Good day, gentle readers! I’m moving through a bump in the road with a friend of many decades, and it’s given me cause to take a step back and look at my behaviors in our friendship, so I can see if/where I’m doing something to fuck it up.
I gave myself a limit of 7 behaviors. 7 ways to fuck up relationships, and I’m sharing them here with you, because I bet you do/have done them too. I also offer some antidotes to these behaviors. I’m writing from my own experience and am sharing based on that. Your experience may differ, as may your mileage.
Please note: I’m writing about these behaviors in a context of consent and safety, meaning… I’m explicitly not speaking to abusive dynamics.
AND….. Here they are - 7 mistakes I've made that you probably have made as well, which will fuck things up....
1. Be Controlling:
Control in this context has to do with (not)taking actions in an effort to steer the ship and the behaviors of those on it because it helps you feel more secure.
You might be more of a leader in your relationship, creating context for your person who is more of a follower. This may be the case, and it's one thing to create a context for someone - it's a whole other ball of bullshit to (try to) force anyone into anything.
How this might show up is when your person (friend, partner, lover, whatever) is doing something (housework, bookkeeping, going out on a date with a new person), and you impose yourself in his/her space in an attempt to divert their attention or change their behavior because you're feeling insecure or jealous or out of control.
You might also find yourself creating drama, sabotaging your person’s access to their own free time, etc. when you come from a controlling place. At the extreme, ‘being controlling’ is also synonymous with ‘being psychologically abusive’.
One expression of control with which I’ve been presented by clients myriad times in the last 10 years is this expression: pair-bonded couple is separating. Children are involved. In an effort to control the soon-to-be former partner A, partner B uses children, time, money, etc. as a way to control the perceived freedom of Partner A.
The shitty level of this is off the charts in so many directions, and nobody wins.
Just. Don’t. Do. It.
2. Take on Projects rather than People:
Have you ever heard someone say "s/he would be perfect if only s/he would do/change _____________"? Um yeah. You bring people into your life with the pre-supposition that there's something wrong with them and you can fix it? How's that working for you?
In a heteronormative (boy-girl) context, this is classic girl behavior. We meet a guy and want him to change how he dresses, or how he keeps his house, or the job he has, or the way he communicates, because when that happens, everything will be perfect. Can you see how this lens can create a space for controlling behavior to arise?
The converse of this fuck up happens to be my personal first rule of relating “If I can’t take a person as they are, then I don’t take them on.” I know that life and time and trauma and celebration and living, by nature, creates change in people. And that is not my job to do for you (whomever it is with which I’m relating). My ‘job’ in relationship, I believe, is to meet people where they are and accept them as they are.
3. Expect Telepathy :
Expecting telepathy means expecting someone to know what you need simply because you’re in a relationship with them. It can also mean making assumptions about someone's role in your relationship without talking about it.
You might be under the impression that 'just because s/he's with me, s/he will want to do X, or know that Y is important to me'. Rather than expect your partners to be mind-readers, perhaps you could try on using your words.
A verbal expression of this kind of expectation is ‘if (s)he loved me, (s)he would _______________. And we have all been there – probably on both sides of the coin.
Intimately/sexually, this shows up when one partner does the ‘if I scream it in my mind loud enough, they will get the hint and do the thing’. This was my strategy well into my 20s.
Some of it was fear of being rejected or judged. Some of it was shame, because my fantasies are… fantastic. And the rest of it was a lack of practice in stating clearly what I want – with the understanding that I might be met with a ‘no’ – and that’s OK.
How to correct this art the level of expectation? Notice when the thought arises, silently tell your inner voice, ‘thank you for sharing,’ and do some personal investigative work to uncover what need or want you have that isn’t being met – and then ask for that rather than make your person wrong for not being telepathic.
Which brings me to my next relationship fuckup:
4. Make Your Problems about Them:
It's their fault the relationship is having problems, right? They don't love you enough, or take you out on the right kind of dates. They are selfish and uncaring. They don’t understand your passion. They don’t listen. They are a jerk. Etc. etc. etc.
If you say things like,’ I’ve never had a fulfilling relationship,” you might be making your problems about other people. If you tend to avoid taking responsibility for your shit and the work you need to do on you – you might be making your problems about other people. When it is always someone else’s fault – you are definitely making your problems about other people.
Everywhere you see a problem in your relationships - YOU ARE THERE. And I do mean everywhere
You can shift this by beginning the process of taking responsibility for the ways that you're creating your life and experience. When you do that, something magical happens.
Nothing changes, and yet everything is transformed, because you are in your power, and you aren't making others responsible for your feelings.
