Relationships are a two-way street, and that’s especially true when it comes to the emotional health and stability of everyone involved. To find the person of your dreams, you have to be the person of their dreams, and that means truly knowing yourself inside and out.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it’s time to put some tabs on the biggest potential threat to your relationship: Yourself. If any of the following mannerisms seem uncomfortably familiar to you, take a step back and make sure you’re not accidentally getting in the way of your own happiness. You deserve it. We got you.
1. Stop sulking
Repeat after me: Sulking is not communication. Sulking is not communication. Sulking is not communication. Sure, your partner may eventually figure out that you’re pissed off when you cross your arms and pout, but you come across looking like a petulant child. Playing the wounded victim is neither cute or sexy. If you’re upset about something, take a breath and communicate. Here are the steps: Put on your adult pants. Open your mouth. Say something honest in a reasonable tone. Now, listen.
2. Stop trying to change your person
I know you hate it when they lose their car keys again. While her absent-minded professor act was one of the reasons you initially found her so adorable, it stops being cute when you’re both late for a movie because you’re rifling through the couch cushions. But stop driving yourself crazy thinking that it’s going to change!
Most of the time, what we love about our partner also becomes that thing that also drives us absolutely mental. Take a breath and step back. Rather than wishing things were different, remember that your person wouldn’t be your person without their odd little quirks. And if you start feeling righteous, take a step back and think about all of the stuff that they’re putting up with right now, too.
3. Stop spending so much time together
I know, I know, falling in love is so romantic! And when you do fall hard, you often want to merge with your new person. But pull back and take a breath. Coming up for air occasionally reminds you that you already have a life and -god forbid – if the relationship ends, you will have a life again. A little distance makes the heart grow fonder and allows you to appreciate your person a bit more. And wouldn’t you know, they’ll likely appreciate you just a bit more too.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Mom was right: don’t sweat the small stuff. When you freak out every time your partner leaves a dish in the sink, you’re basically sending them a message that being a control freak is more important than their feelings. Everyone in the relationship is trying their best: creating some wiggle room for human difference is part of relationship compromise.
Create boundaries when it’s important (“How about not leaving dishes in the sink for more than four days”), but give your person the benefit of the doubt when you can. A little latitude goes a long way. And when you can let the small stuff go, you’ll have the bandwidth for a meaningful discussion when something that actually is important comes up.
5. Don’t ignore bids for affection
People communicate their love in different ways. Some buy gifts, others say nice stuff, some like physical affection, other people like doing activities together. It’s important to have these gestures acknowledged. However, it may not always be obvious when your person is reaching out for your attention. For example, they may say, “Wow, look at that bird over there,” and secretly mean, “I really want to share a moment with you so I’m finding something to connect with you about.” Even if you think it’s a dumb bird, respond to their intention rather than the content. Remember to appreciate all the small moments of connection that you have.
6. Choose love IRL
Your presence and attention is the most powerful gift that you can give someone. If you’re hanging out with your honey and are constantly checking your texts and insta-feeds, you’re waving a huge red flag that says, “You’re not important to me.” Put your phone down (hey, turn it off) and have some IRL time with another human.
While being alert for these relationship buzz kills doesn’t guarantee that you’ll live happily ever after, it will certainly give you a better shot. By being on the lookout for bad behaviour, you will proactively derail those insidious bad habits that can so frequently undercut a good relationship. And in the process, you’ll get to know yourself better too.