I have been writing about relationships for years and can’t help but notice patterns in how women go wrong. It’s not anyone’s fault. No woman sets out with bad intentions, trying to sabotage her relationship. (Unless she really doesn’t want to be in the relationship and is too chicken to have the uncomfortable breakup conversation!) Usually, all a girl wants is to keep her relationship strong and happy. She wants it to last, but oftentimes her good intentions still result in bad behaviors that can ruin a relationship and push a guy away.
A lot of women just don’t fully understand how men operate, or how their own behavior impacts the relationship dynamic overall. There is a lot of bad information out there that can lead even the savviest girl astray. I’m not pointing fingers or placing blame; as always, my mission is to help.
Okay, so here we go, the 11 biggest mistakes most women unknowingly make in relationships:
1. Choosing the Wrong Guy
This is by far the number one area where women go wrong. They choose a man who can’t or won’t give them what they want and hope that they can turn things around by sheer will or magic. But if a guy clearly isn’t relationship material then the chances of him being a good boyfriend are pretty low. If he clearly doesn’t want to be in a relationship or have any sort of commitment, then that probably isn’t in the cards and you’ll be wasting your time waiting around for him to see the light.
Who you date is your choice, and with choice comes responsibility. You are responsible for deciding who to let into your life. That’s actually empowering when you think about it. Starting up with a guy who doesn’t want what you want (he wants a casual relationship or a hookup and you want commitment), and then hoping he’ll change is almost always a losing battle.
2. Being Too Me-Centered
Relationships typically fall apart when your focus stops being on the person you’re with and starts shifting to you. When you focus on your own wants, your own worries, your own fears, your own needs, and pay no attention to how your guy feels and experiences things, you essentially turn him into an object who is a means to an end.
When we objectify people, we only see them in terms of how they can serve us for a specific purpose. Maybe you want him to act a certain way so you will feel valuable, desirable, worthy of love. And you may feel resentment when your guy doesn’t serve that purpose by acting the way you want him to. Or you may feel like you’re giving everything to the relationship and getting nothing back. In that case you can’t appreciate him for what he does because it’s never enough—all you see is what he isn’t doing.
The me-centered mindset can cause problems no matter what stage of a relationship you’re in, casually dating or committed. A lot of women feel baffled when a guy suddenly seems to lose interest. This typically happens because she is coming from a me-centered place. She gets so fixated on achieving some sort of relationship goal, like being official, and on figuring out how he feels, that everything becomes about her and what she wants and needs. It seems innocent, but suddenly his interest begins to wane. When you focus on getting what you want out of the relationship, rather than on enjoying yourself and connecting to the other person, you are using the guy as a means to feel good about yourself and worthy of love, and that is not the pathway towards a meaningful connection.
3. Not Appreciating
Forget what you’ve been told, appreciation is the real key to a man’s heart. I’ve interviewed countless guys over the years as part of my research for my books and articles, and the most consistent thing I hear from men is how much they crave appreciation, and how much of a turn-off it is when a girl acts entitled and unappreciative.
Pay attention to the nice things he does and express appreciation. Maybe you think a guy should pay for dates, but that doesn’t mean you should expect it and not thank him for it. When I was dating I would always send a thank-you text to the guys I liked after a date, and made sure it was more personalized than, “Thank you for dinner, it was great!” I really tried to consider the effort that went into whatever the night’s activity was and show appreciation for that. When I started doing this I always got asked out on another date! And even today, as a married lady, I always, always show my husband appreciation for everything. (I believe that’s the reason he’s so willing to do anything for me!)
Appreciation is essential, so much so that a guy will avoid a relationship, or break off a relationship, when a woman won’t or can’t show him sufficient appreciation.
4. Expecting him to make you happy (and blaming him when he doesn’t)
No relationship will ever make you whole, happy, or fulfilled. That’s the little-known fact about relationships that no one likes to talk about because it’s not as romantic as the idea of someone else coming into the picture and filling your life with sunshine and rainbows.
The truth is that you need to come into a relationship already happy, fulfilled, and whole, and then allow that to spill into the relationship. Happiness is something you put into your relationship, not something you get out of it. A relationship can certainly add to your overall happiness, but it can’t be the sole source of it.
5. Being jealous and insecure
I get it. Maybe you’ve had your heart broken in the past and maybe you’re trying to prevent it from being broken in the future. But panicking every time he glances in another girl’s direction, going through his phone and e-mail, and interrogating him after any amount of time spent out of your vicinity is not the way to stop your heart from being broken! In fact, it is one of the fastest ways to ruin your relationship and have your man think you’re completely insane.
Being paranoid that he’s going to cheat will not make him less likely to cheat, but it will make you afraid and insecure, and these feelings will seep into your relationship and poison it. Oftentimes, jealousy is the result of your own insecurities. If this is the case, you must make an effort to figure out the underlying cause and get a handle on it. Other times, your guy just isn’t trustworthy. Maybe he flirts with other women, maybe he has cheated in the past. If this is the case… it might be time to assess why you’re with someone you can’t trust.
