You may think you have found the love of your life — your dream woman or man. You may even be in a seemingly healthy long-term relationship. But if you want that connection to last, there are certain relationship styles you should work to avoid, or at the very least keep to a minimum.
Here are 5 common mistakes people make in relationships:
1. Being too dependent.
Relationships need to be nurtured; they cannot flourish if they are left on their own. Your relationship ought to be one of the top priorities in your life. Of course, your relationship should not be your whole life: If you are reluctant to make plans that do not require both of you to participate until you are sure your partner has no plans, you may be giving too much weight to your relationship. This is a common form of dependent behavior. Another is not being willing to allow the other person to do things on their own, or failing to respect their need for alone time.
2. Being too independent.
While having your whole life revolve around your relationship is unhealthy, so is not being able to make any compromises for it. If you always demand that things be your way, you are restricting your partner's freedom in an unreasonable way. Compromising is the key to relationship success. Yes, certain core values should never be compromised: If one of you wants children of your own and the other does not, that may be a core value that becomes non-negotiable. But in most areas, you need to accept that you cannot always have it your way. If you have different food preferences, for instance, you need to claim defeat once in a while. The same goes for decision-making: While some decisions may become yours to make, others must be made together with your partner, say, how you will spend your summer vacation or the holiday season.
3. Not being willing to make sacrifices.
Being in a relationship inevitably requires making sacrifices. You cannot live your single life and still be part of a committed long-term relationship. (Needless to say, if you and your significant other are exclusive, you cannot cheat on each other.) Relationships require numerous, if minor, sacrifices. It all comes down to making reasonable agreements with each other that satisfy some of each other's wishes, even when they go against your own. If you have agreed to inform each other when you are coming home late, you cannot then stay out without letting the other person know. If you used to go out partying every weekend, but the other person does not like partying at all, you need to find some middle ground. It may not always feel great to have to give up part of your autonomy. Unfortunately, relationships cannot thrive if you're unwilling to sacrifice some of your desires and preferences.
4. Being unable to communicate about things that bother you.
No two people can ever be exactly the same in their preferences, behaviors, and manners. There are bound to be aspects of the other person's preferences, behaviors, or manners that will eventually bother you — especially after your honeymoon phase. Yet some couples are unable to communicate this to each other in a healthy way. They let the annoyance accumulate until it explodes, or they let out their frustration in the heat of an argument. It is crucial to the success of a relationship that you can convey negative things to your partner without them taking offense. Likewise, you should be willing to listen to the issues they have with you. When the negative aspects are reasonable things that can easily be fixed, you should both be willing to work on changing what the other person dislikes, or at least come to a reasonable agreement about what needs to be done. It is important that these conversations take place regularly, when both parties are calm and collected.
5. Explicitly or implicitly encouraging inequality.
Although the norm in American culture today, at least among younger adults, is to assume that people should be equal in relationships, it remains easy to unwittingly carry on with old-fashioned inequality patterns. But equality is essential to a healthy long-term relationship. If you and your partner both have full-time jobs (whether or not one of those jobs consists of taking care of your children), you should contribute equally to household tasks, including cooking, cleaning, shopping, planning, and taking care of the children after work hours. Some couples realize that they can divide up these tasks in such a way that makes sense for them; if one person is a great cook, and the other prefers doing the dishes, they may agree that one cooks, and the other cleans up afterward. Equality in a relationship, however, goes beyond dividing up jobs: Decisions that pertain to, or seriously affect, the relationship need to be made together. And importantly, the same holds in the bedroom. Intimacy (including sex) is something that needs to be discussed. If you have different sexual needs, you must find a middle way. Likewise, some couples fall into old-fashioned sexual relationship patterns, in which the man initiates sex, the woman complies, and only the man receives pleasure. Needless to say, this is no way to maintain a healthy relationship.
Berit "Brit" Brogaard is a co-author of The Superhuman Mind and the author of On Romantic Love.
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