It’s almost Valentine’s Day, the most important and monumental holiday of the year. I jest, even as a hopeless romantic I find the “holiday” to be a complete waste of time. I talked about it last Valentine’s Day but to repeat myself, I don’t believe that love is expressed by buying someone chocolate and flowers and going out to an overpriced dinner on a specific day. For me, love is based on something so much more, something intangible. Showing someone that they mean the world to you comes in the things you do in your every day life, the way you treat them and consider them. To limit romantic gestures and thoughtfulness for one day seems counterproductive to me.
I understand Mother’s/Father’s/Teacher’s/every other day, a little bit more, though I do believe that you should honor all of the above on a daily basis…but your significant other? That doesn’t need to be a cliché, that should be inherent, like breathing.
Valentine’s Day always feels like a no-win situation. If you’re IN a relationship the person will inevitably not live up to your standards and if you’re NOT in one then you are made to feel bad about being single, even if on any other day you’d embrace it. I don’t see how this day can be considered a good thing.
As I mentioned above, being in a relationship requires putting in the dedication and effort to make it work. We often times forget that, and it’s as result of this that some relationships fail. We allow ourselves to feel the initial rush of exhilaration when we first date someone and when this wanes off (which it will, it can’t last forever but instead transitions into something much more beautiful) we take it as a sign of “this isn’t the right person.” Sometimes it isn’t, but sometimes it’s just a lack of perspective from our end. We’ve seen too many movies, read too many books that tell us what it should look like rather than what it ACTUALLY looks like.
I don’t claim to be a relationship expert, clearly, since I am single right now, so you are entitled to tell me I have no idea what I am talking about. However, I’ve been in my fair share of relationships (some good, some bad, all enlightening), am the product of parents who have been happily married for 34 years, and have watched my friends go through almost every kind of romantic situation one can imagine, so I do think I have enough perspective that I can write about them. And write about common mistakes we make whilst in them…
Getting Lazy/Taking Someone for Granted: Once we figure out we like someone, we’re usually on our best behavior. We put in effort, we show we care, we make sure the person we’re with knows how great we think they are. We do this because we don’t want to lose them, we want to solidify the union. But once stability is established a lot of times we begin to slip. We assume that since we have the person that we’ve won. But it doesn’t work like that…while it’s impossible to keep up the initial frenzy and whirlwind, to let initiative die out completely is a serious fail. We need to continue in our efforts to charm and seduce the one in our life. Even the most secure, confident people want to know that they are cared about, and that they are important. They want to know that what they’re feeling is reciprocated. I understand that we’re all busy, and we all have lives but maintenance (while essential) doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly time consuming. It can be as simple as an email, or a text, or a voicenote, just to say hi and you’re thinking of them. (If that is too cliché then include a reason why. Example: “I saw a woman fall down the stairs and it made me think of the time you wiped out when running to catch the subway. “ or “I read a really interesting article/book that I think you’d like, I’ll send you the link/you can borrow it.”) It really is as simple as that. Also, listen to what they want. If something is important to someone you care about (and it’s not completely ridiculous) then what’s the harm in indulging that?
Criticism/Trying to Change Them: I’m of the mindset that the people we surround ourselves with are supposed to make us feel better about ourselves, not worse. The people in our lives should be our champions, our supporters, those who know us and love and accept us for who we are. I am not trying to suggest that our loved ones indulge us to the point of denial; we should be challenged, and told when we’re wrong but for the most part, we should have people in our lives who ACTUALLY like us, not who they want us to be. If you’re annoyed that someone leaves every cupboard door in the kitchen open, or if they fall asleep mid text/bbm/whatsapp conversation, those little things are normal, growing pains in a relationship. They’re fixable. Even bigger things like you don’t like them jumping to conclusions or certain comments or actions they make. Those things are fine, they’re called compromise. But it’s when it becomes bigger. I knew a guy once who claimed to have a crush on me, but in (almost) every conversation we had, he would tell me things about myself I needed to “change” and “improve” …one or two were (slightly) valid but most were things that I hadn’t been told before and that no one else seems to have a problem with. When I mentioned this, he told me they just didn’t want to stand up to me. He told me that he didn’t buy the phrase, “This is who I am…” He refused to listen to any logic or input from my side. He’d made up his mind so unless I was willing to agree with him, my words fell on deaf ears. So instead of fighting it, I just stopped speaking to him. I don’t need people in my life whose idea of caring is tearing me down. While I don’t pretend to be perfect, I have enough people in my life who adore me as I am that I don’t really have room for those who don’t.
