It’s no secret that relationships require a lot of compromise. Sometimes, it even feels like hard work – especially if it seems more like sacrifice than compromise. When the relationship ends, we often try to place the blame largely on one person or the other, completely ignoring the fact that one-sided break-ups are actually very rare. In fact, in many cases, when it seems like one person is screwing things up, it’s actually more likely that you’re both doing things to ruin your relationship – it just happens that the other is shifting the blame a little more.
There’s really no such thing as an expert in the dating game. Sure, some people know a little more, and some people are a little more naïve, but most break-ups boil down to the following 8 reasons. How many can you count in your relationships?
1. You give your partner too much control over your life.
In the course of some relationships, one partner will end up “wearing the pants”, so to speak. This isn’t always a deliberate act of control – sometimes, the partner who seems to be controlled is voluntarily giving up their autonomy for their partner. Eventually, the in-charge partner gets used to being in charge, and it becomes a really difficult habit to break, for both partners. Different personality types play into each of these roles, and it’s not always going to happen, but recognizing it is the key to being happy in your relationship – and the rest of your life, too.
How do you know if you’re handing over too much control? One of the easiest ways is to identify the things you automatically defer to her. Do you feel the need to ask permission, or do you feel confident that the choices you make won’t upset your partner? Do you pre-emptively check in with her so she knows you are where you said you’d be at that time, or do you only check in if there’s something out of the usual going on?
There are tons of examples of this self-inflicted loss of control, and some of them may even be pruned by your partner. It’s important to identify them early, so that you can break the habit on your side. Once it’s become “business as usual”, the habit will be much harder to break, as you’ll both have to work on it.
2. You avoid responsibility for your own actions.
One of the most common excuses that I hear for infidelity, domestic violence, and even codependent drug addictions is that the other partner “made them” do it. This is dangerous, not only because it paints your partner as a bad person when they might not otherwise be classified as such, but also because it removes your ability to fix your own problems. After all, if you can’t acknowledge that you have a problem, you can’t actually plan a solution.
That’s not to say that you should take responsibility for everything that goes wrong in your relationship, though. If you’ll notice, I said you should take responsibility for your actions. Do not allow your partner, or anyone else in your life, place the blame on you for things that are out of your control. Unless you have magical powers (or a major control freak complex), you didn’t make your partner do anything, and she didn’t make you do anything, either.
This means that you need to own up to your past mistakes, too – even when it hurts. Thankfully, admitting to yourself that your past mistakes were actually mistakes gives you the chance to come up with a different approach next time. If you don’t take responsibility for these choices, you’re setting yourself up to make the same bad choices again.
3. You have unclear priorities and expectations.
Something I used to be really, really bad about is expecting that my partner would naturally know what she should be doing, at any point in time. I had a very clear picture in my head about what my priorities were, and I assumed that anyone I dated would have the same priorities. It would be great if it worked out like that, but realistically, priorities are very subjective. If you don’t communicate your expectations, she doesn’t know your expectations.
On the other side of the coin, there’s the woman who doesn’t even know what she expects from herself. (That’s all priorities really are, if you think about it – expectations you set for yourself.) We often assume that our priorities stay the same throughout our lives, but really, that’s rarely the case. Most of us have expectations for ourselves in ten general categories, as one of my favorite bloggers explains in this post. Even if you don’t have an answer for all ten categories, chances are the ones that are most important to you now are different than the ones that were important five years ago, and in the next five years they could very well change again.
It’s important that you both fully understand your priorities and expectations, as they pertain to yourselves and to each other. It might seem weird the first few times you talk about them, but in time the conversation will get easier (and, truthfully, more exciting, too). Regularly reflecting on your priorities helps to ensure that you’re both still working towards the same goals, which will guarantee your relationship’s happiness.
4. You sacrifice your sense of self.
When a relationship is going well, the urge to merge can get really, really strong. After a while, we start to inadvertently attach ourselves to our partner in new and (at the time) exciting ways. So-called romantic movies make it seem like this type of attachment isn’t just healthy, it’s super romantic. But in order to preserve your own happiness, you need to do your own thing, too. Building your entire life around your partner is not sweet. It’s highly dysfunctional.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have shared interests and hobbies, too. You absolutely should! But these should never be forced shared interests and hobbies. If one of you likes fishing, but the other can’t stand the thought of gutting a living creature, obviously fishing together is probably not a real shared interest. Does that mean the fisher shouldn’t fish? No. It means that she should fish without her girlfriend.
