Whenever I'm asked what I think is one of the leading causes of the breakdowns in relationships, out of all of the things that I could mention, pride always tops the list. Prideful people are never wrong and they want everything to be all about them. They would rather have their front teeth pulled than to take ownership for their actions, and they like to manipulate, deflect, and cast blame. Prideful people always want to teach but, at the same time, can't be taught anything. They are self-consumed, and, ironically, tend to live in a state of denial about their pridefulness.
Yeah. This is definitely going to be one of those kind of articles that just might hit a nerve a couple of times. I know that once I decided to do some self-introspection so that I could break a few relationship-related patterns myself, a couple of these were a hard pill to swallow.
This won't be easy, but I promise that if you're willing to take a deep breath, push your pride aside and do a bit of your own self-reflection, this piece will either bring clarity or confirmation—just the thing that you need in order to avoid some of the pitfalls that, quite possibly, have been keeping you from having the kind of relationship that we both know you deserve.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #1: Settling for a Situationship When You Desire a Relationship
While I don't think that titles are always necessary in a relationship, what I am a huge fan of is clarity. If there's one thing that situationships tend to lack a lot of, it's that. I mean, just think about it—it's not even a real word! Still, I do know what it's like to desire to be in something with someone so badly that if I had to be confused or dissatisfied in some way, just to keep the what-the-hell-is-this dynamic working, so be it. And you know what? It was always a BIG mistake to do so.
One of the biggest problems with settling for a situationship is it causes you to overlook the red flags of the person you are in that "grey area" with. What I mean by that is, people who know exactly what they want are usually not vague and cryptic. You know who are, though? Commitment-phobes. F-ck boys. All around players.
Emotionally mature individuals have no problem discussing what they are doing or where something is heading. So, if the person you're currently seeing acts like you bringing these types of questions up is a form of you being "high-maintenance" or "dramatic"—stay if you want to, but good luck trying to turn that into something lasting, reliable or solid. Good luck trying to make a situationship an actual relationship.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #2: Thinking Your Girl Friends Know More than Your Guy Friends—About Guys
In order to get a real feel for this point, how ridiculous do you think it would be if, whenever a guy wanted to understand the true innerworkings of the women in his life, he only asked other men. Yes, when it comes to understanding how human nature works, the opposite sex can be pretty insightful. At the same time, you are missing out on some real gems if all you do is ask guys about girls or girls about guys. I can't tell you how many times I have posed a scenario to a woman, then a man and gotten two totally different perspectives after I did. I must admit that more times than not, the women romanticized the issue while the guy offered up some "Ouch. For real?" food for thought. Not only that, but also more times than not, the guy was right.
So yeah, if you want to know what makes men tick, it is truly worth your time to actually ask your boys more than your girls. Men tend to be a lot more "straight no chaser" which can help you to get your heads out of the clouds, while keeping your feet on the ground, you heart from getting broken and your time from being (further) wasted.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #3: Feeling Like the More You Do, the More He’ll Love You
If there's one word I think is the cause of some of the biggest disappointments in relationships, it's "convince". It means "to persuade", and if there's one thing I see far too many women do, it's that. They think that if they can somehow persuade (appeal or urge) a man to see all of the good that they can bring into his life, somehow he will love them the way that they want to be loved (deep sigh). The reality is, a person choosing to love us doesn't have a ton to do with how much we do; it's more about who we are, what they want and if they choose to love us—or not.
Back when I penned the partial personal narrative "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife", a part of the reason why I constantly found myself in that cycle was because I convinced my own damn self that loving a man like a wife would will make him desire me like a husband should. But you know what? My healthiest relationships to-date have been with men where I didn't have to do much more than simply be myself. I didn't have to spend a lot of time figuring out how I could get them to love me; they loved me as is.
Does it sometimes take time and compromise for love to grow? Yep. More times than not, in fact. But if you really believe that God is love (I John 4:8 and 16) and that He's the source of healthy love—think about what you've got to do in order to be loved by Him. Think about how much convincing and persuading are required and you'll see my overall point. Someone who is meant to love you will not need to you to break your neck or back in order to get them to do it. They will because they do. And that's the kind of love that you truly deserve. Never ever forget that.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #4: Being a Man’s “Interpreter”
In the article "8 Things Men Need—That Many Of Us Aren't Giving Them", one of the things that is mentioned is respect. Well, you know what, y'all? One of the ways to show a man that you truly do respect him is to listen to what he says, take it at face value, don't read into what isn't there, and don't speak for him when he doesn't ask for you to. Unfortunately, I think a lot of women are so used to appointing themselves to being the spokesperson for what they think a man really thinks and feels that they don't realize that either 1) they couldn't be further from the mark and/or 2) it is one of the most irritating and yes, disrespectful things to do.
