When you think of love and relationships, what comes to mind? A past lover? Your friends who can’t keep their hands off of each other? How about your parents? You see, we each have a framework for what romantic partnerships should look like, but even the best of us struggles with fulfilling those idealistic fantasies. But why? What makes something that looks so great, so hard to achieve? Why is it easier for some people, and nearly impossible for others? If you find yourself in the latter category, let’s pull some insight from these 10 reasons your relationships aren’t working.
1. 30% is literally less than half.
In the wise words of comedian, Daniel Soss, “if you only love yourself at 20 percent, that means somebody can come along and love you 30 percent. You’re like, ‘Wow, that’s so much. ‘ It’s literally less than half.”
You see, how you feel about yourself directly correlates with the types of relationships you let into your life. Self-love may sound pop-culty, but it’s a life source. The way you perceive yourself determines self-treatment, and how you treat yourself determines how you let others treat you. So, take time to reflect on your own self-worth, and where it stands. Need help? Confide in someone you trust, someone who brings out the best in you, or seek professional assistance, such as therapy or life coaching.
2. You hold others to standards that you don’t apply to yourself.
Let’s face it, we all have expectations, but what happens when what we ask of others is something we aren’t willing, or even capable, of providing for them?
We tend to get more idealistic about our romantic relationships than we do, say, friendships, or even family relations. I mean, choosing a life partner (if that’s what you’re into) is complicated, to put it mildly. Western culture puts a lot of emphasis on finding love, and values relationships (especially marriage) over singledom and non-monogamy. That’s a lot of pressure!
If you fall into this category, I’m not here to tell you to lower your standards – au contraire! I say maintain your standards but check your ideals. And while you check your ideals, be real in this reflection: what are you seeking in others that you are not applying to yourself? Why?
Not only are you implementing double standards, but you’re also risking detrimental incompatibilities long-term. When meeting potential partners, rather than focusing on specific details, a great alternative is paying attention to how they make you feel?
3. You’re carrying unresolved baggage from the past and are letting it invade your current relationship(s).
We all have unresolved stuff, be it from a past relationship, childhood trauma, etc. The critical difference between some people is whether they unpack that baggage, and leave it lying about in their new partnerships.
So, what should be done with the baggage then?
- Learn to take what’s necessary from it. In other words, separate the lessons from the pain. Remind yourself that you have the power to sort through your baggage and throw out whatever doesn’t serve you anymore.
- Only you can sort your baggage. It is not the responsibility of anyone else, including your partner. In saying that, it is always important for you and your partner to communicate about deep issues, and their impact. Creating a constructive game plan that is forward moving in your healing, and having the support of your partner, will be a catalyst to eliminating past stuff.
- Remember, success and healing are not a singular event, they are a journey with detours, and complete stops. Healing from the past takes time. There will be mishaps, but if you and your partner communicate and have a plan, you’ll have a strong foundation to land on during these times. Prioritize check-ins and celebrate growth when needed.
4. You like someone, but their mutual feelings are a flaw.
Are you someone who enjoys the chase, but the moment you catch up, you completely lose interest? This could be caused by low self-esteem, lack of trust or other areas you find difficult to be vulnerable. Your past relationships, even those with your parents, can have a major impact on your ability to let others in. Sometimes it’s easier not to take a chance, than to take the chance and get hurt…
But where does that leave you?
It becomes a vicious cycle and takes a lot of courage to push through. I promise you, on the other side is a wonderous place, with some pretty great people. I won’t lie though, there may be heartbreak…but heartbreak never killed anyone, in fact, it tends to make us stronger.
The only thing holding you back, my friend, is fear. And a life controlled by fear, is barely a life at all, especially when it’s stopping you from experiencing the one, true, pure thing humans have to offer: love.
5. You have a toxic idea of love.
I recently interviewed a woman for a side-project I have. The main question I ask my interviewees is: what moment changed the trajectory of your life? She responded without hesitation, explaining a relationship she had recently. She used many words to describe it, but one phrase stuck with me:
If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t love.
I can’t blame her for feeling this way. Mass media is constantly portraying love as hot-and-cold, violent-and-passionate, all-consuming and possessive. I can’t speak for the gentlemen out there, but as a young girl growing up, when a boy was being mean to me (even physically), I was told, “it’s because he likes you.” That message teaches us that abusive behaviour is love behaviour. I can assure you, it is not…
What love feels like from a happily married woman:
- We communicate honestly and constructively, further securing the relationship because we’ve been heard.
- We bring out the best in one another, and the relationship is where we feel most at peace.
- We celebrate each other’s accomplishments and growth.
- Our needs are communicated and met without conflict. Boundaries are respected and revisited often.
6. You attach yourself to the idea of who you think someone could be, not who they really are.
Too many times I’ve heard people say, “(s)he’ll change.” They think they can edit the things they don’t like out of someone or can fix the broken pieces. This is an unrealistic concept.
No one enters a relationship with the intention (nor desire) to be unhappy. However, there are people who enter relationships with the intention of molding their partner into a newer, better version of themselves: partner 2.0! What’s wild about this is, the partner doesn’t even know…
Some people find partners who check a few boxes and then spend the rest of that relationship pursuing the unchecked boxes. This will cause inevitable suffering, and resentment from the partner who is made to feel inadequate.
