Sunday, 29 June 2014

10 Mistakes I'll Never Make Again In Relationships

Following on from a post a few weeks ago, 10 Things I Don’t Miss About Relationships, I started to think about the things I did miss and there were several items on my shopping list. But I still feel cautious about venturing back into this territory because I’m wary of repeating past mistakes. If I do fill someone’s bathroom cabinet with tampons again or let someone leave a spare pair of boxers at my place, I want to make sure I do it right or at least less wrong than before! So with that in mind, here are the first five of my top ten relationship mistakes I (will try) to never make again!

10. I‘ll never assume a relationship will complete or make me happy!
This hasn’t been my motivation for starting every relationship but I’ve done it enough times that I have to call myself out on it now. The worst thing about believing someone else will bring you happiness is, if they change, as people invariably do, so too will your emotional welfare. This disempowers us and puts a ridiculous burden on the other person. We have to be responsible for our own happiness. As soon as we do this, the presence of a special someone in our lives becomes a gift rather than a necessity. After all, it’s not like therapists are prescribing their depressed clients with a dose of boyfriend. “Take twice a day after meals”

9. Heed the signs
This, in itself, is a huge subcategory. There’s a litany of signs we need to look out for, from the obvious ones like how well does our partner treat us to indirect indicators such as, how well do I get on with their friends. This may seem innocuous but friendship groups are a personality matrix of ourselves and while we may not share the same traits with every friend, collectively we do and if they don’t take too kindly to a new beau I would heed that sign. It’s not necessarily a sure fire indicator that you’re in the disaster zone but it’s worth paying attention to. 

A friend of mine, James, met a girl that he ultimately fell in love with and married but none of his tight circle of guy friends liked her at all. Like, AT ALL. After a kid and some volatile years of matrimony James' marriage crashed and burned. James' mates probably subconsciously saw something disagreeable in his fiancée that James, intoxicated by love or lust or both, was blind to.

I believe if we are vigilant, we will quickly observe all we need to know about where a relationship is heading when we first start dating someone. However, it can be easier said than done due to the myriad of chemicals rushing through our blood stream brought on by the chronic condition known as ‘being in love”. Researchers tell us that those first heady stages of love are akin to being addicted, intoxicated and as we know, it’s hard to make rational choices when we’re high. It’s like trying to draft a year-long diet plan after drinking eighteen cans of Special Brew. Day 1 – kebab. Day 2 – kebab. Day 3. McDonalds. Day 4 – well, you get the idea

8. What’s the rush?
Sometimes a new partner rushing into a relationship is an indicator that things aren’t right. As delicious as it is to feel wanted, I would now question why someone is in such a hurry. Why aren’t they willing to spend time getting to know me and see how things go before taking things to “the next level”? This is why alarm bells always ring for us when we see celebs rush down the aisle after six months of dating. I’ve got socks that have lasted longer than some celebrity marriages. To Katy Perry, the mayfly’s life cycle must seem like an eternity.

You’ve got to have spent all the holidays together, met parents, lived together, seen each other’s less pleasant side, been repelled by the smell they leave in the bathroom and all the other unsavory aspects of sharing a life with someone before you can truly know what life with them will be like, and even then you don’t know.

7. I’ll never push a relationship to the next level in the hope that it will get better
We’ve all been guilty of this romance misdemeanor, right? Accelerating a partnership on to the next stage instead of calling time. I’ve certainly been there. At the time it makes sense but on paper its lunacy. “Arguing with your boyfriend all the time? I know. Move in together?!” “Feeling like you and your wife are drifting apart? Wedge a newborn baby between you. That’s bound to reaffirm the relationship”.

6. I’ll never change who I am to suit someone else
I got this lesson early on but because humans live largely in insanity, repeating the same actions but expecting different results (as a wise man once observed) it has taken me some time to really get this. A few weeks after a particularly mucky break up, I was out with friends, heading off to G.A.Y. (when it was still at the Astoria on Charing Cross Road, before CrossRail dropkicked it off the face of the planet) and I became aware of how energized I felt. Not only that, but, if I’m honest, there was definitely a ramping up of my sex drive (though I was heading to 100% the wrong place to do anything about that) and I generally felt lighter, happier.

