The Top 10 Mistakes Couples Most Often Make
written by Deborah Lowrey
We all start our new relationships with hopes, dreams, and wonderful aspirations. But oftentimes, we see couples, or in our own relationships, where things turn sour. We may forget ourselves in our partnership. We may be using old and ineffective patterns that bring separation, withdrawal, destruction, and hurt into the very relationships we intended as loving. This is a brief listing, not necessarily in any order but covers many of the most common mistakes we make in our love relationships.
- We try to avoid conflict. Conflict includes such examples as arguments, differences, and variances. The Truth is, we are all different. That's what makes each one of us special. Too often, we only want or think we want others who are like us or who we can mold to be like us. This is an unhealthy myth. We all want to be loved for who we are. That is true for you AND true for your partner and all others. To avoid conflict we must repress our anger. The emotion of anger is not good or bad. It is a reaction to a belief or a thought that we hold to be true, and true does not equal Truth. Beliefs and thoughts can be changed, and anger does not mean that you have only one course of destruction. Conflict brings us a wonderful way to express unconditional love and to truly cherish the uniqueness and specialness of each person. Without conflict:
- We would have no resolution.
- We would never know one another.
- We would never learn a thing.
- We would never be heard.
- We would never have a safe environment to express our emotions (and they will be expressed one way or another).
- We would ultimately feel depression and separation.
Learn how to deal with and use conflict in a healthy way to bring openness, passion, resolution, agreement, and celebration of uniqueness to your relationship.
- We try to avoid our partner. This is much like number one on the list but is more keenly felt by the partner. 'Let there be spaces in your togetherness' is healthy. We are all individuals and need alone time to recharge our 'batteries' so that we can give more to the relationship and further our Self-development and growth. But habitual withdrawal and avoidance is unhealthy and can be the same as neglect, and in some cases, not dissimilar to the tactics of abusers and manipulators. This brings about the death of the relationship. Our relationships should be avenues of love, not fighting with the enemy. "All's fair in love and war", is a popular clique, but living by this axiom or combining the two is dysfunctional. Confusing love with war is an attitude that brings destruction and death to any partnership.
- We criticize our partner. And I'll expand on this… we should never criticize anyone, including ourselves. We may profess that we never criticize anyone else, but if we do it to ourselves, we have set up a dangerous belief and built a wall so that Love or no one may approach. This belief insures that we will never accept Love or accept anyone else, which is, in itself, a criticism to all. Criticism is not the same as complaining. Complaining is about something specific and resolution and agreement can be found. Criticism is basically finding fault with, and blaming someone for being who he or she is. It is a finding of excuses to avoid, or a lack or unwillingness to accept and love someone. It is typically the criticizer that is the one avoiding personal development and they use this to punish, blame or make the other person pay for their own personal avoidance of growth.
- We act out defensively. Fear is normal and natural. But fear cannot be worked through using avoidance. Courage is always in the face of fear and is the only avenue to deal effectively with fear. Reacting defensively is taking the losing stance and giving up before even starting. In this, we are potentially setting up our partner as the one who is the fear-maker. We also try to force them to be defensive. There is no resolution in this and the only thing we avoid is healing and resolution. All focus will be lost except the focus to win at all costs. This is a very destructive force that can cause irrevocable damage. Also if we are making our partner be the source of our inner fears it will destroy the intimacy in the relationship. Making our relationships a war-zone instead of a loving and safe connection is the beginning of the end.
- We escalate everything in the relationship, especially in arguments. This is a tactic used by many abusers and manipulators. This isn't about resolution; this is about going for the jugular and winning. This is a great tool to confuse the enemy, make them give in, and an excuse to control and manipulate, even to the point of physical, verbal, and/or psychological abuse. If we express our anger in this way, not only is it dysfunctional, it is deadly in many ways. Trust, intimacy, and love shared are slowly tortured and killed each time we escalate.
- We show contempt. Contempt is criticism (see 3) escalated (see 5) to outright mental abuse. This is a sign that whatever love you may have shared, there is little to none left because of destructive practices and patterns. This is a very big warning sign that you need to find assistance, change your attitudes, learn more about what love is, or evaluate if you should really be in this relationship. This can also be a sign of great selfishness, feelings of grandiose, with a great and intense loss of value regarding others, which eats away at the very bonds that keep our relationship alive.
