We all make mistakes. Whether or not we are willing to confess them is another thing. Whether or not those confessions are earnest or just for show is something else entirely. It’s for the best though. Those who refuse to learn from missteps are doomed to repeat them, and perspective instead of pretense, humility instead of haughtiness, will always benefit you in the long run.
I turn to the personal here in an attempt to appeal to the universal. Here are some of the biggest mistakes (made generic) I’ve made in my life when it comes to relationships—or at least the ones I’m willing to admit through the subjective lens of my memory and ego. Surely it’s something.
Starting One Relationship Before Finishing the Other
I feel like this is a common one. In my head I knew my current relationship was coming to an end; the excitement has disappeared, and I was far too easily interested in other people. So much so in fact, that I pursued dating someone else, in a half-hearted way so as to not fully commit to anything. Of course the person I was with didn’t quite know this; surely deep down she did. It’s a move out of fear; not willing to end one relationship before knowing another is in place. Fortunately I didn’t tread too far down this road, eventually I acted decisively, ending one and starting another, though the overlap was a cowardly half-measure.
Ignoring the Individual
If you’re in dating mode, if you’re swiping left and right at breakneck speeds, if you have a rote response to a match on OK Cupid, it’s pretty easy to bring a general attitude to each person you meet. They aren’t yet individuals; they’re just whoever is next, templates of a partner. And because of this, it’s easy to bring things from other relationships and put them on the person. It’s easy to fill in any unknowns, any concerns with that mined from past relationships. We bring so much to new relationships that it inhibits unique growth. When dating so frequently, it’s so easy to assume so much about the other, not letting them reveal themselves while simultaneously figuring someone else is simply next in line.
This one is pretty obvious and rather common, but it’s a very specific kind of cheating. It’s the cowardly kind where the immediate goal is to get attention from someone new and to feel validated, while the long-term goal is simply to get caught and force the breakup. This is what I did. In general, I imagine most people feel some sort of guilt; of course they are able to justify, rationalize, compartmentalize, or repress that guilt. Once the act of cheating is done the first time, it instantly becomes easier to do it mentally and emotionally, and eventually the partner will find out, leading to an inevitable end, painfully and humiliatingly.
Just like I and others have looked to cheating to end a relationship, instead of doing it properly and having a mature conversation, wavering, hesitation, and other feigned uncertainty is another great way to jerk someone around. Now yes, with new and budding relationships comes an amount of curiosity and concern, trying to figure out a potential future while juggling everything that is going on in the present, both within and without the relationship. But a great way to hold up a relationship that you don’t want to progress in, while still benefiting from the current situation (with sex, likely) is to waiver. Professing to not know what you want is an easy way to keep the status quo. More often than not, the person does know, they just don’t want to admit it or know how.
The Bottom Line
In fact, most of this list comes down to honesty and communication. Instead of being direct, trusting ourselves and the other, we do what is easy, which also happens to be selfish, manipulative, and harmful.
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. You can follow him on Twitter @MrAnthonyWrites.