by Natalia Hughes
In my years as a therapist, I’ve come to realize that relationships are very much like learning how to walk when you are an infant. Walking starts with the basics of sitting, rolling, and learning how to crawl. It then leads to pulling yourself up, walking with help, cruising and then standing and balancing on your own. Before you know it, you are taking your first step and, with practice, you will be walking like a pro.
Like learning to walk, relationships are a process. The ability to have a healthy, loving relationship takes time (baby steps!) and self-awareness. Failed relationships happen for many reasons, and the failure of a relationship is often a source of great psychological anguish.
Most of us have to consciously work to master the skills necessary to make a partnership flourish. It is important to identify patterns from failed relationships so that we can learn from them. With Valentine’s Day coming up and love in the air, I thought it was a good time to list five common patterns to avoid:
- Losing yourself: People often make the mistake of losing their identity when they are in a relationship. Remember, you are an individual. A strong, well-developed identity for both parties is a key component to a secure relationship. When you’re in a relationship your partner enhances you, it does not consume Without two separate “I’s,” there can be no “we.”
- Over-sharing. Often people suffer from the “too much information” syndrome early on in a relationship. The first few months of getting to know someone is the time you need to establish a firm foundation for the partnership to thrive. You don’t want to make the mistake of revealing deeply personal information too soon. That level of intimacy and confidence takes time to nurture, and should be saved for when the relationship is more securely rooted.
- Focusing on the negative and assuming the worst: Not everything your partner says or does will sit well with you. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions. Try not to assume that you and your significant other will see things the same way or that you can read each other’s minds. No one is perfect and like you, your partner deserves the benefit of the doubt. The key to maintaining a happy, healthy relationship is not focusing on those shortcomings, but rather, those characteristics that you cherish about your partner.
- Shutting down communication. Silence and walking away is not always safe even though it may feel like it, which is why so many of us do it when hashing out difficult issues with our partners. Instead of clamming up, take ownership of your feelings and communicate them honestly and directly. Managing your emotions appropriately is the basis of a communication style that can resolve conflict and lead to more established bond.
- Thinking the past dictates your future. Be mindful of your learning process in relationships. History has a way of repeating itself unless you mindfully makes changes. Take an honest look at your previous relationship mistakes so that you can avoid repeating them. This means confronting your fears and dependencies, and not looking to your partner to take responsibility for what is yours.
Like walking, building a strong relationship is a work in progress that is rich with discoveries and always filled with challenges. Being mindful and open will help you to avoid some of the bumps in the road, and disarm the behaviors that can undermine your relationship.
Natalia, who received a master’s degree in Marriage Family Therapy from the University of Phoenix, is a CalWORKs therapist intern with Hillsides in our Family Resource Centers, Pomona. CalWORKs is a state-wide program that provides employment services and other benefits to families in need.
Natalia is a firm believer that the more we strive to learn, the more we will grow individually and as a culture. Her greatest passion is to teach others to continue to grow on their self-journey of discovery. “I enjoy helping my clients find healthy perceptions of themselves, fortify their loving relationships, and apply self-growth in order to be balanced individuals,” she says.