1. Unmet expectations
Think about all those expectations you have of what relationships should look like. How should your partner behave, speak and act with you? What needs and wants and desires do you expect them to fulfill? What do they have to say or do to make you feel loved?
Do they know? What about their expectations of you? What are all those silent wishes, hopes and desires that you’re keeping to yourself?
Still hoping that this is the week he’ll finally buy you those flowers you’re always hinting about or wishing he’d be more romantic and book that weekend away or wanting him to tell you how sexy you look in your new outfit?
Still waiting for her to say thank you for getting her car serviced or hoping that tonight will be the night she lets you do that thing in bed or wanting her to be more careful with the budget?
Well how are they supposed to know if you don’t say anything to them?
Silent, unmet expectations are the biggest relationship killer. They are a total manipulation. Expecting your partner to magically know what they should do to make you happy without you telling them and then punishing them when they don’t do it, is game playing and no-one wins. Unmet expectations leave people wanting, needing and never finding satisfaction.
Relationships thrive on clear communication, not assumptions. Get specific about each other’s expectations. What do you both want? You have to teach people how to treat you and be willing to let others show you the way in return, then you both find fulfillment.
2. Lying and deceiving
What are you not telling your partner? What are you hiding from them? What are you lying about? What secrets are you keeping?
Hoping she won’t find out that you’ve connected with your ex on Facebook again?
Hiding those new shoes in the back of the cupboard so he won't see them and ask how much they cost?
Being secretive about the fact that you haven’t been earning the commission at work that you said you were, so you're not going to be able to take her away in December?
Hoping he won’t find out that you’re still paying for your ex’s medical aid when you promised him you’d stop.
Lies and deception create a false identity, a misleading reality where your partner thinks you’re someone you’re not. It’s hard to keep that performance going 24 hours a day and finally the truth will emerge in an unworkable way, bringing confusion, betrayal and hurt with it.
Secret behaviours, concealed emotions, hidden agendas just erode your integrity every day and eat away at your conscience. You know that the longer you let this go on the more you’re destroying that sacred trust between you that took a long time to build. It’s hard to overcome broken trust, really hard. Some couples just can’t. So don’t set yourself up for failure here by continuing this behaviour.
You’re having another argument and they’re not listening. They’re getting defensive, throwing your words back in your face, accusing you, blaming you for what’s going on, saying they only behave the way they do because you made them. Finally, you stop talking. “What’s the point?” you think, “they refuse to hear me so I’m just going to stop speaking”. You shut down emotionally and retreat into silent treatment, becoming immovable and impenetrable. You refuse to engage or talk or give clarity on the issue or discuss solutions. No matter what your partner tries to say or do you refuse to respond, thinking your silence will teach them a lesson. You won’t look at them, you won’t speak to them, you won’t acknowledge them.
How does it make you feel? Righteous? Justified? Superior? Probably more like angry, lonely, futile and helpless. And your partner? How do you think they’re feeling? Humbled? Apologetic? Small? Guess what? They’re also feeling angry, lonely, futile and helpless.
You’re behaving like a sulky child. Stop it. Take a breath, go for a walk around the garden, organise your thoughts, get clear on what you really need to address without the long stories and emotional manipulations being thrown in. Come back to a conversation where both of you give each other the space to speak without interruption and listen, listen, listen! Discuss a solution and a way forward which works for you both and implement it!
4. Lack of initiation or gratitude
Who makes the suggestions for dates? Who initiates conversations? Who makes the plans for the holidays? Who initiates sex? Who arranges the kid’s extra murals and playdates and sleep-overs? Who fixes things around the house? Who chooses what you’ll watch on TV? Who makes the meals and the school lunches every day? Who drives all the time? Who pays when you go out for a coffee?
There are always naturally assumed roles in a relationship that partners are happy to play. Couples slip into a rhythm of “you do this” and “I’ll do that” which is the way it should be, shared responsibility. Often, though, the responsibility is not shared equally and it tends to fall more on the one person than the other. When it’s always one partner’s job to keep initiating sex or always suggesting a conversation to discuss relationship issues or always having to make the dinner even though they’ve also worked all day and are just as tired as the other, things get out of balance quickly. When those acts become expected without others giving acknowledgement or gratitude, people start to feel unappreciated, not seen, not heard and not valued. That’s when resentment creeps in.
It takes a lot of work and conscious effort to make a relationship work. That effort needs to be rewarded in the same way a flower needs to be watered. Lack of attention and care leads to a withering and decay.
Both of you should be sharing responsibility in equal amounts and efforts for the logistics of your relationship, especially around sex, communication, parenting and looking after your home. Make sure that the roles you’re occupying really are by agreement and choice and not by assumption or expectation. Once in a while, surprise your partner by initiating something that they always do, which will make them feel loved and you'll feel like you’re really showing up, everyone wins.
Always acknowledge and notice and share thanks or gratitude for what your partner does for you and your family and make sure they do the same for you.
5. No boundaries
Boundaries are invisible lines that we hold in place to stop our space being violated and to keep what’s inside our space protected. Our boundaries determine how far we allow others to enter our personal space by giving clear instructions to people on how you want to be treated. It’s also understanding how to treat them. Having clear boundaries is an absolute necessity for you to have a healthy relationship.
Internal boundaries are about your relationship with yourself. How do you keep agreements with yourself? Are you committed to doing all those things you promise yourself you’ll do (eat well, exercise, read more, meditate) or do you let your partner’s needs become more important than your own? Do you manage your thoughts, emotions and behaviours effectively or do you allow yourself to get manipulated into saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’?
External boundaries are put in place to manage other’s relationships with you and to teach them how you want to be treated and spoken to. It’s very important to have boundaries around all of these areas in a relationship:
Spiritual - follow a spiritual path of your choosing no matter what judgements others may have and don’t judge them in return.
Emotional - manage your own emotions, don’t dump them on your partner. Know your limits of what you can and cannot give and make sure your partner understands that. Stop feeling guilty about saying no.
Mental - have your own ideas, thoughts, values, opinions and beliefs without needing to justify or excuse them to anyone in your life. Your partner doesn’t get to impose their ways upon you and nor can you impose upon them.
Physical - be very clear on who you will allow to touch you and how, where and when it’s OK for that to happen. Respect other’s physical boundaries as well.
Sexual - knowing how you like to be touched and held and expressing how comfortable and safe you feel. Being strong enough to say ‘no’ when anything isn’t OK.
Material - how do you want you personal possessions to be treated (books, clothes, car, furniture) and how do you treat other people’s possessions?
Technological - controlling how much you allow technology to affect your life and the communication in your relationship.
If your partner isn’t respecting your boundaries or you are disregarding theirs, you both need to stop today and reset. Address each of the areas mentioned above and talk about what boundaries you want to put in place for all of them and why. Teach your partner where those lines are, learn about theirs and be clear on what the consequences will be for ignoring them.
Avoiding these 5 behaviours can have a powerful, positive impact on the happiness of your partnership. Steer your troubled relationship in a healthier direction by taking the time to admit to each other where you've been behaving in ways that are not OK (whether it's consciously or unconsciously). Declare your intent to stop what's not working and create a plan of what needs to change for things to be better.
Communication is the secret to rectifying all of these unworkable behaviours as well as compassion, care and conscious action towards a solution that works for you both.