Love is a tricky and temperamental beast. Sometimes I even think Cupid tipped his arrows of love with a slow-acting poison! That doesn’t sound so far fetched when you look at how many passionate love affairs end in tears, screaming matches, lawsuits and the occasional murder.
Fortunately, you’re not a hapless damsel in distress starring in a soap. You are fully capable of nurturing your relationships and of avoiding ticking time bombs that could see you becoming single again.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of 5 habits and behaviours you should avoid if you want a reasonably Happily Ever After.
1. Stop Thinking You’re in A Classic Disney Movie
Unless it’s a parrot, I doubt you have the ability to talk to birds. If you choke on an apple, no kiss is going to wake you up, unless you’re being kissed by a vacuum cleaner. (Don’t try this at home)
Love can make life better. It is amazing to find somebody who supports you and just has your back. But unlike what Cinderella and Snow White might portray, love is not a cure-all. Your partner’s role in your life is not to save you.
The role of a savior is an enormous burden to bear, and it is unfair to thrust it upon someone, especially someone you love. Conversely, you are not obligated to be your partner’s savior. Trust the one you love enough to believe that they can take charge of facing their own demons and if they can’t, you are always there to help.
2. Stop Being Afraid of Arguments
The perfect relationship does not exist. Yes, some couples are extremely happy together, but that’s because they work hard at it. Actors Dax Shepard and his wife Kristin Bell look like the perfect Hollywood couple, but they are the first to admit that it’s not always a bed of roses.
Arguments will happen and contrary to popular belief, you should embrace the arguments as a chance to get to know your partner better. When I was younger and more naive, I believed that couples should never argue. It took years of experience and a lot of trial and error for me to realize that it is healthy to have arguments and unsavory discussions. Taking on all the blame to avoid rocking the boat, or always letting things slide to keep the peace is what’s going to eventually either kill your self-esteem or murder your relationship.
Being in a mature and loving relationship means you are secure in the knowledge that your relationship can survive anything, from a silly argument about who turns off the bedroom light to a serious conversation about having children.
3. Stop Thinking You’re The Victim
The victim mentality has to go. “Woe is me! The world has wronged me!” gets old real quick. It’s normal to feel down and put upon sometimes. It happens! You’ve had a bad day at work, your boss is being unfair, someone rammed into your car while you were saving a puppy. Shit happens.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to vent and complain sometimes, embracing the victim mentality will drive your partner away faster than a zombie in World War Z can run. It is mentally draining to care for someone who believes the whole world is against them. Even more so when the other person has no intention of changing.
This might be harder to tackle for somebody with mental health challenges, but there are steps you can take to improve your condition. Something as simple as taking a step back and taking some deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed can potentially prevent another “woe is me” onslaught. Communicating your emotions is healthy, but you need to check yourself when most of the sentences that come out of your mouth are about how the world is against you.
4. Stop Thinking You’re Always Right
We all know somebody who must have the last word. In their minds, that means they “win”, even if there was never a prize on offer! There is a bit of leeway on this when it comes to important topics, perhaps if it concerns life and death. But a lot of the people who always want to be right fight for trivial things like whether canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes are better in a pasta!
I’m not asking you to compromise on your morals to avoid an argument, but is it really that important to be right over what colour shirt your mom wore the last time you saw her? Being able to compromise and hear another person out is key to any relationship, especially a romantic one.
Communicating in a relationship should always be 2-way. It’s an exchange of information and views. Always thinking that you’re right, or always wanting to be right even when you know you are wrong severely restricts the quality of your communication. If you’re focused on what to say next and how to “win” this conversation, you’re not listening to your partner and that’s the quickest way to a breakup.
5. Stop Trying to Love them Your Way
It’s truly strange, but not many people realize this even if they have lived through it. Loving someone your way, might not be the right way. Everyone wants to be loved in a different way, as Gary Chapman pointed out in his book The Five Love Languages.
One of the most common examples of this is when a man works hard to make money to buy the wife nice things, but all the wife wants is to spend time together. Take the time to understand how the other person wants to be loved. Does she like small gifts? Or does she feel loved when you do the laundry without her asking?
Many of us grew up with parents who meant well and tried their best, but sometimes they loved us their way and perhaps that’s not how we wanted to be loved. Asians can attest to this the most. Our parents’ style of parenting focuses on negative reinforcement. If you fall down, you are scolded before you are aided. This might not be true for everyone, but I’m sure there are similar instances you can recall.
Whenever you get the urge to love your partner your way, take a step back and remember an instance where you were not loved the way you wanted to be loved and draw on that. Loving your partner the way he or she needs to be loved will only strengthen your relationship, and if you can’t do that, perhaps you need to take a step back.
Nobody ever said relationships are easy. It takes work a lot of work and commitment. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, slowly but surely, we can all reprogram ourselves to become better partners.