I don’t think you should change who you are for anyone, especially not a guy, but I did have some toxic tendencies when it came to dating that needed a makeover. I began noticing that I did some of the same things in every relationship that slowly brought them to a halt, so when I met a great guy, I decided to change… for the better.
- I needed to stop with the nit-picking, already. This is a habit that starts small and soon grows into something major. The longer I was with someone, the more naturally it surfaced and over time, it became hard to let go of it. I’ve learned to determine whether something is actually worth complaining about or if I really care that he doesn’t put the plates in the dishwasher exactly to my liking. If I let those things go, there’s definitely less stress between me and my guy. Unnecessary conflict is avoided and my relationship doesn’t end over dirty dishes.
- I learned how to talk about things that bothered me so I didn’t explode. It took me too long to understand that talking problems through is a lot better than letting it build up to the point that it’d inevitably burst forth over something small. It’s a tough balance sometimes, but being mindful of what to let go of and what to talk about is key, and it’s been so worth it for me.
- I stopped comparing myself and my relationships to others because none are the same. Whether I was comparing us to another couple or myself to his ex, it’s an unattainable goal. I’m my own person and we have to find our own path. I used to set expectations based on what I saw our couple friends doing and I felt like a huge weight was lifted when I stopped. We found a way that works for us and that sets us up to win every time.
- I had to stop taking everything personally. “He’s not as talkative tonight—what did I do?” “He doesn’t want to go out—did I say something wrong?” It’s not always about me. In fact, he’s told me that multiple times. I don’t know why it was so hard for me to believe. I used to think I can always fix a problem, but sometimes, he’s just had a bad day. Maybe he’s tired, maybe his team lost, or maybe I’m not a factor at all in his misery! Once I actually applied his words and stopped making it about myself, it was easier to let him have his decompression time and he was back to himself much more quickly.
- Overreacting never helped me once. I’ll admit—if I start to sense a negative behavior pattern with my guy, I really hope that after it’s discussed, it stops. However, I’ve learned that’s not always possible. I have to decide how much it matters and how I choose to react. If it’s just a mistake or a miscommunication, there’s no need to continuously remind him he messed up. I can tell that every time I’ve overreacted, it’s made things tenser. If he makes a genuine effort to try, I have to accept he isn’t perfect and mistakes will happen. That kind of support can make a big difference.
- My relationship isn’t a sporting event—there’s no need to keep score. We’ve just had a fight and we’re in our separate corners, so what now? Well, I gave up what I wanted last time to make him happy, so this time it’s my turn. That kind of thinking doesn’t help me at all. Instead, we both need to figure out what the best outcome is for both of us to continue to grow.
- Threats and ultimatums are death sentences. I always had trouble giving ultimatums because my heart is never in them. I’ve found that I can cleverly re-word things that are mini-threats, but that’s not any better. If I need to threaten a guy to stay with me, the relationship is probably over anyway. I’ve had to lose that mindset and re-evaluate if we should even be together in the first place. If my answer is yes, I don’t threaten, I communicate.
- Being down on myself is unattractive, who knew? If I’m feeling bad about anything, I used to naturally start to spiral into my self-loathing mode. I tend to think I’m the cause of a lot of issues within my relationships, but that goes deeper when I start to think that it’s simply because I’m me. “I wonder if we’d fight less if I was just more attractive or if I lost some weight?” I’ve found that almost any guy I’ve dated has never agreed with my thoughts on that. However, hearing me tear myself apart over and over does damage on its own. Confidence is sexy, and when I show I lack that, it begins to take its toll on the relationships. My boyfriend thinks I’m great, why shouldn’t I? It changes the whole dynamic of the two of us instantly. I may not be perfect but I should remember my strengths.
- I needed to find a way to break the cycle. It was always easy for me to fall into a pattern with a long-term boyfriend. Day in and day out, we have a routine, and part of that routine may have been the same fight. We’d say we’d resolve it and then we wouldn’t. These days, if we still love each other and want to be together, we need to be willing to face our struggles head on and not let them become our norm. I can’t change or forget the past, no matter how hard I try, but I don’t need to bring it up with every fight.