Nagging never gets you results. It turns you into his mommy, and he’ll just shut you out like he did her when he was younger!
In any relationship you have to pick your battles, so try to let the small things slide and see the good instead of picking at the bad. A lot of battles are losing ones because most men don’t care about the things that women do. He may not see the point in hanging his coat in the closet when there’s a great spot for it over on the chair, a more convenient spot at that because he can easily grab it when he needs to go back out again. Yes, you find this incredibly annoying, but if you nag him then you become the annoying one. If certain things really bother you then definitely bring it up, but again, try to come from a place of love and appreciation.
7. Being too critical
I don’t know why we do it, but we ladies just can’t seem to stop ourselves from picking our man apart. We might really love him, we might be totally turned on by him, we might think he’s amazing in every way … yet we will always manage to find something wrong, something that could use just a little tweaking. I have a theory that this is a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt, a kind of defense mechanism that stops us from getting in too deep. Or maybe we just naturally see the potential in something and are usually skilled at manifesting that potential.
Criticism and nagging are kind of under the same umbrella, but criticism can take a more sinister form as it attacks the person, not simply a behavior.
Usually when we’re critical of other people, it’s because we are critical of ourselves. Try being nicer to yourself and learning to appreciate who you are, and see how this carries over into your interactions with others. Being too critical can stir up a lot of resentment in the relationship from the one being criticized, and resentment ruins relationships, so do whatever it takes to control your critical instincts.
8. Being negative
There is nothing lovable about someone who is demanding, nagging, sarcastic, bitter, frustrated, or angry. That’s not to say he’ll stop loving you when you’re like this, love doesn’t turn on and off like a light switch, but it will be harder for him to act loving towards you when you come at him from this negative place. Being mad at him for not spending enough time with you doesn’t fill him with a strong desire to be around you, because no one likes being around someone who is pissed at them or doing things because they were guilted into it.
Being fun and pleasant to be around is what will make him want to spend time with you. When you are happy and you appreciate him and bring positivity into the interaction, he becomes addicted to you. He wants to clear his entire schedule for more time with you, for more of that amazing feeling, because nothing else in his life can give him that. Nothing can ever compete with the feeling of being with a woman who is thoroughly happy with who he is.
9. Stressing over the relationship
No matter what stage of a relationship you’re in, stressing over it doesn’t do anyone any favors. There will always be something to worry about. In the beginning you might think that as soon as he commits, everything will be great and you’ll feel secure, but it rarely works like that. Instead you’ll worry about when he’s going to say he loves you, when you’ll move in together, get engaged, get married. If you do get married, you’ll worry about whether or not he still loves you or is still attracted to you, whether or not he’ll cheat … there will always be something!
Worrying sucks the joy out of a relationship and creates a tense, uneasy environment.
When you stop stressing out and obsessing about your own fears, worries, and nightmare scenarios, something great happens: you give the relationship room to breathe. Usually it’s at this point that both of you start enjoying the relationship a lot more.
This term gets thrown around a lot but few people take the time to really talk about what it means. Neediness usually comes from an emptiness within that we believe somebody else can fill for us. We may come to believe that some other person can give us something emotionally that we can’t give ourselves.
We believe this person can give us a feeling of being OK, of being worthy of love, of feeling good about ourselves, but those things can’t come from someone else, they come from within.
Neediness is more a state of mind than a set of behaviors. It’s a symptom of not learning to love yourself, of not yet having the ability to look at yourself through the eyes of love. It manifests as being chronically unhappy in your relationship and never feeling at ease. You may create more expectations and demands, thinking that once he satisfies them you’ll be okay and will feel good, but it never works out that way. Neediness chips away at your self-esteem, and your relationship suffers dramatically as a result.
11. Trying to change him
Don’t ever, ever get into a relationship thinking the other person will change; this is a massive mistake. So is trying to change your partner. The amazing thing about relationships is that we often do change and evolve along the way. We become better, more sensitive, more caring. We see ourselves more clearly, we see our strengths, our weaknesses. This is a natural part of being in a healthy relationship, but it doesn’t come about by force. And it happens when you start out accepting and appreciating the other person for exactly who he is.
This will sound counterintuitive, but if you want someone to change, you need to be in a place where you totally accept them and completely love them for exactly who they are right now. If you can’t do that, then it may be worthwhile to consider whether or not this is really a person you want to be in a relationship with.
About the Author
Sabrina Alexis is the cofounder and editorial director of anewmode.com and author of the bestselling book “10 Things Every Woman Needs to Know About Men.” Sabrina graduated from Boston University in 2007 with degrees in English and Psychology and has been writing about fashion, beauty, relationships, and wellness ever since. She launched A New Mode in 2009 with relationship expert Eric Charles, and the site quickly attracted a large following due to its unique and insightful relationship content, which gets to the heart of why men act the way they do, and what it takes to have a truly fulfilling, healthy, happy relationship.