If you’re used to codependence, it can be really hard to separate yourself from your partner. In situations where you’re both having issues with attachment, it can even lead to resentment if one of you is ready to work on it and the other isn’t. This is one of the reasons it’s important to establish your priorities and expectations regularly – it helps avoid the awkwardness and insecurities that can come from “I think I need some space”.
5. You’re reckless with your words.
Is it just me, or is it harder to control your words with someone you’re unapologetically yourself around? It’s almost funny (in a sick and twisted sort of way). We care about them more than anyone else in the world, but we throw our words around like they don’t sometimes have sharp edges. Maybe the opposite is true instead – we care about them so much that we want to tell them what they want to hear, even if we know it’s not the truth.
Neither one of these extremes is good. Your partner deserves honesty, but she also deserves tact and respect. For those of us cursed with a sailor’s mouth (pun absolutely intended), it’s hard to remember that our words have a price. Personally, my vice is using the words “bitch” and “fuck” as sentence seasonings, without any real meaning behind them. My girlfriend, on the other hand, doesn’t care for either of those words, so I’ve got to take extra precautions to stop them from coming out of my mouth. I screw it up a lot, actually, but the effort does make a difference.
It’s not always about the vulgar words, though. Sometimes, we may make jokes at our partner’s expense, or even insult someone for something that happens to be true about our partner, too. It takes time to learn all the little quirks of your particular relationship, but you have to actually make the effort to learn. Then, once you’ve discovered what’s most important to her, consciously shift your talking style to be more respectful of her.
6. You keep your mouth shut.
We sort of touched on it in that last bit, but I’d like to elaborate a little more here. Denying a problem, or little white lies to protect her feelings, aren’t doing you any favors. If you’re denying the things you really need her to work on, you’re putting her happiness above your own. And, if you’re not a happy girlfriend, you can’t be a good girlfriend. Staying quiet to save the relationship will always lead to resentment.
In simpler terms, we teach people how to treat us. Even the best person will eventually find themselves taking advantage of their partner’s feelings if their partner continually makes their own feelings unimportant. Again, that’s not to say that it’s entirely your fault when your partner mistreats you, but you are giving up on your ability to get the things you want.
Even if it’s not so black and white, you can’t get what you don’t ask for. Communication is absolutely essential for happiness, and we have a basic human instinct to give our loved ones the things they want from us. The vast majority of partners will do what’s in their power to keep their other half happy, as long as they know what it takes. When you keep your own needs quiet, you’re not doing anyone any favors.
7. You make too many excuses.
To a certain extent, you do have a duty to protect your girlfriend’s honor. You’re probably not going to take off into the sunset with her on a daily basis, or fight everyone who wolf-whistles at her in the streets. But most people feel compelled to stick up for their partner when they hear other people talking badly about them. But does that mean you should always defend her? Actually, no.
When we hear our other loved ones talking about what our girlfriend has done wrong, it’s important that we evaluate what they say before we jump to her defense. In some cases, their accusations are entirely unfounded, in which case you absolutely should stick up for her. But, more often, we get defensive because we know there’s an air of truth in what they say, and we don’t want to admit it to ourselves.
The next time someone tells you something unfavorable about your girlfriend, pay attention to what they’re actually saying. Do you absolutely know and trust that they misunderstood what they saw? Or, are you jumping to her defense because that’s what she would say if you accused her? When in doubt, try to plan a civil conversation to discuss the information you heard. If she’s really innocent in the situation, make sure you correct the rumor as best you can.
8. You’re in love with love itself.
Lastly, there is a certain subculture that is in love with the idea of love, and who will try to form that loving bond with everyone. Not all relationships are meant to last forever, and that’s actually okay. When we try to force a bond with someone when there really isn’t one there, it’s going to end badly. This can be especially scary if both partners are in love with love, and actually have very little in common. Sure, you might stay together for a while, but you’ll never be truly happy.
At the same time, you do need to be at least a little bit in love with love in order to make the relationship work. After all, someone who doesn’t want to be in love is probably going to have a hard time keeping their focus just on their partner. But you need to make sure you’re in the relationship for the right reasons, and those sappy feelings are just the icing on the cake.
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