Finding a new relationship after divorce or a break-up is often a wonderful addition to our lives. But, in starting any new relationship, there are inevitable deep waters that we encounter and there are common mistakes that we make in learning how to swim in the new, unfamiliar waters of a relationship after divorce.
Learning how to navigate these new waters is a key part of ensuring that we keep our relationships healthy and strong. Here are:
5 Relationship Mistakes that can Drown our Relationships
1. The Expectation that your Partner Should be your Other Half
You are a whole. You may be a work in progress (shouldn’t we all be?), but it is your job to put in the time, insight and the growth to ensure that you are creating a full, meaningful, multi-dimensional happy life. Looking to your partner to “complete” you is the stuff of movie soundbites. Looking for your “other half” is similar to putting on an emotional life preserver instead of doing the training and learning the skills to navigate the waters of life yourself. Come together with your partner as two whole people, not two halves.
2. Putting All your “Eggs” into One Basket
We are all complicated beings with varied needs and desires. Relying solely on your significant other to meet all of those needs and desires is too much weight to put on any relationship. A healthier, more realistic approach is to understand that an array of rich and fulfilling relationships is ultimately a more balanced approach toward getting your need and desires met. Having a rich support group allows you and your partner the room to grow and thrive without putting unrealistic weight and demand on the relationship and each other. A well balanced life gives us the opportunity to have different people serve different functions in our lives and takes the pressure off of one person to be “our everything”.
3. Mind Reading is Not the Same as Communicating
People want to be seen and understood by their partners. It is a mistake to believe that your partner will know what you’re thinking, feeling or needing without being taught. Let it be each of your responsibilities to communicate in a non-critical, non-judgmental way to each other. Magical thinking is an immature developmental process that assumes if you are loved, you will automatically be understood. Own your stuff, and learn how to communicate with each other.
4. Fighting in Relationships is a Sign of Trouble
Fighting and disagreements in relationships is a normal, healthy part of two different people learning how to co-exist with competing needs and desires. It is the quality of the fights that determine if the relationship sinks or swims. Learning how to fight fair, and avoiding criticism, contempt, defensiveness or emotionally shutting down keeps arguments productive without being destructive.
5. Make Love, Not War
So, if fights are inevitable and actually healthy between couples, how do people recover from being angry? This too is a skill. Learning how to use humor, affection, sexual connection and empathy with your partner are all skills that replace grudge holding, needing to “win”, and the silent treatment. Remember the goal is to accept and respect each other, not to annihilate differences. Preserving the friendship, joy, desire and connection in your relationship is paramount. Relationships are complicated and require a skill set and the energy to endure life in good as well as bad times. Avoiding some of these relationship mistakes is a good start toward building the strength and fortitude it takes to navigate the tides and storms of life together.
Debra Alper is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Chicago, specializing in relational therapy and divorce recovery. She has worked extensively since 1999 with individual clients striving to experience deeper, more meaningful relationships, couples in the midst of marital crisis around infidelity and unhappy, lonely relationships, and clients struggling to get through the emotional, and life changing hurdles of pre and post divorce. Debra received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University, Chicago. Debra can be reached through her website at www.lifetransitionschicago.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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