What kind of relationship did you dream of when you were younger? When I was young, I looked forward to a highly romantic relationship, complete with generous helpings of outward emotion.
When I was about ten, I went with a friend of mine and her family to the beach. Daydreaming away, I floated farther and farther away from them. When they finally got my attention they asked me why I’d drifted so far away, and I responded, “I was dreaming about being on my honeymoon in Hawaii.” I don’t remember this, but it must have made an impression on my friend and her mother since she shared this story at my wedding reception. ~smile~
Many of us look forward to the happiness we hope marriage will bring our way. We are taught that marriage, when you’re married to the right person and all is well, will bring us great happiness. Whether we admit it or not, we go into marriage with a lot of expectations: You will hug me goodnight every night. You will make date night a priority. You will spend a lot of time with my mother, say, every December 24th and 25th. You will enjoy the activities I enjoy.
Many new couples come into marriage and make a few key mistakes that can send their relationship into a crazy spiral. Consider the three mistakes listed below. If you avoid these pitfalls, you can enjoy a lot less relationship scuffles! ~smile~
Mistake #1: Expecting Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Fiancé/Fiancée, or Husband/Wife to Make You Happy
If you stopped random couples on the street and asked them if they expected their significant other to always make them happy, most of them would say that such a notion is unrealistic. Intellectually, we know one person cannot make us happy at all times; yet, deep down, we place expectations on our boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses to do just that.
Love songs are full of messages which say, “I’d do anything for you.” Songs that used to make my heart flutter now make me laugh. Eric won’t fly to Switzerland to buy me chocolate. He’s probably not going to Mexico to get me authentic Mexican food (not that it would survive the trip anyway), and if I have a craving for fried chicken at 3 am, he’s probably going to lovingly remind me that my craving will pass. However, if someone was threatening me, he would fight for me. And at the end of the day, that’s where it counts.
I know he won’t be able to take away my bad moods, solve all my girl drama, or stop what he’s doing and listen to all my stories all the time. Eric can’t make me happy. Even if he did fly all over the world bringing me my favorite foods, he cannot make me happy. Happiness is something I have to choose and when I don’t choose it, I can’t blame it on him. He is called by God to love me like Christ loves the church. He’s never going to be perfect at it and sometimes his love is not going to feel like love because it will hold me back from something I think I want at the time (e.g., not going out to get me ice cream at 11pm because he knows I don’t need the sugar rush right before bed, etc.).
Couples who go into relationships expecting someone else to make them happy will eventually be disappointed. Unhappy people are more likely than happy people to gripe, complain, and pick fights. If you go into a relationship expecting that person to provide you with endless happiness, expect to hear this phrase a lot, “What do you want from me?!?!” Not only will you be frustrated that he or she is not fulfilling your happiness tank, but he or she will be frustrated with your demands and expectations. We’re all just imperfect humans trying to figure life out day by day.
Mistake #2: Not Listening To Understand
When Eric and I argue, and almost all couples do, it is so tempting to ignore what he’s really saying while I mentally search for my comeback. We are driven to be understood. We desperately want others to get us. Because of this, we spend a lot of energy trying to make our significant other understand us. Unhappy couples go round and round, shouting, crying, and demanding to be heard. These fights don’t usually end well because no one feels heard (as the other person is also mentally searching for his or her comeback instead of listening). There is such a relief that comes when we feel listened to and understood!
What couples can do to bypass the craziness is to focus on understanding each other instead of focusing on being understood. When one partner is able to speak freely without interruption, he or she is far more likely to extend the same respect to the other partner. Instead of demanding to be heard, we can give that courtesy to our significant other. By selflessly listening to each other, both people in the relationship get what they want! And chances are, you will uncover something from each other (an emotion, fact, or point of view) which you would not have picked up on if you were simply planning your next statement. Unhappy couples listen so they can respond in a way that best suits them. Happy couples listen, ask questions, and affirm each other, and in turn create an atmosphere for effective communication.
Mistake #3: Focusing on the Negative and not Accentuating the Positive
You could put my picture beside this mistake! Eric is an ideas guy. He loves to come home from work and share his latest, greatest idea with me. What I didn’t realize when we were first married is that his ideas are a dime a dozen. He knows there is no way he could bring them all to fruition. When I have an idea, and I take the time to express it, it’s probably an idea I’m serious about pursuing. So when Eric would charge through the door with one or two new ideas each day, I’d begin to panic inside. To diffuse my panic, I would immediately begin listing reasons why his ideas wouldn’t work.
One day, we were heading to visit my parents in North Carolina and Eric shared another idea with me. As sure as the sun rises in the east, I began pouring out reasons why his idea wouldn’t work, but his response that day was a little different. He told me that he didn’t want to talk about his idea with me anymore and that talking to me about his ideas was no longer something he wanted to do anymore.
Well, that hurt! I didn’t realize I was sucking the fun out of his life. Slowly, I began to understand that when Eric shares his ideas with me, he’s sharing his life with me. He’s bringing me into that extra special area of his mind that he doesn’t share with most people. Since then, I have tried to be more supportive of his ideas, knowing that he will only pursue a few of them, and our relationship has improved!
Couples who focus on what they don’t like in their partners more than what they do like constantly let the wind out of each other’s sails. “If you’re going to shoot me down, why bother telling you anything I think or feel?” If you focus on negativity, you will feel more negative towards your significant other; but, if you focus on what you love about him or her, you will naturally feel better and treat him or her better. Negativity rots dating relationships and marriage, but positivity is motivating!
So, for a much more peaceful relationship, remember to take responsibility for your own happiness. Listen to your sweetie and try to fully understand what he or she is attempting to communicate to you. Don’t interrupt, ask questions when appropriate (e.g., “How long have you been feeling this way?”) and make affirming statements (e.g., “Holding that inside for so long must have been really exhausting for you.”). You’ll probably be surprised at how much more your honey wants to hear from you after you’ve heard him or her.
And last but not least, leave negativity in the dust! Focus your energy on lifting each other up. When you do need to bring up something negative, surround it with a lot of positives. Attempt to have twenty positives for every negative in your relationship. It’s not easy but it’s so worth it! ~smile~
All young love and newlyweds make their share of mistakes. We surely did! But you don’t have to learn everything the hard way. Glean from those who have walked this road before you and learn to recognize big relational pitfalls before they pop up! If you’re prepared, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary fights! That means more time to enjoy each other!
Have you made any of these mistakes in your relationship?