Ten Common Mistakes In Long-Term Relationships
Common relationship mistakes can include looking for “the one,” avoiding difficult conversations, changing yourself for the other person, isolating yourself from loved ones, and expecting that your feelings will never evolve, among others. Many of these mistakes can absolutely be avoided through realistic expectations, effective communication, and maintaining a sense of self. If you’ve ever thought, “What the hell is wrong with me?” or, “Why do I suck at love?” and believe you’d benefit from additional guidance working through relationship mistakes, online individual or couples therapy may be helpful.
I suck at love: 10 relationship mistakes you might be making
Read the list below to discover whether you’re making any of these common mistakes while looking for forever love. You may also find out how to make changes to increase your chances of finding the lasting, fulfilling partnership you’re looking for.
1. Looking for “the one”
There are close to eight billion people in the world. The notion that each human being only has one other person on the planet who is meant for them—only one person with whom they can build a satisfying romantic relationship—doesn’t always make logical sense. Humans can be complex, and finding someone who suits you perfectly in every way may not be realistic. In addition, research shows that people’s personalities can change over time. Someone who is a good match for you at one time in your life may not align with you as well later on.
If you find yourself looking only for “the one” perfect match for you, you might be limiting yourself. This narrow view could lead you to have impossibly high standards for a “perfect” partner who doesn’t exist since no person is perfect. As a result, you may reject a potentially strong match because of something relatively small or insignificant. You may set aside people with whom you could have a loving relationship due to unrealistic expectations, which can help you lose hope.
It may help to go into dating with a more open mind, accepting that all people can have imperfections and that even the most well-matched couples often have their differences.
2. Avoiding difficult conversations
Honest, open communication is often cited as an important foundation of a healthy relationship, and research suggests this to be true. One study found that relatively satisfied couples “engaged in more positive, less negative, and more effective communication.” If there’s a problem in your relationship, avoiding it rarely resolves it. Discussing it openly with your partner often gives you a better chance of handling it in a way that is acceptable and healthy.
Being honest with your partner can seem intimidating, and there may be things that you’re scared to bring up. Sweeping issues under the rug is often the easiest action to take at the moment. However, unresolved issues may begin to fester, which can sometimes build resentment over time. When resentment begins to grow in a relationship, it can become more and more difficult to salvage things —which is why resentment has been referred to as one of the “four horsemen” that herald the end of a relationship. If you’re interested in building healthier communication skills, seeking the guidance of a therapist may be helpful.
3. Not watching for relationship red flags
It can be wise to prioritize your own health, safety, and well-being. That means you have the right to leave a relationship that has an abusive or otherwise toxic dynamic since the likelihood of it changing to become a safe, successful relationship over time may be very low. It can be important to recognize that abuse can take multiple forms and keep an eye out for red flags in the beginning.
While physical abuse is often the type many people think of first, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse can happen as well—sometimes in conjunction with each other. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You deserve a safe, healthy relationship.
4. Changing yourself for the other person
A partner who tries to get you to change who you are fundamentally is likely not a good fit for you. Pretending to be someone you're not is generally not a healthy foundation for a relationship. Intimacy, vulnerability, and trust are typically considered important elements in a romantic partnership, and a lack of authenticity can make it difficult for those other qualities to exist.
In addition, one study found that people who scored higher on measures of authenticity also reported greater happiness, higher self-esteem, and more positive emotions than those who scored lower. Focusing on being your authentic self as you move through the dating world may help you form healthier relationships.
5. Isolating yourself from friends and family
When you’re in the early stages of a new relationship, you might be inclined to spend all your time with this new person, even to the point of neglecting your relationships with family and friends. But this doesn’t always serve the relationship. There can be three key benefits to keeping your time more balanced between your new partner and your social circle.
The first relates to the saying that “love is blind.” When we’re wrapped up in feelings of infatuation for someone, we may not always be able to spot red flags or other unhealthy dynamics right away. Remaining in touch with family and friends can give us outside perspectives on our new relationship in case we need them. In addition, isolating you from your support system can be a tactic some abusers use for greater control over their victims.