In the preceding weeks, I’d become aware that certain parts of my life were switching back on like a sequence of high street Christmas lights, my interest in spirituality, time spent with treasured friends, my creative side, and, yes, my sex drive, which had, in the months preceding become all but non-existent. I realized that during my time with David I had slowly switched these things off to be more agreeable to him, to fit with his world view. Don’t get me wrong, David was a lovely person who would never have forced this upon me and indeed would probably be horrified to know that that’s what happened. I know this was down to me but I think the very act of feeling that you need to present yourself in a particular way so you feel your partner will like you is a big mistake I'll never make again.

I’ve started to observe myself when I encounter someone I’m attracted to. Am I changing anything about myself, saying I’m into things I’m not, laughing at jokes I don’t think are funny, saying uncharacteristic things? If the answer is ever "yes", I remind myself, this guy probably isn’t for me. Where, in the old days I would have forged ahead and tried to start a relationship regardless of these warning signs, now, I put the brakes on before anything has even happened.

My bench mark is Steven with whom, I always felt, I could be myself around, right from the beginning. Though the relationship ran aground, it was never because I felt the need to pretend to be someone I’m not. By doing this, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Eventually, whoever is pretending will grow tired of the pretence and revert back to who they really are leading to a load of resentment “Hey, you’re not in to The Smiths at all. You lied!”

Equally, we have to keep an eye out for us trying to change the other person or them doing the same to us. It's easily done. We might date someone hoping they'll become the idea we have of them in our heads and when they don't we either manipulate, suggest or outright nag them to change or we get mad. 

Either way, it’s grossly disrespectful to the other person to not take them for who they are. Definitely I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve changed the way my man dresses (although I would argue they looked sooooo much better after I've meddled with their wardrobe - tartan trousers, seriously?), made them get haircuts that ultimately didn't suit them. One boyfriend who was dispatched to the hair dresser for a more “on trend” haircut came home moaning they’d cut his fringe too short and he looked like he should be on a Variety Club bus. I tried not to laugh but they had done a pretty gruesome hatchet job.

This was a more innocent manifestation of the problem but I’ve nagged men for not calling enough, calling too much, not buying me flowers, not holding my hand. Worse, when they do start doing these things I lay into them, saying “ I shouldn’t have to ask you to do this stuff!”.

The fact is, if your partner is not the person you need them to be you have to go through a personal check list. Are my demands unreasonable? Can I compromise and live without them? Are these deal breakers? Can I broach this in a reasonable way?

Bottom line, if this person isn’t all you need them to be, it simply isn’t fair to expect them to change. You have to look at yourself and ask, have I made the wrong choice? Perhaps this person isn’t right for me.

It all sounds so depressing but if we all followed our innate intuition so many sketchy relationships would never have got out of the blocks. Once we get over the fact that being single is not a death sentence, waiting to find the right person is a huge gift we can give ourself.

Next week, I’ll reveal my final 5 mistakes I’ll never make in relationships including the most important one and the one that's taken me the longest to learn. 

Other blogs you may like: Part 2 of this post10 Things I Don't Miss About Relationships, Change The Narrative - changing the story you tell about yourself and Kids, I Don't Know Anymore - about reconsidering wanting a family

*Sorry for any typos. I'm the worst proofreader in the history of proofrooding!

2 comments:

  1. I agree with number 6 soooo much Andi, I think that when you first start a relationship you have that initial rush of wanting to spend every second together that sometimes you become 'blind' to the warning signs. I dated a girl last year and in many ways it was very good but god did we argue. Even the smallest things would set us off but we both carried it on for way too long just because we didn't to throw in the towel so we spent 3 nonths of walking on egg shells worried who was going to set off the next round of shouting. We called time on it when she threw a plate at my wall taking out one of my best wine glasses in the process.
    I think when you get to a certain age being single has a kind of stigma attached to it so the desire to date is always on our minds.
    That said you also have to be careful not to be too cautious or to over analyse things, no relationship is ever perfect but finding the right person to share your life with is fantastic.
    My biggest problem is being TOO picky and I know that has led me to end one relationship that I now really regret but it is a lesson learnt and really that is the one thing you have to take from each relationship.
    My final thought (I sound like Jerry Springer now) is not to judge people against previous relationships, you mention Steven but it is dangerous ground if you keep thinking "well when I was with Steven......"
    Anyway that's ny input for what it's worth. Another good blog......you must get tired of hearing that.
    Andy :-)

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