Big Mistakes In Making R-ship Decisions

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Big Mistakes In Making R-ship Decisions
Thu, 01-22-2009 - 1:28am

Ten Big Mistakes in Making Relationship Decisions

You’re in a new love match and feeling pretty great about it. You’ve been single for a while, and are long overdue for your turn at finding the right person and getting a steady thing going with somebody wonderful. But what’s that sensation of unease that keeps creeping up on you and tugging at your well-deserved bliss?

Deciding about a new or ongoing relationship can leave you feeling like you’re riding on a perpetual teeter-totter, unable to jump off. Daily, hourly, you make mental checklists and balance sheets, deliberating over your latest findings and observations, certain there is a correct answer if only you can gather the right data.

Believe it or not, there actually are some helpful methods for making these visceral choices. Take a stroll through this selection of potholes many others have tripped into, and see if you can detour around them- at least this time!

going for potential

This is the number #1 mistake in our hit parade. Starry-eyed lovers, caught in the favorable vision of all their partner could be, are indeed blind to who they actually are now (and probably will remain for the foreseeable future.) Infatuation creates a captivating glow around the beloved. Admit it, you’re smitten and you can’t see straight.

She wants to go back to school once she gets a better job? He has plans to start a jewelry business someday and travel across the country? It’s fun to dream together, yet we also want to temper the early stages of getting close to someone with a wary eye. Does she really have what it takes to set a goal and stick with it, independently? Does he have any track record that shows he is capable of following through on the kinds of wool-gathering you’re doing together?

It’s true, love can do amazing things, and you can support and encourage this person in so many great ways. This is a good time to get feedback from friends. They can give you a hard-headed view and help you consider the tough questions. Are you considering making a long-term commitment with someone who cannot match your lifestyle or personal values?

And stop clapping your hands over your ears and yelling, “La la la.” Your friends care about you, they’ll be around for the long haul, and really, they only want to see you happy.

ignoring alarm bells

You hear it in the distance, a persistent quiet voice that keeps you wondering- is this person right for me? Vagueness, negativity, sarcasm you pick up on in conversation- any of these may spell trouble, and if you are prone to glossing things over, you may allow this important information about the other person’s character or habits to slip past, unrecognized.

If you pick up on cues that your new flame manages their life very differently from the way you do, or has different standards for what was once quaintly called “conduct of life” (reliability, punctuality, ethical decision-making), best to make it a subject of conversation and get it out on the table. Once we begin to trust someone, we naturally overestimate our ability to know them, and their ability to know us. Psychology researchers refer to this phenomenon as the “illusion of transparency.” If you’re interested in reading this article, assume this illusion is operating to some extent!

we have so many similar interests

If only it were that simple. You’re both crazy about Pinots Noir, Golden Labs, or bird-watching. Or you love the music of Fats Waller, or exploring hot springs. Whatever. Feeling an affinity for each other is a powerful connector, sure, but does this mean you’re actually compatible? After all, how many other thousands of people love those things too?

Part of the phenomenon of attraction is the “halo effect”; we see certain features or characteristics of a person for whom we feel positive associations, and then view all of their behaviors through this powerful positive lens. So, not to rain on anybody’s parade, but the fact that you share an interest in picking wild mushrooms isn’t necessarily a predictor of future compatibility.

Consider also whether this is an actual prerequisite for you to get serious about a relationship, or perhaps you are looking at things a bit superficially? It’s vital that you know how to have fun together; however, finding a partner doesn’t mean people need to share every activity, either.

So maybe your sweetie wouldn’t dream of toting a 40 lb. pack through the mountains; but that may be a long weekend you take with your old gang once a year, while your partner stays home with a videofest of cheesy science fiction movies. To each their own. Anyway, shared enjoyment of wind-surfing or ballroom dancing won’t help you salvage the relationship if you have wildly different ideas about how to handle money or where to spend the holidays.

And after all, how exhilarating is it to have the person you adore introduce you to their interests and turn you on to musicians, authors or travel possibilities that you know nothing about?

maybe this was meant to be

Who isn’t susceptible to the magic of stumbling onto The One? Yet again, it’s the blindness we mentioned earlier, with the addition of a violin symphony muffling your ears. The myth of One Person Who was Meant For You is so enchanting, but in this big round world, how many possibilities do you really suppose there might be, when you use your rational mind?

The siren song of Meant to Be is a sure sign that you’ve got it bad and need to pay attention to what you’re doing. Like whipped cream, it’s fun and fluffy, but full of empty calories. You want a love that will nourish and sustain you. Go for the garlic pasta, it tastes good too.

…but the sex is great

Yeah, but how old are you? And what kind of a life do you want to have for the remaining decades? After all, George and Martha surely had dynamite sex before they actually ignited in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” Look at the tabloids in the supermarket and there’s plenty of (presumably) torrid energy in the lives of the rich and notorious. Angelina, Jen, Brad- the names change but the story remains the same- animal magnetism, instant attraction and over-focus on sex without much ability to engage in a substantial, honest relationship.

