Relationships are really quite simple when you understand the core dynamics at play. When you don’t, however, you can drive yourself half insane trying to figure it all out.
The beginning of a relationship is often the most confusing time, a time when everything seems precarious and you don’t quite know where you stand or where, if anywhere, the relationship is going.
Men and women are different and as such, the way we experience and process relationships is different. Men tend to be much more in the moment, if the relationship is enjoyable in the here and now, they’re happy. If it’s unpleasant, they either distance themselves or leave. Women, on the other hand, tend to get stuck in the details, the nuances, the “clues” both real and perceived. In the midst of this quest to figure out what’s going on and where he stands, they often lose sight of what’s important (the actual relationship, and how it is in the here and now).
No one intentionally seeks to sabotage their relationship (at least, not if you really like the guy). Conversely, women usually go in with the best intentions and can be blindsided should the relationship crumble before it really gets going.
Here are five things you might unknowingly be doing that can ruin your relationship:
1. Jumping the gun
This scenario might sound familiar to you. You meet a guy and instantly hit it off. You go out a few times and realize that he basically has every quality you want in a man. You don’t want to do it … but you can’t help but think how perfect it would be if it worked out and you ended up together. You think about all the crazy coincidences that lead to you meeting him (if there weren’t any, you’ll find some to make this a great “how we met” story!), and feel certain that this union was written in the stars. You’re not even official with him yet, but you could never conceive of dating another guy…that would almost be like having an affair! You’re sure this guy is the one, you’re positive of it. You have an amazing time together, you talk for hours, things are great except…you’re on two completely different pages!
You think about all the crazy coincidences that lead to you meeting him (if there weren’t any, you’ll find some to make this a great “how we met” story!), and feel certain that this union was written in the stars. You’re not even official with him yet, but you could never conceive of dating another guy…that would almost be like having an affair! You’re sure this guy is the one, you’re positive of it. You have an amazing time together, you talk for hours, things are great except…you’re on two completely different pages!
What’s the harm, you might wonder, it’s not like he knows you’ve already picked out the china pattern for the wedding reception. Oh but he does. They always do.
Men are not the boneheads sitcoms would have you believe. They are very much in tune with the vibe and energy a woman gives off. And when a man feels that pressure, even on the slightest level, he will back off. When this happens, you will, of course, start to panic and will cling even tighter, thinking you’d be a fool to let the love of your life slip away! The more you push, the more he pulls away until there’s nothing left but the memory of him and the pain of thinking what might have been.
Since I write about relationships, it makes sense that people always want to talk to me about their relationships. I hear it from guys and I hear it from girls. The funny thing I’ve noticed is that when a girl friend starts dating a new guy and I ask her how it’s going, she’ll usually say something like “It’s great! I can totally see myself marrying a guy like this.” And when I talk to my guy friends about a new girl, they’ll usually say “She’s great, I definitely want to go out again.” So the woman is planning the wedding while the guy is just trying to plan the next date, talk about worlds apart.
A friend of mine recently went on two dates with a guy and started talking to me about all the problems that might emerge down the line and how she’ll deal with them. She was in a total tizzy until I told her to relax and stop trying to solve relationship problems that haven’t happened yet and instead focus on deciding if she wants to go on a third date… easy as that!
The important thing to realize about men is that they’re very in the moment. Women can be too, but more often, women can’t help but get a little overzealous when a promising prospect comes into the picture. Like I said, this sort of pressure can be a huge turn-off and can turn a promising relationship into a nonexistent one real fast. So take a breath, quiet the chatter in your mind, and focus on enjoying your relationship for what it is, as it is, right here and right now.
Look, I am not casting stones here, I’ve been writing about relationships for years and can’t help but overanalyze situations. The overanalyzing ties into the jumping too many steps ahead, they’re both essentially rooted in fear.
You meet a great guy and you can’t help but feel a little worried that your feelings won’t be reciprocated. In an attempt to protect yourself, you look at the clues and try to figure out what everything means. If something seems like a bad sign, you focus on solving it, stat! You pick apart his texts and e-mails, you debate endlessly over what to respond and whether an emoticon would seem cheesy or cute, you spend hours talking to your friends about why he’s taking so long to text back and what it means and what he might be up to. You replay every moment of every interaction with him, keeping a tally of the signs he likes you and signs he doesn’t. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
The truth is, 90% of relationship problems wouldn’t exist if women would stop obsessing and analyzing and just go with it.
