06/27/2012 02:28 EDT | Updated 08/27/2012 05:12 EDT

Relationship Woes? Maybe You're Making One of These Mistakes


There are three common relationship mistakes that many of us make, which can get in the way of our happiness and success in love. Understanding what these mistakes are and why we're prone to making them can help us learn to avoid them in the future.

The first mistake is thinking that we should settle for less than what we want. Some people have low self-esteem. Perhaps they were led to believe, while growing up, that they didn't deserve the best out of life, including in their relationships. These people are prone to settling for less, as they don't think they can do better.

In reality, we all deserve to pursue the type of relationship we want. It may not be possible in life to have everything we want, but we don't need to impose our own limitations, before we've even started to look for a partner.

Our friends don't help when they encourage us to tolerate a neglectful boyfriend or an unhappy marriage. They project their own fears onto us, assuming that we're just as anxious about ending up alone and just as desperate to hold onto our partner at any cost.

We're led to believe that we should settle for less by our own and our friends' low expectations. We -- and they -- are convinced that we should feel grateful just to have a relationship and not be so greedy as to think that we actually could be happy in it. Of course, the more we settle, the less we get, which only serves to reinforce our belief that better isn't available to us.

But why then is it that some people do get the great boyfriend or the loving, attentive wife? Who are these people who strive for more out of life and obtain happiness and fulfillment? They're clearly the ones who don't limit themselves with expectations of less. They feel entitled to have more, or at least to try for more, in their love life. And, because they don't settle, they're much more likely to achieve their goals.

Settling is a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more we settle, the more we believe that this is our lot in life, so we don't bother trying to do better. If we recognize that we're as deserving as the next person, and equally free to pursue what we really want in our relationships, we'll quickly see that settling for less is a big mistake.

Another problematic attitude in romance is trying to get our partner to change. We mistakenly view our partners or potential partners as projects that we can work on, as opposed to individuals with their own ideas of how they should think and act.

We have to see that people are unlikely to be motivated to act or think differently just because we want them to. If they feel inclined to change, it'll come out of their own need for personal growth and not because their partner wants them to.

If we insist on them changing, our partner might try to do so for us, but then they're likely to resent us for it. Alternatively, they can resist our attempts, which can create a lot of conflict in the relationship.

We have to be happy with the other person when we embark on a relationship with them. If there are things which we find particularly objectionable, we should be wary of getting involved with this person, as the likelihood of them changing for us and being OK with it is slim.

The last major mistake we make in our relationships is projecting the people from the past onto the people we know today. This is especially common when we confuse our current loved ones with our original loved ones -- our parents.

It's all too easy to imagine that our present-day partner is just like our mother or father, and to ascribe to them the same personality traits and motivations that our parent(s) had. We can imagine that they're critical, rejecting, or that they have unreasonable expectations when none of these things are true.

Worse, we can react with hurt or angry feeling toward our partner, thinking that they're behaving like our parent(s) when they aren't. They could become confused or angry with us in turn, which could then jeopardize our relationship.

Before we start imagining that the person we're involved with is like our parent(s), we should open our eyes and take a good look at who's in front of us. Perhaps they have some traits in common with our mom or dad. We are, after all, creatures of habit and tend to go after what's familiar.

If our partner does share some traits with one or both of our parents, that's not necessarily a bad thing, unless their behaviour is hurtful to us. No matter how similar your current parter is to your parent(s), however, they aren't your mom or dad and you need to stop behaving toward them as though they were.

It's clear, then, that there are three common mistakes we can make in our relationships. If we recognize and let go of these, we're likely to have a lot more success in our current and future relationships.