Playing Dirty: Once you become close with someone you begin to understand the way they think. You know how to deal with certain moods and situations, and the subjects to highlight and avoid. For the most part, you use this information to keep the relationship on a high, but sometimes, when you’re angry/hurt/frustrated it’s used as ammunition. Just because you know exactly what to say to someone to hurt them doesn’t mean you should do it. I know it’s tempting, they did XYZ so they “deserve it”, but one thing I have learned is hurting someone does NOT make you hurt any less, and it rarely brings any kind of validation. Fights are part of EVERY relationship (and breakup) but they don’t have to be nasty, they shouldn’t be. Fighting dirty results in irreparable damage, even after the gloves are put away. People don’t forget what was said “in the heat of the moment” nor will they ever truly accept that you “didn’t mean it,” They’ll always believe that there was an element of truth in your words. Learn how to fight without hurting, how to fight productively, how to use the fight to progress the relationship, not tear it apart. (Tips: don’t yell, stay calm always, stay on focus-don’t bring up unrelated random grievances mid argument, don’t attack or accuse, be clear in explaining what you’re upset about and why, expressing how it makes you feel, let the other person talk and actually listen to them, if they start getting nasty change the tone back, remember that everyone is different and that you have chosen this person for a reason-try and love and accept them, give them a chance to work on it, it won’t and can’t happen overnight, If you say it’s over and are moving forward, actually do it. Drop it. Do not revisit over and over)
Jealousy: Ah the green eyed monster, it can destroy so much, yet is so unnecessary. Jealousy springs from insecurity and I just can’t fathom why one would allow themselves to feel insecure about a relationship that they’re in. It is not obligatory to be in the relationship, you’re in it because you want to be, so why get jealous and insecure? When I’m into someone, I don’t want anyone else, and if I start wanting someone else, I see that as a major red flag and reevaluate the relationship. Jealousy is a MAJOR deal-breaker for me, it is one of the few things I am unrelenting on. Not only am I a natural flirt, but I’m very good friends with almost every guy that I’ve ever been romantically involved with. We talk a lot and spend time together (I am always open about this), but there is nothing “there” anymore. Things ended for a reason and those reasons are still relevant. No reason to be jealous. Same thing with other parties that you meet out. Look at it this way: there is a reason that you’re with this person, and it’s because they’re awesome. So chances are, others will notice it as well. Laugh it off, they’re with YOU. That being said, don’t be so deluded that you assume that everyone wants your significant other, yes they’re great, but everyone has different tastes. Don’t give ultimatums, don’t stalk, don’t threaten other parties or try and throw your weight around. Sit back and relax. When you’re with someone, you have to assume that they want to be with you. (Assumptions are usually bad but in this case, they’re not, they’re essential!!!) Trust the person you’re with, give them enough respect and consideration….oh, and work on your insecurity issues. They’re not attractive.
Blame: It’s so easy to pass blame and judgment on something, and even easier to focus our attention on the wrong thing. No one is perfect, and people are going to do things to disappoint us but casting blame on the wrong person or thing is delusional. Sometimes you have to accept that YOU are the wrong one, and take responsibility for that. It’s not easy to say you’re wrong, admit a weakness, but to not do so results in serious issues for others and yourself. Another form of blame is “the other person.” Not that your significant other should be unfaithful to you, but in the event they are, you have to be realistic about the situation. I have never been one to condone blaming “the other woman.” If I am dating someone, my responsibility to them is to behave respectfully and to be faithful. It is not another guys job to do it for me. Same if I hook up with someone who has a girlfriend (not something I would do but let’s be hypothetical here) …am I the wrong one? No. It is HIS responsibility to be faithful, not mine. I don’t owe her anything. (On a side note, I believe hooking up with someone in a relationship is one of the highest forms of self degradation, no one deserves to be second best) The only exception to this is if you are friends with the person whose significant other you are hooking up with. It is your responsibility AS A FRIEND to behave with integrity.