You can and are entitled to have all the hot sex you want, and more besides. Don’t feel you have to bargain on this one- if you’re wondering where you would ever find such terrific sex anywhere else, and thus can’t give up an otherwise shaky relationship, chances are it means there’s some way your sexual sense of yourself is limited or could use some scrutiny.

there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship

Not much to argue with there. Of course, this is completely rational thinking, but does that mean this is good enough for you? If the person you are involved with has problems with self-care, like poor diet and exercise or excessive computer use, or they can’t respond to conflict, or can’t stand feedback, you’re absolutely right, it’s not perfect.

In fact, it’s nowhere near perfect enough, and this needs prompt attention. As in #1, “Potential”, don’t allow yourself to take on a partner who you see as an improvement project. (Those really are only “Do-It-Yourself”!)

too late to turn back now

This common reason for continuing a relationship is understandable, but fatally flawed. We all appreciate the known in life, and the comfort of having someone close who has met all of your social network and parents (or even higher stakes, your kids) makes it tough to contemplate splitting up, even if there are significant problems in the relationship.

But staying together because the other person is already integrated into your world, or because you just plain loathe the idea of dating again, is a bit short-sighted. If you’re not happy in the relationship as it is, and it’s too embarrassing, or too much work, to go through breaking up, it’s likely it will eventually feel like too much work to remain together in the future.

he/she’s just going through a hard time

Another cousin to our previous theme of Potential, this is a popular variant that allows us to blur the reality of the jobless guy without a car into someone who is misunderstood and in an unfortunate rough patch right now. And by the way, can he borrow some money for getting his license renewed?

OK, maybe this is an overdrawn example, but heavy-duty shopping and credit problems, unpaid taxes, overdue child support, all point to a person who may have a struggle with the theme of responsibility in their lives, and that’s cause to wonder if they may default on their obligations to you as well. Of course it is possible you are meeting them at a time following illness or other unusual financial stress, but the idea here is to look at the overall pattern and what it might say about this person’s ability to actually invest themselves in a relationship with you, now.

it only happened once

You know what this is about, don’t you? That fascinating irrational defense mechanism popularly known as Denial. So, you’re becoming disillusioned with your love interest: a hint of a past indiscretion, drinking to intoxication, or getting flirtatious with your best friend?

Are we suggesting you should be rigid and unforgiving? Of course not, for true love must weather at least a few storms. But paying attention to noteworthy patterns, or just plain disrespectful behavior, means committing to act in your own best interests, without fail, to avoid replicating mistakes you may have made in the past.

they’re not quite ready- but I can wait

If everything else measures up and yet this factor is not in place, sorry, you’re still Out of Luck! If you fail to take this crucial element of readiness for a relationship into account, well, prepare yourself for heartbreak- or just a sad yearning that will linger over time, turning to bitter disappointment.

You may find a wonderful person who has so many of the qualities you’re seeking, but if they are newly-divorced and still-grieving; or getting over a breakup and taking time to date casually; or you just happened to meet them through work or volunteering and they are really not looking for a relationship right now, please, rein yourself in and take a close look at how widely your heart is opening. Seeking more than friendliness from someone who is not emotionally finished with an ex-spouse or lover is unlikely to lead to the satisfying, mutual relationship you have in mind for yourself.

The person who is not available enough to satisfy you, who has heavy work commitments that take precedence over your plans together, or the single parent who can’t manage the regular weekend trips that delight you and keep you going, may simply not be a match. You deserve a mutual connection with somebody who wants just what you have to offer; no more, no less.

You see, the theme here is, instead of the agonizing weighing of pluses and minuses, like a judge in a courtroom, you want to do a forecast, a projection of the relationship well into the future, based on your current experience. Any one of these factors may be easily explained, or you may just conclude some of these problems are ones you can live with; but when you see clusters of behaviors or decisions that give cause for concern, it’s time to jar yourself and speak up or otherwise take action.

Here’s to your courage and maturity for being willing to take a close and unvarnished look at your relationship! Hopefully there are some fresh thoughts here to help you get perspective and consider what you want and need from people who are close to you.

Even with the possibility of disappointment and hurt that goes with intimacy, it is also important to remember that we are always better off and healthier when we let people get close to us and keep moving toward relationships and connections with others, whether they are sexual relationships or friendship. We all need to know someone else deeply and be known by other people. Being able to choose wisely, and also treat others with respect and kindness in the process, is a gift we give ourselves.

***Author and website this article came from is unknown. This was not written by the person posting it.***

Edited 1/27/2009 11:59 pm ET by cl-2nd_life

"Ignoring the facts
does not change the facts"
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2007
Thu, 01-22-2009 - 4:32am
So much great advice. I don't often agree with broadly written advice, but this one is spot on.
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-07-2009
Thu, 01-22-2009 - 7:13am
This is perfect, every one is incredibly true. Actually I have more than a couple of friends I'm going to copy and paste this to because they REALLY need to hear it!
Community Leader
Registered: 05-14-2001
Thu, 03-10-2011 - 11:22am

~ cl-2nd_life