hates that you don’t throw away the garbage, improve yourself. Respect them enough to try to change for the better.
5) You let your past affect your relationship
So some of us have gone through things that left deep scars in our relationship. Failed past relationships, betrayals, abusive partners… the list goes on.
Ideally, your partner should understand this and be mindful of any ‘touchiness’ or personal traumas you bring into the relationship. But at the same time, you shouldn’t rest on your laurels and go “Oh, no worries… my partner will understand me even if I get a little mean because I was traumatized when I was a kid.”
To an extent, yes. Your partner should understand your scars and not force you to get over them. But at the same time, it’s unfair to expect your partner to just be understanding forever, without you bothering to get any better.
What to do:
You should try to be the best version of you that you could be, for the sake of your partner and the health of your relationship. Actually, no. Do it mainly for your own sake first.
If you have problems trusting people, for example, your partner might be able to tolerate that for a few years. But do you think that someone would like to be with you for over 40 years, and in all that time receive not a single shred of trust?
Talk things over with your partner. And if it’s just too big for the two of you alone to handle, call in a therapist so you can process your trauma.
6) You listen too much to outsiders
So there’s this one really, really heartbreaking story on Reddit. Basically, a girl decided to get rid of her boyfriend’s toy collection because she wanted room for her baby and hated how her friends teased her about her boyfriend’s ‘childishness’.
The tragedy here is that when they were new to the relationship, the girl thought that her BF’s love for toys was cute but her friends mocking her over and over for her ‘childish’ boyfriend got to her and she grew to hate it. And now because of that, she has broken his trust and ruined their relationship.
People like to gossip about others all the time. People like to give their opinions and advice, especially those who are close to them. You might hear your friends and parents say your SO isn’t good for you and this might affect how you view your relationship.
What to do:
What you need to do is, at its core, incredibly simple. Your relationship with your SO is between you and them alone, and you should not let outsiders —friends, family— intrude on that.
So what if your SO likes something that your friends think is ‘cringy’? So what if your friends think that your SO isn’t even that hot?
This is easier said than done, however. Sometimes hearing people talking smack about something you like will eventually lead you to disliking that same thing. Stay vigilant, and remind yourself why you love your SO.
7) You’re keeping score
By “keeping score”, I mean expecting your SO to give you something if you show them that you love them.
And, well, while the idea of trying to out-do the other in the ‘Who Loves More?’ game might sound appealing at first, it’s ultimately harmful to your relationship.
See, it makes your relationship transactional. And relationships should never be transactional.
When you turn affection —love— into a currency to be traded, it stops being genuine. It stops being love and becomes a system of emotional debt and blackmail. You stop actually loving them, and instead care about what they will give you. And few things kill relationships harder than the absence of love.
What to do:
I know many dating gurus advocate for not giving more than you’re getting, but who will lose in the end? The one who WANTS to give but decides not to, that’s who.
Stop yourself from expecting anything every time you do something good for your SO.
This also applies in the opposite direction. Don’t feel compelled to give something back every time your SO gives you something good.
Most of all, don’t slap to their face all the good things you’ve done to make them feel guilty during an argument.
8) You’re using “I” when you should be using “we”
A study made by the University of Berkeley in California had something interesting to say. Couples who say “we” more often, rather than “I”, are more likely to be in happy and productive relationships.
It might seem silly that a single word has this much of an effect, but if you think about it, it’s more than just a word. It’s a way of thinking, of framing a relationship that is deeply entwined with the concept of me, you, and us.
When you say ‘we’, you are acknowledging your togetherness. You’re in this together, you move together, suffer together, and laugh together. But when you instead say words like ‘you’ and ‘I’, you are emphasizing a sort of separation between the two of you.
What to do:
Of course, you can’t ditch the idea of ‘You’ and ‘I’ completely in favor of ‘we’. As I had said earlier in this article, you might be together but you are also your own person so don’t go overboard.
But when it comes to matters important to your relationship, then toss the ‘me, me, me’ out of the window because you’re a team!
When you’re talking about where you want to settle down, for example, you might want to use “we” so your SO won’t feel like you’re the one making all the decisions.
This is also important when you’re talking with other people. Saying “We will think about it” when a salesman approaches you, will make your SO feel valued.
9) You try to change your partner
The trope of the bad boy falling in love with the good girl and then changing into an entirely different person is everywhere in movies and literature.
If you go on Wattpad and browse through stories described as romantic, chances are that most stories you’ll come across will play on this trope one way or another.
But romantic as this scenario may sound, it’s just not realistic. It’s an ideal, and while sometimes people will change in the name of love… you should not expect people to do just that.
