I’ve been in several failed relationships before, and chances are, you have too.
You know what I’m talking about. You fall in love with an awesome person, start a dreamy relationship with them, and just when you think you’re standing on top of the world, things start falling apart.
Then, it happens. Your fairytale comes to an end.
That’s when you start wondering what went wrong. After all, you were taking the relationship seriously, you showed affection, and you cared about your partner. And that’s exactly what baffles you: If you were playing by the rules, then why didn’t it work?
Well, several factors could have made it happen, and by ‘factors’ I mean habits that could have come either from you, from your partner, or both of you. Habits that seem healthy and normal on the surface, but can destroy your romance and leave you in tears over time.
So, here you are: 5 relationship-killing habits you need to kick right now.
1: Harboring unfounded infidelity suspicions
“My wife’s jealousy is getting ridiculous. The other day she looked at my calendar and wanted to know who May was.” — Rodney Dangerfield
Photo created by Freepik — www.freepik.es
Unfoundedly suspecting that your partner is cheating on you is a huge sign of immaturity.
It reveals you see your partner as a possession, not as a companion. It also reflects inner insecurities, projected as fear of losing and not being good enough for the person you love.
Take this story, for example:
Jane, an old friend of mine, used to date a guy named Mike. Out on the street, he was always by her side. He also accompanied her to every church meeting, every party, and every family trip possible. When she went out with her girl-friends, he was there too. He even accompanied her to college every morning, even though he wasn’t a college student.
One day, I ran into Jane on the street. Much to my surprise, Mike was nowhere to be seen. The conversation that ensued went down like this:
“Hey, Jane. Where’s Mike?”
“We broke up last month.”
“Oh, you did? I’m sorry to hear that.”
“That’s okay. I’m better off without him”.
“Huh? But I thought you guys were happy. After all, you were always together.”
“Yeah, but that’s because he was convinced I was cheating on him.”
“You heard me. He kept an eye on me 24/7 just to make sure I wasn’t seeing other guys behind his back. I couldn’t have any male friends. Hell, I couldn’t even go out with my girl-friends if he wasn’t present. At college, he called me two or three times a day to ask what I was doing and who I was with. He also had a habit of checking my phone messages and call history every single day. You can’t imagine how saddening and uncomfortable that was. And for what? I’m not a slut.”
So, let me get this straight: At the end of the day, this guy went to bed, happy with himself about having a girlfriend who had never cheated on him, not because she was faithful, but because he made sure she could never have a chance to do so?
I’m sorry. That just doesn’t make sense. If the point of a relationship is the selection of a person with the potential to become your closest partner for the rest of your life, why on Earth would you choose someone you don’t fully trust?
What to do?
Just trust your partner. Having unfounded suspicions about them cheating on you is completely pointless, a massive waste of time and energy, and a huge pain in the neck for both of you.
Look at me. I am married, and I trust my wife 100%. And I would never have married her if I trusted her 99.9%. It’s that simple. If you don’t have any real indicators that your partner is being unfaithful, it’s because, in all likelihood, they aren’t.
Of course, you should never trust a person to the point of naivité. If your partner comes home carrying the latest iPhone model, claiming they “got it from their Secret Santa at the office”; well, I guess you’ve got yourself a good reason to raise your eyebrows there.
2: Spending all your time together
“Even lovers need a holiday — far away from each other.” — Chicago, Hard to say I’m sorry (1982)
Photo created by Freepik — www.freepik.com
About ten years ago, my best male friend was dating Vanessa, a co-worker of his. On top of working on the same floor just about two meters away from each other, he used to pick her up every morning, and they would have lunch together every day.
After work, they would spend some time at his house, and in the evening, after my friend had taken her back home, they would spend about an extra hour talking on the phone, before going to sleep.
Of course, they spent every single weekend together, too.
I told my friend he shouldn’t spend so much time with his girlfriend, but he, blinded by the thrill of a new relationship, disregarded my warning.
Four years down the road, however, we had this conversation:
“So, when are you marrying Vanessa?”
“To be honest with you, I don’t want to get married.”
“I don’t find the prospect of sharing the rest of my life with her appealing anymore.”
“Dude, answer me this. How long have you dated this girl?”
“And during those four years, how many days have you not seen her?”
“So, all this time, there hasn’t been a single day just for yourself, I mean, a day away from her?”
“That’s right. And it doesn’t feel right. You see, since we’re always together, I never miss her. How could I have the desire to marry someone I don’t long to be with?”
We, humans, are social beings. But we also need some space. It isn’t healthy to spend absolutely all your time with a single person. As the old saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Me-time is important. Dating or marrying someone doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time with them. When you dedicate all your time and efforts to your partner, you’re neglecting yourself in the process.
What to do?
Set limits. Reconnect with old friends and go out with them from time to time. Read a book. Ride your bike. Invest time in your personal development. Create some art. Etc.
Look at my wife and me. Even though we’re both educators, we avoid working together for the same company. Likewise, you and your partner don’t necessarily have to work at the same place, study at the same college, or congregate at the same church either.
It’s okay to spend some time away from your partner if you need to, as long as you don’t end up neglecting them. Remember: Balance is key.
3: Over-dependence on your partner
“Emotional dependence is the opposite of emotional strength. It means needing to have others to survive, wanting others to ‘do it for us’ and depending on others to give us our self-image, make our decisions, and take care of us financially.” — Sue Thoele
Imagine you had to cross an entire desert on foot. Daunting, am I right?
But hey, I never said you had to go alone. Imagine you could choose one of the following two partners:
- One that is strong enough to help you walk when your legs start to wobble and lift you back to your feet when you fall, and for whom you would do the same; or,
- One you will have to give a piggyback ride the whole way through.
I don’t know about you, but I’d stick with the first one.
The second partner exhibits a pattern of over-dependence, which can manifest itself in several ways:
- Feelings of deep sadness and loneliness if the romantic partner is away, even for short periods.
- Sensations of worthlessness and extreme unhappiness without a partner. I’ve been guilty of this one before.
- Inability to make even the easiest decisions without consulting the romantic partner first.
- Perpetual reliance on a partner’s economic means to stay afloat.
- A need to get authorization from their partner to do perfectly innocent activities, like having lunch with a group of co-workers at McDonald’s.
- Using the partner as an emotional punchbag, by constantly taking everyday frustrations out on them.
Your partner is not responsible for your happiness or your well-being. You are. Therefore, you don’t have the right to drag them down with your constant needs and demands. It will drive them crazy.
What to do?
- Be independent of your partner and stop expecting them to save your life all the time. No one wants to spend their time with someone who needs constant attention and looking after.
- Be strong and understand that you are dating a human being who has their own problems to deal with. Don’t burden your partner with a neverending streak of demands and needs. In the long run, they will leave you. Trust me. It’s happened to me before.
- Support your partner and get support from them in return. Just don’t expect them to carry all your problems and anxieties on their back. They deserve better than that.
4: Expecting your partner to change who they are
“I’m not trying to be flippant here, but I just play the guitar, don’t I? That is my characteristic, and it’s my identity as you hear it.” — Jimmy Page
Photo by Freepik — www.freepik.es
You meet an attractive person. You become friends, and then, you consider starting a relationship. You become a couple, and then, you consider marriage.
How do you determine a person is good enough for you to take the relationship to the next level? Well, you see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Based on your data, either you go for it, or you end things for the better.
Now, what’s “good”, “bad”, or “ugly”? That depends entirely on you.
In my particular case, for example, I would never have dated a chain-smoker; simply because I can’t stand cigarette fumes, and because I’ve never liked the idea of marrying someone with an unhealthy habit.
But hey, that’s just the way I see things. Maybe you wouldn’t have a problem dating a chain-smoker. Maybe you’re a chain-smoker yourself, and that’s okay: I’m not here to judge you. I am a vegetarian, and I know some people who don’t like vegetarians, and certainly wouldn’t marry one. And that’s fine with me. To each their own.
What I’m trying to say is, everyone has a set of standards by which they measure the possibility of taking the next step with a potential partner. Ignoring those standards will lead to unnecessary suffering in later stages of your relationship.
Take this situation, for example. My diehard gamer cousin Jerry married his longtime girlfriend, Sandra. One day, I asked him:
“How’s everything with Sandra?”
“Okay, I guess… though we’ve been having some issues lately. She doesn’t like it when I play video games.”
“Why? Do you play when you’re supposed to be doing something else?”
“No. In fact, I’ve limited myself to playing just about one or two hours, and only on Sundays.”
“So, what’s the big deal, then?”
“She says I’m too old for games. The last time she caught me grabbing my controller, she frowned and said, ‘Seriously, Jerry? Just grow up already.’”
“And what did you say?”
“I said ‘Listen, babe. Some guys watch football games every evening. I don’t. Other guys spend their weekends optimizing their cars. I don’t. Now, what I do, is play games. You met me as a gamer and you were okay with it. You dated me as a gamer, and you had no problem with that. So please, don’t come now saying I should stop playing games, because that’s not going to happen. It’s part of who I am. It’s one of my hobbies, and I enjoy doing it.’”.
What can I say? I side with Jerry here.
Fortunately, my cousin’s story has a happy ending. That conversation was enough for Sandra to understand she was wrong in trying to change Jerry to suit her vision of a perfect husband.
You can’t expect your partner to change who they are to meet your demands. They have an identity, and you have to respect that. If you already knew there was something about your partner you just couldn’t stand, then you should never have started a relationship with them in the first place.
A romantic partner has the right to have hobbies, carry out personal projects, and pursue their interests. And as long as those activities are legal and harmless, no one has the right to ban them.
I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: Balance is key. If you’re used to spending 7 hours a day watching TV, you can’t possibly expect to do the same once you’re in a committed relationship, let alone in a marriage. You can still do it, of course, but you’ll have to set apart a healthy amount of time for your partner and children. And that includes taking care of the house, doing house chores, and running errands.
5: Resorting to emotional manipulation
“In order for a blackmailer to be successful, they must know what the target fears. This fear is often deep-rooted such as fear of abandonment, loneliness, humiliation, and failure.” — Christine Hammond
“If you love me, you’ll do it.” I’m pretty sure you’ve heard that before.
Emotional manipulation is a device used by some people — consciously or not — to coerce their romantic partners into doing their bidding through the inducement of guilt.
Some classic one-liners manipulative people say include (but are not limited to):
- "Well, I guess you don’t love me as much as I thought."
- "If you loved me, you wouldn't say no to me."
- "My ex would have done it."
- "I thought I meant something special to you."
- "After all I’ve done for you…"
Now, would you like your partner to do things for you because they actually want to, or because they feel they have to? I’d take the first option, thank you.
Compliance from a partner is only meaningful when done of their free will. Anything else is the result of manipulation and therefore, not worth doing.
What to do?
Respect your partner’s right to choose. If they’re not willing to do something, let them be. Guilt-tripping your partner into doing what you want will only create growing feelings of inadequacy in them.
If you have made it this far into this article, you might (I said might, okay?) have seen yourself described in more than one of these relationship-killing habits.
Now look, no one is perfect. I have done all of these mistakes at one point or another in my own history of failed relationships:
- I’ve been irrationally jealous.
- I’ve spent too much time with one person.
- I’ve been incredibly needy and immature.
- I’ve tried to change my partner to suit my vision of a girlfriend.
- I’ve been manipulative and guilt-inducing.
That’s right. I’m guilty as charged. And I sure paid the price every single time.
However, I’m currently at peace with myself. You see, experience is a great teacher, and I have certainly learned from it.
Now, I won’t lie to you. I’m married now, and every now and then I find myself unconsciously making some of these mistakes again. But every time I do, I recognize I’ve been wrong, and I make a mental note not to do them again in the future.
That, right there, is self-reflection: the personal way to improvement.