Our overall happiness in life has a lot to do with the quality of the relationships we have with the people around us. If those relationships are good, we’re flying high. If they’re not good, then we’re in real trouble.
Researchers are beginning to understand that they have neglected the science of relationships for too long. The world of psychology has been focused so heavily on pathology - things that go wrong with people’s minds - that they’ve hardly done any research on how to conduct healthy, functional relationships. Now, though, the psychology of relationships and well-being is becoming a more popular research topic and is churning out interesting results.
One of the main reasons for this is the recent finding that our personal relationships have a massive impact on our health. Bert Uchino and Christine Dunkel-Schetter from the University of Massachusetts found back in 2013 that people who are in healthy relationships live longer than those who aren’t. In other words, your relationships really do determine whether you live or die.
Unfortunately, when it comes to relationships, we all make mistakes. Here are some of the biggest faux pas you can make.
Taking Your Partner For Granted
Do you ever take your partner for granted? As humans, we have a tendency to adapt to our current situation. It’s a survival trick we learned from eons of evolution, and it’s what helps people inhabit practically every habitat on the globe, from the deserts of the Sahara to the icy Arctic ocean.
But this adaptability has a dark side when it comes to our relationships. We start off in new relationships in awe of our new partner and how wonderful they are. But then as the relationship drags on, and we get used to their ways, we start forgetting what our relationships were like in the past. Soon we’re taking that person for granted.
It’s a good idea, therefore, to spend some time every month or so thinking about what life would be like without your partner. If you’re with a great person, that version of your life should appear pretty undesirable. After all, who wants to go through life without having somebody to share their experiences with? Going through and reflecting on your partner will help you appreciate them more and prevent you from adapting to your new circumstances in a way that prevents you from appreciating them.
Letting Boundaries Slip
The healthiest, most functional relationships have certain boundaries which neither partner ever crosses. These limits include name calling, shouting, and physical violence. The problem with crossing these boundaries is that it is difficult to go back. Once one person has called you a name or shouted at you, this type of aggression is justified and fair game and can become a recurring part of the relationship.
Healthy relationships don’t cross these lines. Instead, conflict is resolved with conversation and negotiation.
Becoming Passive Aggressive
The list of ways that people are passive aggressive in relationships is nearly endless. People “forget” to do the shopping or wash the dishes. Or they start making each other feel bad by pushing on their “pain buttons” - things which they know will cause the other emotional discomfort.
The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse too. This is where one person doesn’t say anything, provoking the other person to worry about what they might have done wrong. The silent treatment totally disarms the other person, leaving them feeling helpless to resolve the problem. It’s a form of bullying.
People are often passive aggressive when they want to hurt the other person’s feelings. But in a relationship supposedly based on love, this should never be the intent. If it is, then it shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the relationship itself.
Constantly Questioning Your Relationship
You might have good reason to question the quality of your relationship, especially if you have an abusive partner. But if you don’t, questioning your relationship can be dangerous. Always wondering whether you could be better off somewhere else means that you’re less focused on building your relationships in the here and now. If you’ve always got a “plan B” in mind, then you’re going to be less committed to your current partner. The very fact that you worry about the future demise of your relationship could be the reason why it all falls apart.
Questioning your relationship all the time and believing it will fail (especially if prior relationships haven’t worked out) also makes it more difficult for you and your partner to plan for the future. If you think the whole thing will eventually fall apart, you’re much less likely to want to buy a house together or make a commitment to get married which could cause relationship issues.
Think carefully about whether the problems in your relationship are real or imagined. Do you share the same fundamental values as your partner? Or do you think you’ll inevitably go your separate ways because you want different things out of life?
Failing To Take Your Partner Seriously
Another relationship faux pas is failing to take your partner seriously enough. Most people in relationships expect to be valued highly by their partners - usually more highly than anything else in their lives. So if you’re constantly prioritizing work or other people’s emotions above those of your partner, you could be screwing over your relationship.
You don’t have to start doing things like rank your priorities - be it work, children or education - as this is another form of passive aggression. All you have to do is take into consideration your partner’s feeling and acknowledge them in decisions you make. If you’ve got to go off on a business trip, explain to your partner that you understand how they feel and that you’re only doing it so that you can both have a better life together and more money.
Finally, make sure that you keep tabs on your own behavior in social situations. If you find yourself constantly abandoning your partner in favor of conversation with other people at social gatherings, it might be a sign that you don’t take them all that seriously.