To put it blatantly, if you choose someone, you are choosing all of them. Falling for a fantasy version of someone means you don’t actually love the person in front of you…you love the idea of them.
The question is: why is finding love more important than finding the right person? What is the rush?
7. You think relationships can heal you and be your source of happiness.
I believe that we can heal in relationships if we’re with the right person(s). What doesn’t work though, is expecting that relationship to be the source of your healing and happiness.
When James and I first met, I was in recovery for bulimia nervosa. Being with a supportive and loving partner helped create a secure space and reminded me how loveable I am when I didn’t feel that way. In saying that, it was not James’ responsibility to create that happiness and wholeness. Learning to love and heal yourself means taking control over your life. If you believe peace lies in the arms of another, you are surrendering your power to that person.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds terrifying.
What is more important than romantic love, is the love of the self. What’s more important than being understood by others, is understanding the self. Your trust and love are a luxury. The paradox is:
Understanding your worth outside of romantic love will bring you the deepest love you can find.
Be the paradox.
8. You’re looking for a caretaker or want to be the caretaker.
I think it’s safe to say most of us have an example of this in our lives. Personally, I had a friend who found false satisfaction in “mommying” her boyfriend. Years later, when they finally split up, she felt a huge weight lift. Without realizing it, she was exhausted.
It’s an interesting dynamic because the caretaker has the illusion of respect and control, whereas the caretakee can relinquish responsibility. The term “caretaker” sounds noble; however, in adult relationships, whereby one person takes on this role, there tends to be a lot of manipulation.
According to one Psychology Today author, Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., caretakers don’t even realize they are giving up so much of themselves, but if, and when, they do notice, there is resentment and anger. She goes on to explain that the emotional cost of taking on this role in a relationship is loss of self-esteem, increased anxiety and depression, a growing sense of hopelessness and helplessness, exhaustion, a sense of emptiness and increasing hurt, fear, and frustration.
The most important thing to do if you find your self seeking one of these roles is to learn how to value yourself and speak to a professional.
9. You aren’t clear about who you are and what you really want.
It’s okay to not know yourself yet. Depending on your life experience, you could be on your way. When James and I met, I was at the beginning stage of figuring out who I was. I will admit that navigating a new relationship, while defining who I am and what I want, is not that easy. Luckily, James said from the beginning, “no pressure.” I took that seriously, and he honoured his words.
Fortunately, before he and I met, I had a series of long-term relationships. The second (and last) ended with me fighting an eating disorder. As emotionally depleting as that relationship was, I am beyond grateful for it. I know that I wouldn’t appreciate James for the person he is if I never had that experience. Sometimes knowing what we don’t want is as important as knowing what we do want.
So, although I was starting from scratch, I allowed myself to explore the possibility of James. Even though I was fighting to renew my own strength, I had a profound understanding that I would not be putting up with anymore bullshit. Recovering from a mental illness will do that to a person…
I’m not saying that you need to know everything about who you are. That’s life’s journey, isn’t it? We’re always changing and growing. However, my advice is that unless you trust yourself to make choices based on what’s best for you and your heart, spending more time exploring your needs and desires, will only serve you in the long run.
10. Everyone sucks but you.
This is also known as the “Victim Mindset.” I deliberately left this peach for last. If you resonated with one or more items above, but still have the audacity to make excuses for yourself… You probably think everyone sucks but you.
- Are all your past lovers the “bad guy/gal”?
- Did you deflect conflict?
- When conflict was inevitable, were you always right?
- When your partner expressed their needs or concerns, did you hear them?
- When you hurt your partner, did you take responsibility for it?
From Medium author, Ryan Breen, “The victim mentality is devastating in relationships because the victim mindset allows for no tolerance of any conflict, even healthy conflicts. This is because they cannot look at themselves at all. They can feel themselves, but that is the problem, they feel horrible, and their only explanation for what they are feeling is that it is happening “to them.”
In other words, when we never take responsibility for our actions, choices, or behaviours, two things occur:
- We are giving over all of our power to other people, because we see the situation as happening “to us,” and therefore don’t have control; and
- We don’t grow, because we never reflect on our own actions, choices, or behaviours.
Constantly placing blame elsewhere, making excuses, not taking responsibility, and believing nothing is you fault, is the epitome of the victim mindset. If you are in this category, you may experience a lack of self-confidence, frustration, anger, and resentment towards people and the world. The best way to overcome this mindset is, first, acknowledging it, and then speaking to a mental health professional. Creating a self-help plan, by researching action steps and guidance books, is a great alternative.
In the End
Human beings are interesting and complex creatures. We all want connection, and yet it is the thing that scares us most. Changing your unhealthy framework of love, the self, and others is a great first step to unwinding larger issues and unresolved past traumas. Even if you resonate with on or more of these 10 reasons your relationships aren’t working, there is hope! I will leave you with these two beautiful quotes, to sum up this wonderful human experience:
One of the biggest mistakes we make as humans is to believe that our pain is exclusive, and our beauty is ordinary.JmStorm
There are too many mediocre things in life…Love should not be one of them.Unknown
Quean Mo xx
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So, tell me, did any of the 10 reasons resonate with you? What action(s) are you going to take to help change that pattern? Comment below or contact me here.