Sometimes, we've got to admit that, when it comes to gender roles, there can be double standards on both ends. If a man was to speak for or over a woman, somehow, he's controlling or chauvinistic. Oh, but let a woman do it and all of a sudden, she's intuitive. Be careful with that. Many men don't open up and connect more with their partner, not because he doesn't have more to say. It's because, in his mind, he's thinking, "Since you think you know everything, what's the point?" And honestly, I can't say that I blame him.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #5: Acting Like Nagging a Man Is Effective
There's a scripture in the Bible that says, "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop [on the flat oriental roof, exposed to all kinds of weather] than in a house shared with a nagging, quarrelsome, and faultfinding woman." (Proverbs 21:9 AMPC) Keeping that in mind, I don't know why so many women seem to think that nagging is a smart relationship tactic or an effective form of communication. At the end of the day, all that nagging really is, is a verbal form of Chinese water torture. It also tends to be something that controlling people typically to do. And here's the thing—have you ever looked up the definitions of "nag" before? One is "to annoy by persistent faultfinding, complaints, or demands" while another is "to keep in a state of troubled awareness or anxiety, as a recurrent pain or problem". Why would any man want to remain in a relationship when he is constantly being annoyed or feeling anxiety around his partner?
If your immediate quip is, "Yeah well, he wouldn't be nagged if he'd just do what I wanted him to do," and to that you add a side of, "when I want him to do it"—I'll just say three things to that. One, that sounds a lot more like a mother than a lover speaking (and who wants to sleep with their mother?!). Two, if things are that bad, consider therapy over nagging. And three, even the Bible gets why a man would rather be any and everywhere but around a nagger. Yeah, you might think that nagging makes things go your way, but in order for a tactic to be truly effective, it needs to cause something to be functional. Annoying the hell out of someone sounds more dysfunctional if you ask me. But again, that's just me. Maybe ask your man if you need a co-sign.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #6: Comparing Your Relationship to Others’—in the Media or the Real World
One of the worst things about social media is it can trick people into thinking or believing that all they see is all there is when that couldn't be further from the truth. I don't care if it's Bey and Jay, your pastor and his first lady or two of your closest friends—there is stuff that you know and there is some stuff that you don't know. And some of the stuff you're not aware of is the very reason why you shouldn't assume that someone else's grass is greener.
It's one thing to have people in your life who inspire you in certain ways. But if that has gotten to the point and place where you are constantly comparing your relationship, you are headed for, at the very least, some disappointment and disillusionment. Every relationship is unique. Every relationship also has its good and not-so-good parts to it. Basing what you have on what someone else has got is not only unfair but a surefire way to do your own relationship more harm than good.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #7: Thinking That Good Looks and Good Sex Will (or Even Should) Keep Him
For goodness sake. Do you know how many beautiful women get cheated on and/or dumped on a daily basis? Someone who immediately comes to mind is Joe Budden's ex Cyn Santana. Boy, back when she said that Black men treat Latina women better, I shook my head and said to myself, "She is in for a real humbling moment." This seemed to be the year for that moment (which she addressed on The Real. You can see part one here and part two here). Not only was she pretty vocal about the fact that she desired sex more than Joe did, but she also claims that she was cheated on by him, too.
This point right here is a book all on its own. For now, I'll just say that this is why I wish more women would embrace their natural beauty, not rush into sex, and would make friendship the greatest focal point of their romantic unions. Going through all of the time, effort and finances to make yourself look a certain way or banking on your sex skills, believing that it will keep a man's attention is futile. A true friendship and emotional connection are a far more reliable "relationship glue" than anything else. There are countless examples to prove this very point. Just go to your favorite entertainment site or gossip blog and you'll see what I mean.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #8: Believing That It’s Always “Worth the Wait”
Author Charles Darwin once said, "A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life." He didn't say 10 years---he said one hour. Back when I wrote the article, "Love Is Patient. But Is Your Relationship Just Wasting Your Time?" one of the main points that I wanted to drive home is basically a point from a scene in one of my favorite movies Definitely, Maybe. In it, Will (Ryan Reynolds) practices his wedding proposal and says, "I wanna marry you because you're the first person I wanna look at when I wake up in the morning and the only one I wanna kiss goodnight. Because, the first time I saw these hands, I couldn't imagine not being able to hold them. But mainly, when you love someone as much as I love you, getting married is the only thing left to do. So, will you marry me?" You know how that translates to me? It's like a much better version of Jagged Edge's "We ain't gettin' no younger, so we might as well do this." (LOL) It's a reminder that a sign of true love is valuing time.