Manipulation/Guilt Tripping: The ultimate form of passive aggressive behavior is guilt tripping someone into feeling and behaving a certain way. Doing so is unhealthy and damaging and the same can be said for manipulation. Why not just be honest? Be direct about what you want and how you feel and accept the outcome.
The Past: Even though it already happened, we spend so much time focusing on the past rather than leaving it where it belongs. What’s done is done and we can’t control it or change it, so why the fixation? Whether it be a past argument or our significant others past before they met us (example: How many people have you slept with?) focusing on it is unnecessary and negative. Leave it where it belongs and focus on the present.
Monogamy: For some people, monogamy is a dirty word, and impossibility, but hopefully you are not dating that person. Actually that’s unfair, to each their own, but most people like being in a relationship where monogamy is part of the equation. I’ve heard that it isn’t realistic or sustainable, that humans just aren’t built that way, and I think while it is a challenge, to use that excuse is laziness. But then again, I'm not married, however, for me it’s like this, if you love someone, they should be enough. They deserve that. If you want to be with other people, than don’t be in a relationship. Play the field. There is NOTHING wrong with that, just so long as it’s done in a proper setting and when you’re single. Monogamy isn’t so much about physically being with someone but having that trust, that connection, that stability that makes a relationship so precious. To break that alters things. That being said, we are human, we do make mistakes and sometimes we slip up. I am no exception, I will openly admit to having cheated on a boyfriend, something I wish I could take back because it not only hurt him but it damaged my perception on myself, and though he has…I have not yet been able to forgive myself. There is the age-old debate about what we do if we slip…do we come clean to the person? Or hide it from them? I’m of the belief that to disclose such information is selfish. That we do it to relieve our own guilt by passing on the hurt to somebody else. I believe if it was truly a mistake, one that you regret and can say won’t happen again, then keep it to yourself. Deal with it. Sure you’ll feel bad, but you should. It’s YOUR problem, no one elses. (I am aware that A LOT of people will disagree with me on this one)
Third Parties: Last time I checked, relationships tend to be between two people, yet somehow this can multiply and you’re dating the person you’re with, their best friend, and their entire family. We tend to involve people in our most personal business when they have no place being there. For one thing, there are always two sides to every story, and unless you and your +1 are having an equal sharing moment, the conversation will be biased. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we usually don’t call up our best friend to gush, “You will not believe how AMAZING (name) is! …..” we call to complain, and mention something negative. And what happens then? Unnecessary and preconceived notions. Opinions are formed that are not necessarily fair and there will be a negative undertone in that persons mind henceforth. They will always think about the bad things you said, even after you get over it and move on (which, in most cases, we tend to do quite rapidly)but you have now planted a seed which will only perpetuate with time. I am by no means suggesting that you refuse to share information with those nearest and dearest to you, because it’s important to have a support network outside of your relationship, but be careful about what you disclose and how you disclose it. Take into consideration what the listener is going to hear and how they’ll interpret it.
Compromise: When you're in a relationship, you automatically become part of a unit, a partnership and with this means foregoing complete selfishness. You can no longer do exactly what you want and when you want, because you have someone else to consider. This shouldn't be a burden as you have CHOSEN to be in this situation. I'm not suggesting that we become a doormat or lose our sense of self, but rather embrace the conscious decision that we've made. We care about this person, and we want to make them happy, just as we hope they want to please us. This means doing things we wouldn't normally do, making sacrifices and concessions. We have to accept that we aren't always right, and that other people matter. If you can't do this, be single.
These are not the only things to avoid, every relationship has its issues, but they are, I feel, real relationship killers and on many accounts, can be avoided. Being in a relationship with someone you love (or even really like a lot) is something that we should cherish...every day.