We learn many things when we’re young but learning how to develop a successful relationship is not one of them. We come out of school knowing the square root of 144 and the capital city of Guatemala (Guatemala City in case we went to different schools). But not what skills and qualities are required to develop something that will support and nurture us for the rest of our lives.
As a result, we learn how to navigate the relationship landscape from whoever comes into our lives at the key moments.
Fingers crossed they know what they’re doing, or we’re doomed to years of reading relationship blogs and attending couples counselling, as we strive to create the relationship we dream about.
The habits we learn that hold us back are so ingrained in us from our families and culture that they can go undetected for years. Habits that are silently destabilising our relationships as we head full steam ahead for the inevitable crash. Then we wonder why it always happens to us.
Men particularly struggle because the habits and behaviours they have created as boys in order to survive don’t transfer to their intimate relationships very well. Habits and behaviours that have allowed them to fit into social groups and succeed in one time of their life, hold them back in another.
The alternative behaviours necessary for a successful relationship often weren’t modelled to them or valued whilst growing up. As a result, and without any known alternative, they continue to develop habits that weaken their relationships.
Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. We are able to change our behaviour but first we must notice our habits that have caused the problems.
That’s why I’ve found seven things that men need to stop doing so they can develop deeper and more meaningful relationships:
1. Stop Creating A Hierarchy
Look at your life and you’ll see that there are hierarchies everywhere; from the parent/child hierarchy of our childhood, to teacher/student at school, or employer/employee at work.
They’re everywhere, as we grew up with them and learnt to trust and rely upon them. As a result we instinctively look to place ourselves on one side or the other of them.
However, there are some situations in life that don’t need hierarchies, but we can easily fall into the trap of creating one out of habit and conditioning. Where do I fit in here and what’s my role? Who’s subordinate to who?
It could present itself as who is the stronger friend, the bossiest sibling or maybe who is the more dominant partner.
In relationships, this leads to men placing themselves in a hierarchical chain with their partners. This often leads to them regressing to the same dynamic they have experienced in their childhood. Mother/son dynamics playing out years later between husband and wife leading to mistrust, lack of respect and the loss of the sexual polarity necessary for a successful relationship.
There are opportunities to lead and to follow in all relationships and the most successful ones I see are when each person is able to move seamlessly from one to the other.
2. Stop Thinking You know Your Partner
It’s easy to let things slide in your relationship and think you’ve been here so many times before. With nothing new or exciting to look forward to things can get stale as you reach the ‘routine’ stage of the relationship.
The reality is that you don’t know your partner half as well as you think you do, and the sheer fact that you think you do is what’s damaging your relationship most of all.
Give someone half a chance to surprise you and you’ll be sure that they will. Show genuine interest in someone; be sufficiently curious to wonder each day what amazing insights you will learn from and about them.
Does your partner know everything about you? Unlikely, so why should you think you know everything about them? Become endlessly curious about each other and open yourselves up to learning something you didn’t know before.
This way you’ll be amazed where your relationship will go.
3. Stop Pretending
“Yes honey, of course, I’m listening?”
Only you’re not, she knows you’re not, you know you’re not, even the couple on the next table knows you’re not. So let’s forego the charade and stop pretending.
Thoughts are all pervasive and can disrupt even the most romantic of moments but sometimes we don’t help ourselves and some honesty is the best option.
“No, I wasn’t listening. I’m really sorry as I’m worried about something at work. But if you give me 20 mins I have to go and do this thing and when I get back I’ll be 100% present for you.”
The greatest gift you can give someone is your full presence. We can all tell when someone isn’t fully present and she can tell too, so stop thinking she hasn’t noticed.
Own it, be honest and get back into integrity with yourself as soon as you can.
4. Stop Blaming Her
When kids are young they regularly get into trouble and then try and get away with things. It turns into a game involving how they can deflect responsibility onto someone else before that person does the same.
We learn that taking responsibility comes with trouble and punishment, two things to be avoided at all cost.
That’s fine though, because they’re kids and they’ll learn the error of their ways. Unless they take the habit into adulthood that is.
I see the habit of deflecting responsibility in relationships a lot as people instinctively look to blame others for their own feelings and problems.
I had an argument with my partner recently. We were both annoyed, words were exchanged and I was entering victim mode right on queue. I was blaming her for everything that had happened and was getting very frustrated. I then decided to slow things down, I reflected on what was happening and I had an insight.
What I realised was that I had created the situation in so many ways and had set the foundation out of which the argument had grown. I decided to take full responsibility for my part in it and I explained this to her. She totally changed and then did the same and we were able to speak about it from a position of owner instead of victim.
Stop blaming her, take full responsibility for your part in what you’ve created and communicate this to her compassionately.
5. Stop Waiting For The Applause
So you picked up the kids on time and did the shopping on the way home?!?! Roll out the red carpet, it’s medal time!!
When we’re young everything we did was met with a standing ovation but that time has sadly passed and it’s time to get on and complete on our responsibilities.
I’ve heard men saying that they’re “on babysitting duty” when referring to caring for their own kids, implying that they’re going above and beyond what is expected of them. I wonder if they’re expecting a tip and a lift home afterwards.
Looking after the kids is what good dads do, and they do it with no expectations other than the opportunity to spend quality time with their children. They certainly aren’t expecting thanks for it.
Sharing the household and family duties is part of a modern family these days, yet there is a tendency for some men to believe that these tasks are favours. Favours that require some form of reward at a later date.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be thanked when contributing to the relationship. I’m saying that this shouldn’t be the motivating factor or expectation behind you doing so.
6. Stop Being Passive
Being ambivalent in a relationship is the equivalent of a limp handshake.
“I don’t mind”
“Either look good to me”
It’s not good.
The people in your life are demanding your leadership. True, authentic, passionate leadership is so rare these days that when we do find someone who displays it they’re declared a hero.
Being cool and easy going is not helpful, in fact, it’s selfish. It’s saying to the other person:
“I can’t be bothered to make a decision right now so over to you. Let me know when you’re done.”
There’s a saying that how you do anything is how you do everything. Taking this massive generalisation to one side for a moment, there is a truth here. Ask yourself how being passive about the small decisions is showing up in how you lead your family, at work, or elsewhere in your life.
Be clear, be concise, be dynamic. Lead and state what you believe to be true.
7. Stop Taking Her For Granted
This one seems so obvious I could have put it alongside, “stop cheating on her“, and “stop swearing at her“, but I’m going to include it anyway. This one creeps up on all of us at some point, even if we think “not me, I’m not that guy”.
Only we all know that you are that guy, I’m that guy, he’s that guy, we’re all that guy.
We all take the women in our lives for granted at some point. The sooner you notice you’re doing it and do something about it, the better.
I hope this post was helpful. Do you agree? Is there anything you would change or add to the list? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.
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To your success