- We rewrite history or only remember the negative experiences. This is a sign that you, as a couple, have not found resolution. It may be that one person in the relationship was not completely honest, afraid to let go, one of you did not live up to your agreement (or it may be the appearance of such) or something else, but for one reason or another, was not happy with the past 'resolution' and it really didn't happen as far as one of you was concerned. This is where many use the 'one-up-man-ship' tactic. Some use this as a competition or of feeling superior in their relationship. 'One-up-man-ship' never works with intimacy, love, and personal relationships. This is also where people use the 'oh-woe-is-me-look-what-you've-done-to-me', 'I'll-make-you-pay-because-I-don't-really-forgive-you' or 'it's-me-against-you' attitude. The only ways out of this are through true forgiveness and resolution.
- We blame others (or other things) and deny our own self-responsibility. When we avoid responsibility, we typically express it as blaming others, usually our partner, and try to make them change and conform. This is a form of manipulation and an avoidance of Self. We must face our issues and deal with and accept our part. Failing to accept responsibility means that we have no way to change and have lost all real control over our lives. When we blame others, we are in essence giving all our power over to them and the situation will never be resolved and we make ourselves the 'victim'.
- We refuse to get help. If you had the methods and the tools to keep your relationship alive, loving and healthy you'd never get to this step. But it's on our Top 10 List and reality shows that we were not born with a Love Manual or Instruction Packet. We are not born knowing all things and learning is what a lot of this life is about. This is a difficult one because this is sometimes explained as showing the differences between the sexes. It doesn't have to be that.
I have heard an incredible amount of men say that they would never be caught dead going to counseling. When I asked why, many said: "No real man talks", "real men don't ask for help (or directions)", "Counseling is for weaklings" and on. One thing I have learned from a 'real man' is that being a man is not so much about what you do, act, say, behave or wear; being a real man is a state of being, not an act of proving. If you have to prove something, you're not being a real man.
Counseling can be difficult for men. It is traditionally based on talking and sharing. These are more conducive for women. But there are male counselors out there and you don't have to go to just anyone. You have the power of choice. Going to counseling is not a sign of weakness. Not going is more a sign of weakness, because you are avoiding the real problems and stand to lose your love relationship.
For women, you may have a partner that will refuse to go to counseling no matter what. Being a woman, I understand that many of us feel that when our partner refuses to go that they are in essence saying that they don't value the relationship, don't care that we are feeling pain or are saying they really don't love us. We know we usually ask them to go with us to counseling because we still have love in our hearts and want to find a way to make this special partnership work and be well. Men aren't necessarily going to see it that way. Many will feel that their manhood is being tested or questioned and others don't speak the language of woman and don't realize that is how we interpret things.
Start going to therapy without him. I did this, and because of the changes I was making within myself, he noticed and this brought him to a place where he had to make a choice. Will he accept me, and the changes I'm making, or will he reject me, and those changes? Mine left, which was best, but many men, if they want to save the relationship and are able to get past their fears, may eventually join you in counseling, if at least to see why you've having this transformation. For the others, they will make their choice, some taking a stand, and some possibly leaving.
If they leave, remember it's always painful whether you wanted to keep the relationship or not. You held hopes, dreams and aspirations. The loss of what you wanted may be felt as pain, regret, remorse, "if only", or 'I-wish'. Now is a good time to work on yourself and better ready yourself for the relationship you want, desire, and is best for you. This step is crucial for it paves the way for a wonderful relationship with Self and ultimately to help you prepare inviting the relationship you're truly looking for. Yes ladies, there are men out there that value self awareness and growth!
- We hold on to the belief that if our partner is the one who changes then that will be the solution to all of our problems. We all carry baggage. A relationship is the composite of two individuals and everything that they bring to the mix: good, bad, ugly or indifferent. The partnership, itself, is a whole other entity. It's qualities and characteristics are what we both give to, and make of it.
There are many people that go from relationship to relationship, never dealing with their own problems, and believing every time that it is their partners who are at fault for the problems and demise of the relationship. If you look at your dating and relationship history, you will see that you find the very people who will push your buttons and face you in the direction that you need for your own personal growth.
We choose our relationships and make the environment so that we can develop. We will continue on those repetitive circles, never to get off, until we learn the lessons we need and (usually subconsciously) seek. Change always begins with Self. I always say, "It always starts with me and it always comes back to me". Life has a way of reminding us that we are the creators of our life and who we are. We hold the keys to our destiny. To focus the blame on others is the same as giving the "keys to our kingdom/queendom" away.
Visit our destructive relationship tips page for other things that rob your relationship of intimacy, love, and happiness.
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