So you’re in a new relationship and (hopefully) things feel wonderful, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. (Even when they aren’t!)
Maybe you even think you’ve found ‘the one’.
And you don’t want to make the same mistakes as you did with your ex.
So, take a look at these common relationship (mis)behaviors. See if you spot any that have happened before, and find out what to do instead.
1) Not enough communication
Everybody is different when it comes to how much they share about themselves with a new person. This is called self-disclosure. Some of us find that we’ve revealed a little more than we want to share (more on that below), while others of us are more introverted and take time to warm up to people.
There’s no one way to do this right, but what matters is that you share really important things early on.
Well, things that are deal breakers for you, should come out early. This might be whether you want to have children, or live abroad, or get married. It can also be things like your stance on things like monogamy or ethical non-monogamy.
Other important things may include your values and beliefs.
Although we don’t need our partners to share all our values (and to expect that would cause problems), there are some that we really need to feel in alignment with. This is because our values affect our choices, and our choices affect our lives.
If you express these things too late you may find that you are in love with someone unsuitable, and that can be heartbreaking, or lead to conflict if you decide to stay together anyway.
On the other hand, it’s also possible to have…
2) Too much communication
There are two things to be aware of here.
The first: You might be the kind of person who likes to share a lot. And that’s ok! But if you have had a pattern of negative or abusive relationships, you might want to wait a little before you share those stories.
Why? Because unfortunately there are people out there who prey on people who’ve had difficult relationships. By saying too much too early, you may risk making yourself vulnerable.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t share, just give it a bit of time so that you can see if your new partner is trustworthy. One way to judge this is to see if their words match up with their actions.
The second: In relationships, I’m generally the one who talks about my feelings more than my partner, as they tend to be less forthcoming. (And with one guy I dated for many years, getting him to talk about his feelings was like getting blood out of a stone!)
But in my most recent (now ex) relationship, I experienced the other side of it.
This leads to my next point:
3) Endless emotional debating
After the first month of bliss and feeling like we were totally aligned, my partner began to get upset and triggered by a lot of things. Once every couple of days there was an issue.
I started off being sympathetic and really trying to hear what he was saying. But every time something came up, we would have to speak about it for an entire day to fix it. After several hours, I just started sitting there silent, hoping the discussion would end. But he would just keep on and on and on.
It was exhausting.
Also, he wanted me to agree with his version of events every time. And sometimes I didn’t, but if I said so, that was more hours of talking.
Ultimately this was caused by the fact that he was very traumatized by past relationships but hadn’t realized it until we got together. I felt sorry for him, but it was starting to affect my own mental well-being, as well as my work and friendships.
As you might imagine, this relationship didn’t work out, because he had to deal with things within himself first.
But it was a powerful realization for me.
Whilst I have never taken things that far with communication, I now know there is a point where too much emotional talk is draining and harmful.
4) Using your partner as a therapist
Maybe you are more self-aware than my ex was. You’re working through your issues and various things are coming up.
On the whole, there is sometimes a limit to how much you may want to share or express with your partner. I know that I’ve also made this mistake before.
Why? Well, I was in a relationship whilst I was doing a lot of self-work and so I was quite self-focused.
A lot of my thoughts were revelations about myself and I was sharing this (daily!) with my partner. At a certain point, he became frustrated, bored, and finally said something.
It was at this point that I realized that in some way I had been using him as my therapist.
Now this, like all the examples, is context specific, as some people really thrive on being there for others. But if you aren’t sure, maybe check in with your partner and see if they are doing ok.
In an ideal world, they would voluntarily share this with you before it becomes a problem. But sometimes they won’t. Especially if you seem down or troubled.
So if you think you are doing this, get a therapist!
Or find other ways to express yourself, whether it’s through journaling, blogging, sharing anonymously on a forum like Reddit, or even leaving voice notes to yourself!
5) Quarreling needlessly
As we’ve discussed, there’s a delicate balance in communication. And that includes quarreling. Sometimes it’s very important to express ourselves, or for our partner to do so.
But at other times you might ask yourself – is this really important?
Everybody is going to be annoying at times, including me, your partner, and you. So if you aren’t sure if something is really important then take a bit of time to ponder it.
I personally sleep on things to see if my annoyance is actually justified and worth discussing with my partner.
I’ll never forget when I asked my friend’s mother the secret to her long-lasting marriage.
What was the secret?
“Letting a lot go”.
6) Expecting too much
One of the reasons we might quarrel needlessly or argue with a partner is because we expect too much of them.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things that you really should expect, such as kindness, understanding, a certain level of care, honesty, and so on. And for those important things, it’s good to discuss them, so that you are both on the same page.
But we always have to remember that no one is perfect, including ourselves.
If we expect our partners to be perfect and always know exactly what we want, and how we want it, we are forgetting that they are human beings. With their own lives, flaws, and issues.
And ultimately we will end up at best disappointed, and at worst, alienating our partners by making them feel they are never good enough.
7) Thinking you ‘own’ another person
One of the reasons we can start expecting too much from someone is because we can start to feel a type of entitlement. As if we own another person and they owe us things.
Sometimes this can come because our partner is actually great a lot of the time. And unfortunately, we can end up taking this for granted. And so when they have an off day, or even longer, we can feel resentful.
Why is that? Because there is a sense that what we had, got taken from us.
This ‘owning’ can also come from deeper places as well, such as a desire for control of someone. Maybe this is because you feel jealous or insecure.
In my relationships, when I feel wronged or like I deserve more from my partner, I ask myself, does this person really owe me this? Am I acting as though I own this person?
As ever, there is a balance. Maybe your partner really does owe you something you are not getting!
But by asking yourself those simple questions it can avoid a lot of unnecessary conflict and instead result in harmonious relationships.
Healthy relationships – the takeaway
My dad, a man of few words when it comes to feelings, once told me the biggest mistake he’d made in his marriage. A lack of proper communication.
This article is all about the nuances of good communication.
The specifics will be different for every relationship.
Find the balance between the different types of communication. You don’t have to be perfect at it, simply be willing to do your best and be mindful.
Maybe even show this article to your partner and see what they think!