Relationships can be hard to navigate. When times get rough, it is certainly easier to focus on what your partner is doing that is creating difficulty for both of you. But it takes two to tango, right? You might unknowingly be contributing to the rough patch you are experiencing in your relationship. Even with the best of intentions, it can be easy to engage in certain behaviors that can be damaging to your relationship.
By being honest with yourself and by listening to your partner and trusted friends, you might be able to identify behaviors and ways of thinking about your relationship that can use some improvement. After all, to have a healthy relationship, you want to ensure that you are offering your best to your partner and to the relationship. Consider the following questions and see which ones may apply to you.
Are you constantly “checking in”?
If you find yourself needing constant communication in the form of phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts, emails, etc., you might be telling yourself that you are just trying to ‘connect’ with your partner. What you may not realize is that this behavior could be signaling a level of immaturity or constant need for reassurance that is leaving your partner feeling smothered or disrespected. In a healthy relationship, partners have some independence and freedom while they are apart, but still desire some time to connect with each other. If you are having difficulty tolerating your partner’s independence, or if your partner is not behaving in a trustworthy manner, you may need to seek some help to understand what trust looks like in a healthy relationship.
Are you constantly down on yourself?
Do you tend to deny or minimize when someone gives you a compliment? Constantly putting yourself down or focusing on your imperfections can be a major turnoff for your partner. It can also prevent intimacy and closeness between the two of you. It is much more attractive to your partner when you are confident in who you are and in what you bring to the relationship. Work on trusting your partner’s compliments about how attractive, fun, or smart you are, and experience the joy of having someone see these traits in you instead of trying to convince them otherwise.
Are your expectations of your partner unrealistic?
No one is perfect. Not even you. Expecting to always have your needs met in another person sets your partner up for certain failure and sets you up for certain disappointment. For example, you may fantasize about being whisked away to a romantic dinner or receiving that special gift for your birthday that you’ve had your eye on for months. But how would your partner really know that is what you want unless you tell him or her? People also grow up with different life experiences and family patterns. In a healthy relationship, expectations are revealed, negotiated, and sometimes challenged so that partners know how to behave and to treat one other.
Do you keep score?
Do you ever find yourself thinking things like, “He forgot our anniversary so I just won’t do anything for his birthday,” or “She hasn’t been very nice to me lately, so I don’t need to be nice to her”? What causes this kind of thinking? You may feel as though you are contributing and/or sacrificing more in the relationship than your partner is. But you also may have a belief that relationships should always be a 50/50 partnership with each partner giving exactly the same amount. Either way, these kinds of attitudes are not only a mark of relationship immaturity, they often cause feelings of resentment and encourage and attitude of “scorekeeping.”
In a healthy relationship, partners understand and honor that each person brings certain gifts and talents to the relationship. They also understand that at times, partners may forget important events, or may be especially busy and unable to fulfill their usual responsibilities. Instead of thinking just about your own needs, talk to your partner about how he/she is doing. Discuss each of your expectations and whether either of you is feeling unappreciated or concerned. Keep in mind that relationships may get out of balance at times and it important to communicate honestly in order to restore a loving connection.
Do you dwell on the past?
If you pride yourself on having a memory like a steel trap, this may be hurting you in your relationship. If your partner truly did something to violate your trust or expectations in the past, it can be easy to bring up that issue repeatedly as new arguments develop. But healthy relationships require forgiveness. They require the ability to accept that you also make mistakes and would desire that your partner be able to forgive you and move on. Avoid dwelling on the past. To create a relationship focused on healing and growing, work on learning more about yourself in this relationship, and on learning how to love your partner well every day.
Even though you want the best for your relationship, you may unknowingly be behaving in a way that could cause harm to it. If the relationship is a healthy one, it is important to continue to work on yourself so you don’t sabotage it. In order to maintain a close connection with your partner and allow your relationship to thrive, talk to him/her about your insecurities, concerns and expectations so that you can move forward together in a healthy way.