While it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for small compromises for the sake of your relationship like, say, putting the cap back on the toothpaste, you should avoid trying to change your partner’s core personality.
If they’re a carefree artist, don’t expect them to become the next Bezos. If they like wearing jeans all their life, don’t expect them to wear a dress just for you. You get the picture.
What to do:
You need to keep in mind that in getting into a relationship with someone, you’re accepting them into their life as who they are with all their flaws and merits. And, after that, they are still human and are always free to change on their own. Remind yourself of this.
If you ever feel the urge to ‘correct’ your SO, stop for a moment to think. Why are you trying to change them? Are you willing to risk the chance of them hating you and leaving you, just to see that change?
It also helps if you put yourself in their shoes. Think, ‘what if my partner decides they dislike what I’m doing and want ME to change?’
10) You feel entitled to the relationship
Some people get it in their head that simply because they’re in a relationship with someone, they’re entitled to some ‘perks’ like being able to boss their SO around, or ask for sex anytime, or to always have their ear or support in arguments.
But no. That’s just not it!
The only real thing you are ‘entitled’ to by being in a relationship is exclusivity. That you and your partner will only see each other and no one else. And of course, the basic respect and love.
Even marriage doesn’t mean anything. A man has no right to throw away his wife’s make-up. A woman has no right to demand her husband to buy her shoes.
You do not own a person, they do not own you. Ask, negotiate, but don’t demand or expect.
What to do:
Everything you get from a relationship should be voluntarily given, and never forced.
So if you have ever felt like you are entitled to something simply because you’re in a relationship with or married to someone, take a step back and ask yourself whether it’s reasonable to feel entitled to that and why.
Just because you’re in a relationship?
There are things that just come with being in a relationship for sure, but if you find yourself being entitled to your SO doing stuff for you, it’s just not right.
11) You’re not letting yourself be vulnerable
Nobody likes being left feeling vulnerable, exposed, and weak especially in the first few years of dating. But you shouldn’t try to maintain an unflappable, solid front 24/7.
In fact, you can’t sustain that!
Even if you feel like you’ve been doing a good job at being this rock that the world just can’t lay low, you will eventually break down and explode. And the longer you’ve been holding it in, the bigger the explosion.
That explosion can really hurt your relationship. You’ll end up shouting at your SO, saying hateful words at everyone who tries to help, and wrecking things.
But it’s not JUST the explosion, see.
If you never let yourself be vulnerable, your SO will inevitably find themselves feeling awkward..that there’s something off. You will start feeling out of reach and hard to relate. It will be taken as you having a lack of trust towards your partner. And relationships are built on trust.
What to do:
Some of us have traumas that we just can’t get over with. Some of us have gone through things that leave it hard for us to trust.
The best thing you can honestly do is talk to a therapist about it. But even with that, you can start by reminding yourself that, by being in a relationship with you, your partner is putting their trust in you. By revealing their flaws, they expect that you’d share the same things, because that’s how you can truly get to know each other better.
You don’t have to tell them about everything that is troubling you, but you can begin with venting to them about small gripes and minor insecurities. One at a time.
12) You’re stonewalling them
Stonewalling is another staple in televised drama and romantic novels that is straight-up one of the worst things you can do to a relationship.
What is stonewalling?
Stonewalling is when you start ignoring or avoiding your partner, storming off when they’re around, and shouting at them, or changing the topic when they begin talking… or when others begin talking about them.
Basically, it’s like clicking the ‘block’ button on them in real life. It doesn’t take much thinking to realize why this is a really bad idea.
Yet people still do it. It can make any problem worse and if you do it, it can be the beginning of the end. It’s not loving at all and it could really leave a big scar on your relationship.
What to do:
Sadly, it’s not that easy to simply tell people to stop stonewalling. This is another one of those things where I would say “go see a therapist!” is probably one of the most prudent reactions because of just how destructive it can be.
But it helps if you try to pay attention 24/7. If you ever catch yourself avoiding your partner, or repeatedly changing the subject around them, you should ask yourself why you’re doing that and stop.
Relationships can’t work without communication and this is the reason why, when you go to relationship forums, good communication is the number one thing that many couples think is the most essential in a healthy relationship.
If you think you have a problem with your SO, no matter how petty it might seem, try to open up. You don’t have to be too serious when talking about it. But the thing is, it can have dramatic effects on your relationship.
If you’re still able to talk honestly and freely, any problem is still fixable.
Relationships are tricky, and everyone makes mistakes. Even people who have been married for years still make mistakes. We’re humans after all! We can’t perfect this relationship business.
But the fact that you’re reading this means that you truly value your relationship and that is the most important thing: the willingness to become a better version of you for someone you love.
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