To make a mistake is human, so be careful not to beat yourself up when you make one. We learn important life lessons through mistakes, and some of those help us navigate the world of love and romance. We figure out what works for us and others, and that helps us have better relationships. If you look at it from the right angle, you can learn an awful lot about yourself when they happen.
Still, you don’t have to keep making mistakes to learn. Friends and family are sure to have some insightful experiences about past (or present) relationships so ask people for their opinion on the matter. In this article, we’ll take an honest look at some of the most common relationship mistakes, why and how they happen, and how to stay conscious and aware of their signs and consequences.
Common mistakes in relationships
Not being your true self
Detrimental to a relationship is when one partner hides their true selves away in favor of a false, idealized self that they believe their partner wants (and wants much more than the real self underneath). We create an image of an easy-going, fun, adventurous partner, but we naturally get tired and need to de-role. Yet, we fear that our partner will see the ‘true self,’ which we believe to be less worthy, and make a hasty exit.
The best thing you can do at the beginning of any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is to be yourself. As cliche as it may sound, it’s what’s going to save you a lot of time and energy later. Being yourself here means not denying your likes and dislikes, being honest about your opinions, and staying true to your personal values. It doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible or open-minded, but that you don’t pretend to be someone else.
Being your true self with someone else is a brave act of honesty and respect. You respect yourself enough to show your true self, and you respect the other person enough to not deceive them with a projection.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice, to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brene Brown
Placing unrealistic expectations on your partner
If you place unrealistic expectations on your partner, you’re bound to feel disappointed when they inevitably don’t live up to them. It’s normal to have some expectations in a relationship, such as honesty, affection, and respect. These are things that make the relationship feel special and worth having in the first place – but if you have expectations about your relationship that are unfair, then sooner or later, the relationship will fall apart. One partner might try but fail to meet those expectations, or they might realize that you’re not being fair and decide to stop trying at all.
“What makes earth feel like hell is our expectation that it should feel like heaven.” – Chuck Palahniuk.
Examples of unrealistic expectations:
Examples of unrealistic relationship expectations include:
- Expecting your partner to share every detail of their life with you
- Expecting them to prioritize your wants and needs over their own
- Expecting physical intimacy whenever you want it (and feeling neglected when it’s not available)
- Expecting your partner to never find anyone else attractive
- Expecting your partner to read your mind and know exactly what you’re feeling so you don’t have to talk about it openly
- Expecting for there to never be arguments or conflict
- Expecting one person (your partner) to fulfill all of your wants and needs
- Expecting the relationship to thrive without considering your partner’s feelings
Another unrealistic expectation is to want your partner to always agree with you or share the same opinions. “It’s not about finding your idealized mate, your other half, or your alter ego,” explains American psychologist and relationship expert Dr. John Gottman. “Our partners don’t always have to think as we think. That’s what makes life interesting.” When we have a partner who doesn’t think exactly like us but instead challenges us to look at things from a different perspective, it’s easier to stay engaged in the relationship.
Having a partner who always agrees with us might feel good initially, but eventually, we’re likely to grow bored of that dynamic. A relationship stays healthy when partners have differing opinions because that difference of opinion reminds both partners to consider the other person’s opinion and engage in mutually beneficial, growth-oriented discussions and conversations.
Projecting your fears and insecurities onto your partner
Sometimes we meet someone who sweeps us off our feet. We look at them and see a halo, or feel so lucky to have met them that we can’t stop smiling. It’s amazing to have such feelings, so no, that’s not the mistake. The mistake is believing that the person is so amazing that we don’t deserve them. Once the initial love high starts to fade and we realize we’re actually in a relationship with this wonderful person, we might begin to think ‘I don’t deserve him/her..’ or ‘Just wait until they find out who I really am!’.
It seems like a humble approach, but it can soon become self-deprecating and get in the way of your self-esteem, which has a knock-on effect that can impact the entire relationship. If we think that person is ‘out of our league’ or is too good-looking, too smart, or too funny to be with us, we’ll come to believe that as true and feel unworthy of the relationship.
Another example of projection is allowing trust and attachment issues to influence how you interact with your partner. If you have deep-rooted trust issues, they may manifest as the belief that your partner will cheat on you or that they don’t really love you, but they’re using it for their own agenda. When you believe these things, you might be unnecessarily suspicious of your partner. You might think that that they’ve done something behind your back without any real evidence and, as a result, give them the silent treatment or the cold shoulder, make nasty comments, or engage in several other passive-aggressive behaviors.
Trust issues pose a challenge to any relationship, and what’s worse is they usually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One might worry that their partner is going to abandon them, so they shut down emotionally or act in ways that help them protect their vulnerable self. Though that usually leads to their partner feeling left in the dark about what’s actually happening. In defense, the partner might pretend they’re not worried, and the two go on pretending.