The more time you spend thinking and talking about him, the more you’re investing in him and the more hurt you’ll be if the relationship ends. Guys like their relationships and their lives to be simple and drama-free. The most attractive woman to a guy is one who goes with the flow and can be present in the relationship without putting so much pressure on it. If you are playing “emotional detective,” you’ll be too busy worrying about the relationship to actually enjoy it!
The best attitude to have is one where you feel happy with your guy, but would be OK without him. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out if he likes you and what he meant when he said XYZ, instead be confident and trust that he does like you because why wouldn’t he? And if for whatever reason he doesn’t, who cares?! You’ll find someone else who does.
3. Being official before you’re actually official
Okay, now this is by far the biggest relationship-ruining mistake. Girl meets boy, girl really, really likes boy, girl cuts off all other potential suitors and focuses exclusively on boy even though they never decided to be exclusive. How this usually turns out is boy tells girl “I like our relationship as it is and don’t want to label it” and girl is devastated but stays in the relationship anyway, hoping he’ll change his mind. Sound familiar? I know I for one have been down that road and it sucks!
Look, I know it’s tough to keep your options open when you find a guy who shines so much brighter than the rest, but you cannot act like his girlfriend until you are his girlfriend. Why? Because no guy is going to willingly deepen a level of commitment unless he has to.
It’s not that guys are anti-monogamy, or don’t want to commit, it just isn’t a man’s natural inclination to want to be tied down. A man will only commit himself to a woman if he is inspired to and if it has a benefit to him. If he is getting all the benefits of having a girlfriend without the obligations that come with being in a relationship, then why in the world would he change that situation?
If you don’t necessarily want to date multiple guys at a time that’s fine, just do not act like his girlfriend until you are. Don’t take down your online dating profiles or prioritize him over everything else in your life or invest in him any further until he reciprocates.
4. Dropping your life for him
This is another common relationship trap. You start seeing a guy, you spend more and more time together, and suddenly, he is just about the only thing you have going on in your life. You ditch your friends for him, don’t go to the gym as often, don’t go to book club. The reason this guy was drawn to you in the first place is because you had a well-rounded, fulfilling life that you enjoyed. You can’t expect to abandon that and have him feel the same level of attraction and intrigue towards you.
As I’ve previously discussed, men have an innate fear of being tied down. It doesn’t mean men are anti-relationships or commitment-phobes, it’s just the nature of a man to want to go out and spread his seed, if you will.
When you abandon all the other areas of your life, it forces him to fill in the empty space and be the sole source of your happiness and fulfillment. That is way too much pressure for anyone to deal with! Also, if you give up all these things for him and come to expect him to do the same for you, he will begin to resent you for reigning in on his freedom.
The point is, don’t stop being who you were before the relationship once you’re in a relationship. Keep your life balanced, fun, and fulfilling with many sources of happiness.
MORE: 11 Ways to Be Happier
5. Not seeing the relationship for what it is
When it comes to relationships, the devil is in the delusions. Women have such an amazing ability to see exactly what they want to see.
A guy might say he doesn’t want a relationship with you but you stick around, knowing with certainty that he’ll change his mind. You convince yourself that he doesn’t really mean it, he’s just saying it. You are positive that he cares about you because he took you to a fancy restaurant, he said he missed you, he told you about his hopes and dreams… any nice thing he said or did from the time you met is tallied up and used as proof that he really cares. And all the stuff he did that indicates he isn’t serious? Well, we can just ignore those and take a glass is half full sort of approach!
Before entering into a relationship, you must get clear on exactly what it is you want. If you don’t, then it’s far too easy to get caught up in something you don’t want. We get so many questions from women who are upset or angry at their guy for reasons that are completely invalid. For instance, he told her he doesn’t want to be exclusive, she continues seeing him anyway, and then she gets mad at him when she catches him texting another girl. So basically, she’s mad at him for not acting like he’s in a real relationship even though they are not in a real relationship.
To help you get clarity, try making a list of the three traits you absolutely need in a partner, and three deal breakers. Next, get clear on what kind of relationship it is you want. It’s okay to admit that you want to get married, or be in a committed relationship. I know in this day and age it’s considered passé for a woman to admit to such things, and instead being independent and strong and not needing a man is all the rage, but if that’s what you want, give yourself permission to want it. The only way to ever get what you want is to know what it is.
Got something to add to this list? Please share in comments!