The second benefit relates to coping after a breakup if your new relationship does not work out. If you’ve lost touch with your family and friends over the weeks or months of your new relationship, it may be more difficult for you to seek their support in dealing with the aftermath of it ending.
Finally, the third reason not to isolate yourself from those you love while dating someone is simply that it may not be healthy to expect one person—your romantic partner—to meet all your needs. Research has confirmed that having a strong social circle can benefit your mental and even physical well-being.
6. Not having priorities for what you look for in a partner
Having a detailed list of specific qualities that you consider non-negotiable in a prospective partner may not be the best approach to dating. You’re unlikely to find them all in one person, and you may turn down potentially good matches as a result. However, it can be helpful to know what your highest priorities are in a partner so you can avoid compromising on what is most important to you.
For example, a relationship with someone who holds a different religious practice from you or whose core values are at odds with your own may not have very strong potential for success. If you’ve found yourself coming out of a string of breakups, you might consider whether you’re choosing potential mates who align with your most important priorities. If not, you could be sabotaging your own efforts to find a satisfying relationship.
7. Not showing appreciation for your partner
Especially in a long-term relationship, it can be easy to take your partner for granted. Regularly showing that you care about and appreciate them can be a powerful force for good in your relationship. In fact, one study points to a correlation between partners showing gratitude for each other and the likelihood of the couple staying together.
If you tend to be unsure about how best to express this, you might consider learning your partner’s primary love language. Showing them love and affection in the way that resonates most with them can be an effective manner of expressing your appreciation for the place they hold in your life, which has the potential to strengthen your relationship.
8. Taking more than you give
A 2016 study suggests a correlation between altruistic behaviors—or selfless concern for the well-being of others—and higher mating success. In other words, selfless behavior may positively impact your ability to attract or build a healthy relationship. While keeping a scorecard for exactly who owes what in a romantic relationship will likely not have a positive outcome, remembering to balance the give and take of attention, affection, and compromise with a romantic partner can potentially increase the likelihood of a happy relationship.
9. Believing “the grass is greener”
You’ve likely heard the phrase “the grass is greener” before, referring to the perception that relationships other than the one you’re in would be better for you. While it’s usually wise to watch for red flags in your relationship and consider making changes if you’re unhappy or unfulfilled, always believing that you’d be better off in another relationship might sabotage your connection. Keeping a realistic perspective regarding what you can expect from a romantic relationship may help you see the difference between being unsatisfied and falsely believing that the grass is always greener on the other side.
10. Expecting that your feelings will never evolve
Experts and researchers have identified various stages in romantic relationships, and it’s generally accepted that relationships usually progress through a few stages over time. Real life is not a love story. You may notice that the excitement and infatuation you feel in the first weeks or months of dating someone often gives way to a calmer, more companionable, affectionate dynamic over time that some may even find boring.
If you judge your romantic connections on whether they maintain that thrilling spark and energy from the early days indefinitely, you may walk away from relationships simply because they progressed through natural stages over time. It may help to accept that some level of evolution in your dynamic with your partner can be natural and take into account that it may only make your dedication to one another stronger.
Therapy may help you avoid common relationship mistakes
The truth is that finding love can feel like an overwhelming job. Some people find the guidance of a therapist to be helpful as they make their way through the dating world. A trained mental health professional can help you look realistically at your typical patterns and behaviors, and they may assist you in strengthening skills that can help you form healthy relationships, such as communication, so you can succeed in your relationship goals.
You may feel more comfortable connecting with a therapist from your own home. If you’re interested in online therapy, you might consider using a platform like BetterHelp, which will match you with a therapist based on your answers to a quick questionnaire. Research suggests that online therapy can offer similar benefits to traditional, in-person sessions, so it may be a useful option to consider if you’re seeking help in forming healthier, more satisfying relationships.
There are many common mistakes that people can make in long-term relationships. Some of them can be believing “the grass is greener on the other side,” taking more than you give, not showing appreciation for your partner, not prioritizing what you look for in a partner, and failing to see red flags. In many cases, having realistic expectations, focusing on healthy and effective communication, and putting effort into relationships can help you avoid these missteps. If you’d like to speak with a licensed therapist individually or together, you might consider trying online therapy.
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