I am in no way suggesting that other people are never a problem, or that their behaviors will never be the reason, etc. What I’m suggesting here is that you will be far more secure, stable, and in your power if you not only own your issues, but also work to shift them. (Please remember – I am not addressing abuse in this article)
5. Settle For Crumbs When What You Desire Is Cake :
Lookit. Not every relationship is going to manifest in ways that you are fully satiated in the areas of what you want and need. That said, if you are spending a great deal of energy and time with/on someone, and you have the experience of settling for crumbs - why are you staying?
Here's how this might play out. You long for and need to have a certain kind of time spent with someone. Maybe that's sex. Perhaps it's going to the movies. Could also be them being present with you - so that when you're in a room together, they are paying attention to you rather than playing Xbox (as an example).
You use your words to express your need (because you know your person is not telepathic), and your person reflects back to you an understanding of that need, and they say that they will change behavior.
Then nothing changes. You ask again – they give you their word again, and nothing changes. Again and again.
If you stay in that context, you are settling. If you are not fully committed to radical acceptance of this, there is a high likelihood that you will grow resentful and angry.
Problem-solving that arises out of resentment and anger is not generally effective or kind, in my experience. I used to do this – and my preferred coping mechanism was to give an ultimatum, which is a fabulous example of mistake #1 – being controlling.
I did and do a ton of work on me to notice when resentment and anger arise from a perception of lack, so that I can address it in a way that is calm, compassionate, and towards my desired outcome, which pretty much always is to keep the relationship.
More often than not, the resolution is to change the context of the relationship. If you care to go down a fascinating rabbit hole, check out the 8 Noble Truths of Buddhism for some deeper insight.
You might choose to stay in the relationship. Maybe you reframe the relationship. Maybe you walk away. The choice is yours.
6. Act Out of Jealousy :
Jealousy is an emotional state that arises when you want something from someone and have a fear that they are giving it to someone else. When you are jealous you are not in an emotionally mature space, and you might start saying and doing things that are, well, unkind.
For example. You may gossip about a co-worker who got a promotion for which you were both being considered. Perhaps you sabotage things around the new person so they are forced out.
What Jealousy is, really, is a gift to you. It's a gift because it signals that you have an appetite/need which isn't being fulfilled, and/or you have expectations which haven't been stated and are not being met.
If you can get your head out of your ass long enough to take responsibility for how you're feeling, and do some work around what's creating the jealousy in you, you will likely find yourself with some good information.
Here's an example from my life. I had a partner (who remains Family to me) who is a bodywork god. He can do so much amazing stuff with his hands. Multiple modalities – super awesome stuff. He is not a professional bodyworker anymore, so he works on friends and family.
I’ll admit that the perk of amazing bodywork in the partnership was a big green flag for me. There came a time, however, that whenever a new person would come around to receive bodywork from my partner, I'd feel jealous.
When I became aware of a pattern, I took a step back, and what I ended up finding is that I was hungry for his touch in that way – as a bodyworker.
Rather than make him wrong, I said "I'm noticing that I feel jealous when you do bodywork on other people, and I think it's because I'm hungry for your touch in that way. Can we find some time for you to work on me and make it somewhat regular as long as it works for both of us?" He said yes, and we did. Problem solved.
7. Hold On To Grudges and Withhold Forgiveness :
In my perspective, holding a grudge has to do with cultivating negative and hostile feelings towards someone for something they did or something you think they did. Holding grudges is a very tempting thing to do, because you (and I) get to have righteous indignation about someone. You (and I) get to make them wrong, and, therefore, you get to be right. You get to say things about how horrible that person is for what they did, so that you can look and feel better about yourself, and the way many people operate, you will attract supporters for your grudge.
All that does is create separation and make it so you are living in negativity and hostility, and you know what? Your negative and hostile thoughts and feelings towards someone isn't about them. It's about your own thoughts and feelings.
Forgiveness has to do with releasing those negative and hostile feelings towards someone regardless of what they did or what you think they did. Please understand that I'm talking about something very VERY powerful
You don't have to change your mind that what the person did was right in order to forgive, and we become that which we habitually do. If you practice holding grudges and being negative and hostile, that's what you're going to be - a grudge-holding angry and negative person.
Contrarily, if you practice forgiveness and releasing the hostility and negativity you hold towards people, know what you become? You become free. Here's some information from Harvard about the power of forgiveness.
There you have it folks - 7 things you can do to fuck up your relationships. 7 mistakes I, myself have made. 7 things on which I work to correct. 7 mistakes of an infinite number of opportunities to learn and grow and course correct and relax and be in power and response-able……
What mistakes have you made, and how have you moved to correct/shift them?