Does that mean two people only love each other if they want to get married as soon as possible? Absolutely not. What it does mean, however, is when two people love each other, they make sure they are on the same page; that they don't procrastinate when it comes to moving in the same direction together. It also means that if one discovers that they desire something different, they will love the other enough to let them go—so that the object of their affection can connect with someone who will make far better use of their time.
A lot of marriage experts say that it shouldn't take more than a couple of years to know if two people want to spend forever together or not. If you want one thing, your partner is clearly showing they want something else, and you're keeping your life on hold in the meantime? Don't lie to yourself by thinking that standing around will prove to be worth the wait. Very rarely is that the case. And again, love values time. Love yourself enough to always remember—and operate from a place of knowing—that.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #9: Expecting a Man to Think or Act Like a Woman Does
Whenever people ask me if I am a feminist, my response is, "I am a complementarian." The long-short of that is those are people who believe that men and women are equal but have different purposes; even within their own relationship. Yep—I'm that girl. And since I choose to see life from that perspective, I think that one of the most challenging things in my counseling sessions is listening to women who are irritated because their partner doesn't think, speak or act like them. I'm not talking about character or values; I'm saying that a lot of ladies out here seem to believe that men should be just like them, when men absolutely are not.
If I were to take this back to the Bible just one more time, when God spoke of making a helper for Adam (Genesis 2:18), He spoke of someone who would complement him, not someone who would be his exact twin. When I think of a complementary relationship, one of the things that I reflect on is balance. The things that make a woman a woman brings balance to a man just like things that make a man a man brings balance to a woman.
Unfortunately, a lot of us are out here looking for a woman who has male genitalia. What I mean by that is, we think that unless a man thinks and acts like we do (or would in a particular situation), something is wrong with him. More times than not, nothing is wrong; a man is just different. Because God designed him to be that way.
It takes a real level of maturity and insight to know the difference between what a "wrong guy" vs. "simply a man" is. But if you're able to master this point (having healthy relationships with other men can get you there), you will be well on your way to avoiding what causes oh so much (unnecessary) drama in a lot of male/female dynamics.
RELATIONSHIP MISTAKE #10: Resenting a Man for Not Being What You Aren’t Either
Whenever a woman says to me, "I need a man who has his s—t together," I tend to respond with, "What does that mean? Give me a list." When she responds, I say, "Are you those things?" and it tickles me when she gets triggered. Wanting a man with good credit is a good idea, but how's your credit? Wanting a man who is purpose-driven is dope, but are you focused on what your own dreams and goals are? I'm always tripped out when a woman wants a man who is fit and takes pride in his appearance, but then thinks a man is a misogynistic jerk if he desires the same thing from the women he dates.
As I'm striving to learn how to be a better partner for my future husband, I am learning patience and compassion as I work to become what I want "him" to be once he arrives. It's easy to say a man needs to have a certain amount of money in his bank account until you double-check to see if you've currently got that amount yourself. It's a bit hypocritical to demand what you don't require of your own self. And it's hard to flourish in a relationship (even a relationship with yourself) when you're saying one thing and doing something else.
BONUS: Not Healing Before Going Into Another Relationship
My 8-year-old goddaughter already knows that Auntie Shellie is not the least bit interested in her telling me that she has a boyfriend. A crush? Sure. But the way folks approach boyfriend/girlfriend dynamics out here is why I think a lot of people are super jaded by the time they actually are old enough to be in a serious relationship. If you keep giving your all to multiple individuals, that puts you at risk for getting hurt a lot. And, if you don't take the time to heal from your pain, you can take that into the relationship that actually has the potential to be a healthy and thriving one.
That's why I roll my eyes, just about as far back as they will go, whenever I hear someone say that the best way to get over someone is to get underneath someone else. No. The best way to get over someone is to get closure (if you can), grieve the relationship, "test yourself" to see if you are truly over your ex (or exes), forgive and release, spend some time relishing in your singleness and then explore getting involved with someone else.
A college football coach by the name of Paul Bear Bryant once said, "When you make a mistake, there are only three things that you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from and don't repeat it."
If you're tired of being in failed relationships, make the time to see where you are making mistakes. So that, at the very least, you can start having some new experiences and learning some new lessons. Rather than repeating the same slip-ups—or poor choices—over and over…and over again.
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