“Relationships fail because people take their own insecurities and try and twist them into their partner’s flaws.” – Baylor Barbee.
Dishonesty ruins relationships gradually (though sometimes immediately). When one partner lies to the other, they do a disservice to that partner as well as to themselves. A good, healthy, and lasting relationship is built on trust and honesty, where partners can agree that those things supersede self-image.
A partner might lie because they believe that the lie is better for the relationship than the truth. They feel like they might cause their partner to feel upset or betrayed. They believe that the pain is unnecessary, so they sweep something under the rug.
When you respect someone, you don’t hide the truth from them. If you feel like they can’t handle the truth, then it’s important to assess whether you should be in a relationship with them in the first place.
The truth can hurt sometimes, but it’s as painful as discovering that you have been lied to. Lying and dishonesty destroy the trust in a relationship, and without trust, a relationship will struggle to thrive.
Jumping in too quick
Many of us are guilty of jumping into a relationship too quickly, Either we’ve been looking for a partner for a while, and we’ve finally met someone we like so we don’t want to waste any more time, or we’ve met someone so amazing that we can’t possibly imagine how jumping into a new relationship right away might be a mistake especially since the early stages of meeting a new lover are so passionate and exciting.
Getting involved in a relationship too soon after you meet someone isn’t always a mistake – sometimes it works out perfectly fine – but there is an undeniable risk in doing so. A relationship is a commitment between two people to show up for each other and themselves, consider each other’s wants and needs, offer compassion and reliability, and make reasonable space for that person in your life.
The fact is that it takes some time and patience to really get to know someone, so if you jump in too quickly, you might end up in a relationship with someone who makes you question why you’re in it at all. You might even end up resenting the person, or them you, because now you feel like you’ve made a commitment and you feel obliged to stay with the person (just remember you’re not!).
Not having boundaries
Healthy boundaries are key to a healthy relationship. Sometimes when we enter a new relationship and things are going well, we tend to neglect our boundaries because we feel like we don’t need them anymore. Perhaps we’re so infatuated with our partner that we forget how much we thrive when we have personal space. Perhaps we want our partner to feel loved and appreciated so much that we prioritize their wants and needs above our own. Boundaries slip away sometimes, but it’s essential to keep them in check.
In a healthy, adult relationship, both partners are emotionally mature enough to understand that their partner’s behavior does not reflect their own self-worth. That occasional emotional distance or prioritization of one’s own needs is not a sign of a lack of love or a foreboding of rejection or abandonment. Sure, sometimes we have issues and insecurities that make us feel that way, but if we’re mature and healthy enough, we understand that we must separate those issues from our relationship so as not to project them onto our partner.
Prevention is the best cure when it comes to illness and disease, and the same applies to the health of your relationship. If you know that you need space and privacy for your personal growth, then take it, even if it makes you miss your partner sometimes. You can come back to them again.
“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of their resentment.” – Brene Brown.
Taking your partner for granted
Relationships are a source of love, intimacy, and affection, but it takes conscious effort to maintain them. Both partners must remain invested and engage in the relationship in order to keep it thriving. What often happens in a long-term relationship, which also leads to their downfall, is that one partner starts to take the other for granted. They come to expect the partner to fulfill a role, such as a childminder, housekeeper, breadwinner, and stop feeling grateful for their efforts.
Taking a partner for granted ruins relationships because it gets in the way of intimacy. At the beginning of the relationship, there may have been passion and excitement, wonder and awe with the amazing person you’ve found, but if you stop seeing the beauty of your partner and begin to let them fade into the background, then the relationship will struggle to move forward.
‘Do what you did at the start of the relationship, and there won’t be an end,’ suggests life coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Of course, some relationships come to a natural end, even when both partners have been present and good to each other. Still, Robbins highlights the importance of maintaining that passion and wonder around your partner, rather than letting them become something you take for granted.
Holding onto baggage from past relationships
If your current relationship isn’t your first one, then be mindful of any negative relationship experiences you had in the past. If you had an unfaithful or unfair partner, their behavior might have made you more protective and defensive in your later relationships. It’s normal to want to protect yourself from being hurt or disappointed in the same way again, but be careful not to become so defensive or closed off to vulnerability that you can’t be open and vulnerable with your current partner.
“You can’t possibly embrace that new relationship, that new companion, that new career, that new friendship, or that new life you want, while you’re still holding on to the baggage of the last one. Let go… and allow yourself to embrace what is waiting for you right at your feet.” – Steve Maraboli.
Even healthy relationships can be tricky to navigate at times, but we make them a lot easier by being mindful of our behavior, managing our expectations, and learning from our past, so we don’t make the same mistakes over and over again.