4 Mistakes That Can Derail Your Relationship

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4 Mistakes That Can Derail Your Relationship

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD


Our mistakes often begin with our beliefs. In many of the couples I’ve worked with, one or both partners holds a faulty belief that keeps them from doing the work to improve their relationships, and sometimes, causes them to end a relationship that could perhaps have been saved. Of the many beliefs that undermine relationships, these four beliefs are the most common:

“I shouldn’t have to ask for what I want.” People often think that their partners should understand them so well that their thoughts, feelings, and desires should be apparent – no questions asked. If they have to ask for what they want, that means that their partner is just doing it because they asked; not because it came from the heart.

Unfortunately, your partner cannot read your mind. Even if what you want seems obvious, it may not be obvious to your partner. Or, your partner may not fully appreciate how important it is to you. Of course, there are some people who are better at being in tune with their partners. But the truth is that it is more important to have a partner who really listens, respects, and responds to you with love. In fact, I’ve found that people often feel suffocated by partners who devote themselves to anticipating their every need.

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” (You can thank the 1970 film Love Story for this trouble maker.) Not only is this incorrect, the reality is that love means almost the exact opposite. When people love each other, they care deeply about their partner. They are upset to learn when something they have done has hurt the one they love. So, even if the wronged partner is understanding and does not need an apology, the offending partner often feels a need to apologize or somehow right a wrong. And it’s important for their partner to know that they earnestly do not want to hurt them. This may or may not require a verbal apology.

“If you really cared about me, you would agree.” People sometimes get so caught up in their own way of thinking and feeling that they cannot imagine a different perspective. Because their perspective is the only “acceptable” one, their partner disagreeing with them feels like a rejection. If you struggle with feeling this way, think carefully about whether your partner’s perspective might make sense, even if you don’t agree with it. Is it possible that your partner disagrees with you or sees things differently, but still cares very much about your thoughts and feelings? If the answer is no, then you might truly need to consider ending your relationship. But if your answer is yes (or even “maybe”), then you might want to talk more with your partner so that you can fully understand each other and – despite your differences – feel mutual respect and caring.

“Passion cannot be revived.” I see this belief a lot. People often think of passion as something that happens to them, like catching a cold. So, when their passion fades after months or years, they think that their relationship is over – even if they still care deeply for their partner. What they fail to realize is that couples have varying levels of passion, that it is natural for it to change over time, and that passion is something that can be stoked.

So, it is up to you to decide whether there is enough passion in your relationship for you. And if there is not, then you can work with your partner to ignite whatever embers still burn. Return to the kinds of things you used to do together. Even better, make new plans that excite you both. Read books and articles on the topic (this blog post offers some tips), and if necessary, pursue couples therapy.

By questioning these faulty and problematic beliefs, you can avoid the relationship mistakes that many people make. Instead, you and your partner can improve your current relationship and enjoy a happy future together.


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