*Warning: adult language.
We are all smarter during the honeymoon phase of any healthy relationship.
It’s hard to do anything wrong because everything feels so damn good.
It’s one big puppy pile, and puppy piles are pretty damn easy.
But once the metaphorical beer-goggles wear off and we sober up to the reality that our partner is a real pain in the ass, it’s a whole new ballgame. And if we bring our “know-it-all” attitude to the table, we’re pretty much screwed.
So, instead of thinking we know how relationship works this year, let’s assume that we are making at least five of these mistakes and that we have something to learn.
Why admit to these mistakes?
By admitting we suck at long-term relationship, we become humble enough to learn a new way.
After reading these mistakes, I’ll give you one (and only one) tip to turn every single one of these mistakes around.
But first, let’s discuss the nine most common relationship mistakes we’ve made before, and are likely to repeat again if we don’t get our shit together.
Mistake # 1: We never learned.
Whenever I teach a relationship class or workshop I ask people to raise their hands if they took a formal class on how to be in an intimate relationship, not one hand goes up.
When we don’t learn, we do what we’ve always done—which often doesn’t go that well. Imagine traveling the vast wilderness with no map, no compass, no gear and no water. If you did that, you’d most certainly die and that’s what happens to our relationships without the tools to go the distance.
Mistake # 2: We still believe the fairytale.
We are suckers for a happy ending. But rarely do relationships go as Hollywood portrays
it. We confuse the real work of love with infatuation and expect to stay infatuated and feeling “good” forever. When in reality, like a toke of that good Colorado weed, it just doesn’t last.
Couples who chase a fantasy get chased by dread until they embrace what a real, raw relationship is actually like. Let’s stop waiting for Prince Charming or Cinderella.
Want a fairytale ending? Go watch a sappy movie instead.
Mistake # 3: Not understanding how relationships actually work.
Most of us have no idea about the secret magic of intimacy.
We don’t get that an adult relationship will recreate some version of our childhood home and that, through this process, we can not only heal our past, but we can become more empowered, mature adults.
We also don’t understand adult attachment all that well. Like it or not, your partner becomes your parent and vice versa. Our job is to learn how to play this in a way that creates a really safe and secure foundation, without compromising who we are. This dance is complex and involves two mature adults will take really good care of each other, just as we would if we had a hurt little boy or girl in our arms.
Smart couples understand how relationships work and take really good care of each other.
Mistake # 4: We keep hoping our partner will change and we expect them to be like us.
Perhaps the dumbest move on the planet, yet so completely understandable is to keep trying to get our partner to do life like we do. From loading the dishwasher, to managing our money, the seduction is to try to get relief by making our partner conform to our way.
The basic message we send when we are trying to “help” our partners by trying to change them is a message that communicates “I don’t love and accept you as you are,” which of course drives a really big wedge between us.
Want more tension? Try to change them.
Mistake # 5: Not working on it like a beast.
We get complacent and don’t work on the relationship because we stubbornly think we should already know how. Or we think a good relationship shouldn’t be this hard.
I know, pretty dumb right? But if you think about it, you’ve been sold a bullshit message that a good relationship should just feel good and be easy (back to mistake #1). Remember, if we don’t work on the garden, the weeds take over. But it’s amazing how many of us think we know how to garden when we really don’t. Or we expect the crops to give us food without getting our hands dirty in the shit and compost.
Great athletes don’t become great without guidance, coaching, and rigorous practice. Why are relationships any different?
The old adage is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can work when you are talking about an old Subaru that still runs after 200,000 miles. But do we want to be driving our marriage like an old rusty Subaru? Or do we want to keep up with the ever-evolving nature of the technology of our psychology by continually learning what it takes to build an inspired, thriving, nourishing partnership?
Mistake # 6: Not being able to work our shit out.
Piggy-backing on Mistake # 5, is our unwillingness or inability to work out our differences.
Since no one ever formally taught us how to work out a conflict and how to truly understand another person in a way that works for them, we resort to the low hanging fruit of whatever was modeled to us by the people around us as we developed. So whatever we got growing up is what we will orient to and what we will recreate.
Do we really want to resort to the same habitual patterns or do we want to grow up and finally learn how to work through interpersonal challenges in order to reach win-win?
Mistake# 7: We don’t know how to be with our triggers.
Building off Mistake # 6, when we are incapable of being with our emotional reactivity and sensory overload we feel in our bodies during our fight-flight-freeze response, we say and do, stupid shit. It’s that simple.
Like it or not, relationship success is governed by the central nervous system. If we can’t learn how to work with our own reactivity and our partner’s reactivity, we’re kinda doomed.
Mistake # 8: Blame.
We humans can’t help but blame others. It’s just part of our nature and it’s a natural stage of human development. Yet for most of us, we have a hard time growing beyond the blaming stage. And once we settle in for a few years in a committed long-term partnership, we struggle to not blame our partner or blame ourselves when the relationship challenges arise.
On the other hand, if we choose to grow we learn to own and take responsibility for our mistakes when we hurt our partner’s feelings. This goes a long way. If we can’t escape blame, our ship will sink before we reach the big open water and adventure that awaits.
Mistake # 9: Agreeing with our fear.
Fear is part of the territory in an intimate relationship. To deny our fear puts us back in our stubborn-ass-self who makes all the mistakes above. “Afraid? I’m not afraid of intimacy or closeness!” Yeah right. I said that too.
But here’s the deal…
In a long term relationship there comes a point when most of us are simply scared to be ourselves for fear of upsetting our partner. That’s often what happened in our family of origin. We hold back, play nice, and withhold the real truth from our mate. This of course, leads to affairs, tension, and huge resentments because we tell ourselves such lies as, “You’re not letting me be me.”
Let’s work with our fear and learn to lean into it and learn from it. How about going toward whatever you are afraid of instead of playing games or running away?
Okay, those are the nine totally human mistakes most of us will likely repeat unless…
We do one simple thing
That’s right. Be a student.
Let’s be willing to learn what we don’t know about having an intimate relationship with another human being. Let’s take the class we never got in school. Then let’s see where that takes us.
Author: Jayson Gaydis
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren