- The first step toward a healthier relationship is awareness of how you're creating disconnection.
- You don’t have to change everything all at once. A little effort goes a long way.
- Mistake #1: making assumptions without checking things out with your partner.
As a couples and sex therapist for over a decade, I've seen the same mistakes repeated many times by many couples. These mistakes, or unhelpful relational patterns, cause disconnection and harm to relationships.
The first step toward a healthier relationship is awareness. Read through the following list of mistakes. Then, start noticing when you’re doing these things. From there, you can stop doing them, and replace those unhelpful patterns with healthier options. Without awareness, there is no choice. Lessening the number of times you make any of the mistakes will make a huge difference in the overall health of your relationship. You don’t have to change everything all at once. A little effort goes a long way.
- Making assumptions (aka stories). If you're not checking out your stories with each other, you're having a relationship with yourself, not your partner. Being relational means including the other in your understanding of them and the relationship. Making assumptions is the opposite of that.
- Blaming each other. You are always responsible for your own behavior. You always have a choice in what you do, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Blaming your partner limits the possibility for change, growth, and evolution. Both of you have a part in cocreating your dynamic. It serves you and your relationship to take ownership of and work on your part, rather than blaming the other.
- Avoiding hard conversations. When you avoid having the conversations you know you need to have, your issues get bigger, not smaller. You need to take the time to resolve things so that they don't get carried forward.
- Treating each other like roommates. Don't stop going on dates. Don't stop trying to impress each other. Don't stop prioritizing your relationship and the time you spend together. If you don't put effort into maintaining your romance, you won't maintain your romance.
- Never saying you’re sorry. Saying you're sorry goes a long way. When you say the words "I'm sorry," you show your partner that you're taking responsibility for your actions. You're acknowledging their wounds and the role you played. Too many couples worry about who is right or wrong and get defensive, making it impossible for issues to get resolved.
- Expecting sex always to be spontaneous. You have a busy life, and if things aren’t planned and prioritized, they tend not to happen. Scheduling intimate time together can be incredibly sexy, in ways that spontaneous sex can’t be. If you want to have more sex or continue having the sex you’re currently having, you’ll likely need to plan it at least some of the time.
- Taking responsibility for your partner’s emotions at your expense. It makes sense that you don’t want to hurt your partner. Sometimes when you tell them how you feel or what you need, you run the risk that they will feel hurt. It’s important to learn to be OK with that. You’re not actually hurting your partner; your partner feels hurt because they’ve hurt you. That’s different, and it's appropriate. Not only will they be OK, but they’ll be motivated not to do whatever they did because they don’t want to hurt you again. It’s not your job to prevent your partner from feeling their feelings. Trust them to deal with those important feelings.
Which one are you going to work on for now?
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