Typically, when we make a mistake in life we assess the problem, correct it, and move forward. That’s the idea, at least. That’s why it baffles me to see people go through repeated failed relationships, myself included. I mean, aren’t we supposed to learn from whatever it was that caused the relationship to fail to make the next relationship better? Sure, that sounds simple on paper. In sitting down and really evaluating why relationships fail, I’ve come up with an interesting theory.
WHERE RELATIONSHIPS GO WRONG
Where most people go wrong in relationships is that they think that the emphasis needs to be on the relationship itself, and not on the individuals in it. This is a mistake. It’s almost like when two people come together in a relationship, “the relationship” becomes this all-consuming entity that both people have to feed and nurture. People change themselves and give into the whims of “the relationship”, as opposed to focusing on moving forward as separate people. Relationships are a connection between two people, not the formation of a co-op. Not to be too cliche, but one of my favorite song lyrics from Mumford and Sons sums it up perfectly: “Love; it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free.”
Too often we see this in the relationships of the people around us. We’ve all had that friend who meets someone and as their relationship develops, they become a completely different person. They fold and bend to fit themselves into the relationship as the relationship requires it. Maybe both people in the relationship do? Either way, in the end, you no longer have two individual people – you have one singularity that is “the relationship”.
ADJUSTING THE FOCUS
Essentially, the best relationships are a matter of teamwork, not just the fact that you are on a team. Imagine two people focusing so hard on the fact that they are wearing the same uniform, instead of actually playing the game. The focus of a good relationship should be the individuality and advancement of the two parties involved. Some key aspects of this are to:
HAVE YOU OWN FRIENDS
Yes, there will always be mutual friends in a relationship, but at some point, you need to have your own friends. When two people have all of the same friends, again, this becomes part of “the relationship”. The people you surround yourself with just become more heads on the same monster. Having the ability to spend time with people as an individual is essential. Often times this creates trust issues because you are introducing people from outside of “the relationship” into your life. These outsiders are looked upon with suspicion and discontent, which creates disdain in the relationship.
HAVE YOUR OWN TIME
Before now, I’ve never understood why when someone in a relationship wants to have their own time the other person sees it as a betrayal. It’s a common thing, and it is because of that person’s attachment to the relationship and not the other person. Why wouldn’t you want your significant other to have their own time and space? Because you feel like their time and effort should be put into “the relationship”, and not into whatever it is that the other person wants to do. This is a mistake because people begin to feel trapped, which leads to conflict, which leads to the eventual demise of the relationship.
WORK TOGETHER FOR EACH OTHER
Again, I go back to the teamwork reference I made earlier. If the ultimate goal of a relationship is to be happy with another human being – then you need to focus on what makes BOTH people happy. Say for instance that your significant other wants to get their degree, you should foster that goal and support them instead of complaining that they don’t have as much time to spend with you because they are in school. It’s little things that make the biggest differences. A relationship is two people walking in the same direction, not on the same path. There is a difference.
DON’T SETTLE FOR COMFORT
The number one thing I see people do in relationships is settle. They get so comfortable in the shell of “the relationship” that they quit paying attention to their own needs or feelings. This is a mistake because everything becomes about maintaining the stasis of the relationship. If you’re settling in your relationship, you’ll never know what you could actually have. Would you just park your car on a road trip the first time you see something pretty? So, why would you do that in a relationship?