Jackson Bliss explains why these five relationship mistakes can be lethal
1. THE AMBIGUOUSLY OR CONVENIENTLY UNDEFINED RELATIONSHIP THAT ONLY BENEFITS YOU: You’re afraid to put a label on what you are. Maybe you just got out of a 10-round, knuckle-down, bruiser of a relationship. Maybe you or your partner has major commitment issues or a history of cheating. Maybe you’re not looking for a relationship and you sense that s/he is. At some point, though, this relationship becomes a black eye because one of you starts to have feelings and that inequality creates instability, power issues and insecurity in the relationship. Because you’re trying not to appear needy or pathetic, or because you remember the last story s/he told you about a psychopathic ex and a boiled bunny, you try as hard as you can to play it cool. Except it’s not working anymore and you (or your partner) are silently hurt that the other person doesn’t want more from the relationship. It doesn’t matter if it’s impossible. It doesn’t even matter if the two of you would make a shitty couple. It starts to gnaw at one of you that s/he is fine living in a world without boundaries or expectations. In theory, hooking up without boundaries or definitions makes so much sense. But when one of you is not cool with the situation anymore, then neither of you can pretend the relationship is working anymore.
2. THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET IN YOUR BOOKMARK: You like porn. No shame in that. In a healthy relationship, there’s enough room for sex, intimacy and fantasy (just as long as the porn you’re watching isn’t degrading, abusive or objectifying). Besides, sometimes watching porn helps you take care of your sexual needs without projecting them on to your partner. And that’s probably a good thing in moderation. But if you retreat more and more into your X-rated world when you don’t get your way, or because you’re trying to get away from your partner psychologically, that’s a problem. Soon, you start watching so much porn that the images bleed together and burn inside your brain. You start superimposing a pornographic template onto reality, or you only get aroused when you’re on the computer. You start to feel like shit about yourself because your hands are always down your pants. The problem isn’t masturbation. It doesn’t even have to be porn. It’s the way you’re using porn to punish your partner for not being a porn star. It’s when you can’t separate (phallocentric) fantasy from a shared reality. It’s the way you expect her/him to be a porn star. It’s the way you try to act like a porn star even though s/he doesn’t share the same fantasy. It’s the way you close yourself down to human intimacy by making your own sexual needs more important than the relationship itself. That’s on you.
3. CONFLATING FAMILIARITY WITH ENNUI AND ATTRACTION WITH COMPATIBILITY: You walk past an attractive girl in the street who twinkles her eyes at you. Or one of your classmates (or coworkers) gives you flirty eyes when you talk with him. It makes you feel young (again). It makes you feel sexy. It makes you feel like you’ve still got it, whatever the hell it is. Eventually, you fantasize about that person just a tiny bit. Everything up until this point is fine because fantasies are pretty normal. But then you do this: you start finding faults in all the things in the relationship you once loved. You start feeling oppressed by your partner. You start telling your friends that you’re bored (to set up the moral infrastructure for your infidelity in case you decide to fuck everything up). And sometimes, when you’re really being a selfish asshole, you cheat on your partner with the classmate or the coworker or the random stranger on the street because you can. Because s/he articulated her attraction to you without actually confessing anything. So for a while, you have sex with someone your body doesn’t know and feel invigorated. You start leading a double life. You begin lying regularly to partner #1. But then reality sets in, the sex starts to get old with the person who once eyefucked you innocently before. As it turns out, you’re not actually compatible with partner #2, you’re just attracted to temptation, you just missed being wanted by another person. Then, you start to have second thoughts. You wonder if you made a mistake (too late!). You basically just destroyed a relationship because you were curious, because you enjoyed the affection and the sexual invitation of another woman. Maybe, at the bottom of everything, you realize you’re really not in love with your first partner, but you went about it the wrong way by cheating on her. The rule is, the (wo)man you cheated with is never half as good as the (wo)man you cheated on. But now it’s too late and you have to start over again. Unless, of course, you’re too pathetic to be straight with your partner and tell her what really happened and why s/he wasn’t crazy after all. But that makes you an even bigger asshole than when you were just a cheater and a psychotic.
4. CRITICIZING OUR PARTNERS FOR NOT BEING THE PEOPLE WE THINK THEY SHOULD BE, EVEN THOUGH THEY’VE NEVER BEEN THAT WAY: People change. They change all the time. But some people are afraid of change and some don’t want to change (or know how). You don’t like it when your partner tries to change you and yet, you expect them to magically transform into a Brazilian supermodel (see #2), a rabid Colts fan, a ripped hunk of eye candy, a instantaneous brainiac, a defender of the peace, a sensitive hipster suddenly in touch with his/her emotions, a big spender, a porn star (#2), an instant Romeo (see #1), an emotional slam poet and a twerking nympho in the bedroom. Maybe, if you’re lucky, s/he will become the fantasy you’d always hoped for. But it’ll be on her terms, not yours. You don’t get to make that decision. You don’t get to encourage (read: bully) them into being something they’re not ready for, something they may never be at all. You’re not the bigshot director and s/he’s not the leading actress in your own movie either. If you wanna get down with Princess Leia, watch a damn George Lucas flick.
5. SETTLING FOR A SHITTY RELATIONSHIP BECAUSE YOU’RE TOO LAZY TO FIND A BETTER ONE: At first, things are pleasant. But then you stop going on dates with your partner. Or the two of you sublimate all of your love and romance into your jobs, raising your kids, your dogs, anything besides actually working on your relationship. You don’t have real conversations anymore. You barely speak at dinner, and when you do, it’s about the food. You don’t go on vacations together at all, or you go separately. A quick, dry little peck replaces the sexual intimacy you once had. You hide in the den or the basement to evade and deny reality, not to establish safe space. The two of you drift away from each other. The love—if it was ever there—has been annihilated by bills, lay-offs, mortgage payments, baseball practice and bad TV sitcoms. Before you know it, you’re functioning on autopilot but you secretly hate your life. Eventually you say “fuck it” and stop fighting the good fight for yourself. The problem is, the expression “fuck it” isn’t an excuse for your sadness and self-loathing. If you’ve done everything you can to make your relationship work (and be honest with yourself, have you?), if you’ve given it everything you’ve got and you’re still unhappy, if your relationship is truly kaput, then don’t live in the bunker of an old war. Don’t sleep in the abandoned hotel of a relationship, especially when it makes you feel like an emasculated, unsexy piece of shit. You deserve more than that. And so does your partner. When you leave, or when s/he leaves, you give each other permission to find happiness again someplace else. Know when to go all in and when to let go, brother.
Image credit: Flickr/striatic