Thrive Global
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Thrive Global


Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

I’ve been lucky enough to have been with my partner for 10+ years now, but our relationship hasn’t been without its fair share of struggles. We’ve learned a lot in trying to do life as a team rather than just two individuals next to each other, and as I watch people around me attempt to do the same with their significant others, I see a classic loop of pitfalls and potholes so many women are falling into that have taken me years to learn from in my own relationship.

Note: Of course, there are so many things that fall outside these 3 “mistakes,” which I’m only calling “mistakes” because for me personally, these have been avoidable actions I’ve taken that have gotten me into trouble that I’ve also remarked in the lives of several other women in relationships. I offer just my heterosexual, female experience under the assumption and experience that we’re all more alike than different.

Take from this what you will. As previously stated, these are things I’ve personally observed and learned from in my own relationship experiences.

1. You solve problems your partner doesn’t have.

Look, it’s a natural sign of love and affection for that special person in your life to want to make everything flow smoothly for them. When you love someone, you want to feel like you are able to remove unnecessary worry and stress from their days.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

When we solve problems for other people, what we’re really doing is saying, “I care about you. I don’t want you to experience something unpleasant.” It’s a great thing! Where we go wrong is simply assuming that our partners are having a problem in the first place. To put it simply (and something that took me quite a long time to learn):

what’s a problem for you might not be a problem for your partner.

For example, when I first moved in with my boyfriend, I took the liberty of switching his socks and boxers from their previous dresser drawers to larger bins in the closet because the drawer was just too small for all of his stuff. It couldn’t close all the way, and he was constantly shoving socks and boxers in to try and shut it.

Feeling like Wonder Woman, here to save him from this terrible evil of an overflowing sock drawer, I happily put his things into cute cloth bins. Ahh, problem solved!

And do you know what he said?

Spoiler alert: he said nothing.

I, at first, felt disappointed (all-time-low in terms of “Things That Disappoint Me,” I must admit) that he didn’t seem to appreciate the ease with which he could now access his socks and underwear. “Why hasn’t he said anything? Does he even appreciate everything I do for him? I’m just going to stop doing nice things for him without being asked and see how he likes that!” (Sadly, this is how quickly and irrationally things escalate in my mind sometimes.)

Trying to rationalize the situation though (and avoid being disappointed by a sock-drawer) I thought, “Now, logically, why wouldn’t he say anything?”

Option 1: Maybe he didn’t thank me because he hadn’t noticed.
This was highly unlikely because of course he noticed! He puts on socks and underwear every single day.

Option 2: Maybe he didn’t thank me because he didn’t think it was a big deal.
It’s not a big deal, but surely he’d say something…

Option 3: Maybe he didn’t thank because it wasn’t an issue for him in the first place.

Things like this are so hard to realize! It’s incredibly difficult for me to understand how a jam-packed sock drawer was not an issue for him, just like it’s incredibly difficult for him to understand why I need 4 throw pillows on the couch.

What’s a problem for you might not be a problem for your partner, and trying to be Wonder Woman who solves all problems is only going to leave you exhausted and disappointed. Sure, it’s nice to do little things for the person you love, but don’t feel sad when it appears they don’t notice. Remember who you’re doing the nice things for: you or your partner. If you’re truly trying to do something for them, make sure it’s something they’re going to appreciate and not something you’re going to appreciate. Sometimes, it’s best to do whatever it is you want to do with the understanding that this is for you and not for them.

2. You’re the victim of your own expectations.

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten mad or upset with my boyfriend for something in my own head.

This is what happens:
I will create a scenario in my head.
The scenario will not happen in real life.
I will pout and play the “Nothing’s Wrong” game along with the “Everything You Haven’t Done For Me” game (great combo, 10/10 would recommend for ultimate brooding) until bedtime where I get sucked into a Parks & Rec blackhole and (usually) forget all about it.

Case in point: I work late on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I like to go to bed with the dishes clean and counters clear, bags packed for the morning, so I can sleep peacefully and not feel rushed the next day. Michael (my boyfriend) knows this (and just rolls with it, praise Jesus.) So, as I was pulling up to our apartment in the dark one Tuesday night, I imagined the kitchen clean, dishes washed and trash out. “How sweet he is,” I preemptively thought. “So thoughtful, that boy.”

(I bet you already see where this is going.)

I unlock the door and shimmy through with my accumulation of water bottles and bags from the day, only to find the sink piled high with dishes, the drying rack clean, dry & full, a banana peel face down on the counter (inevitably leaving that yucky stringy stuff behind) and a full, stinky garbage can in the pantry.

I immediately went into a brand new game of “Everything You Haven’t Done For Me” while Michael was almost definitely playing “Yay You’re Home What’s For Dinner” (terrible games to be played simultaneously, just FYI.)

This particular night, I probably let out some fusses about how come nothing was done, how long had he been home, and “what am I, your housekeeper?” but I must say, I think I’m improving here because after some distance from the situation I see how ridiculous that is.

I literally made up a scenario in my mind in which I expected X, Y, and Z to be done, and when they were not done, I blamed someone else.

For my own expectations.

Now — let me pause briefly from letting you boys feel like you’re totally off the hook here and say this: there are many situations and circumstances when, yes, we do not vocalize our expectations but in which you are still responsible for meeting those expectations.

Why? We think of it as consideration. Fulfilling expectations without us telling you what those exact expectations are is not crazy, it’s considerate. It’s thoughtful. It’s kind. Just because we don’t always directly tell you what those expectations are does not mean we’re crazy, it means we think highly enough of your intelligence that maybe, just maybe, you will think of something on your own.

Ladies, we need to find a balance, though, between voicing our expectations and feeling disappointed when certain silent expectations are not met.

How difficult would it have been for me to simply give Michael a call on my way home and say, “Hey could you take out the trash and put the clean dishes away for me?” and avoid the missed-expectations completely?

But that would mean asking him to do something that I want him to just naturally do. Which leads me to number 3…

3. You think mind-reading is a sign of love.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Now, you might be thinking this sounds crazy initially, but hear me out, because we all do this. How many times have you and your partner had the awful “Where do you want to eat?” conversation? You know, the one that goes like this:

B: So where do you want to eat?

G: I don’t care. Whatever you want.

B: No, you pick. I’ll eat anything.

G: I really don’t care. I can find something anywhere.

B: Wanna just get sushi?

G: We just had that.

B: Alright pizza?

G: I mean I want something at least kind of healthy…

B: Okay well you pick then.

G: I mean I don’t care I just don’t really want pizza or sushi.

B: Alright well name a place then.

G: Why do I always have to decide?!

It’s a classic, man! And it’s absolutely ridiculous, because here’s what we’re really thinking: pick a place I want to eat, without me telling you where I want to eat, because if you naturally want the same thing as me, that’s a sign you love me (or, like, some kind of really great sign.)

THAT’S ridiculous.

But THAT’S the truth!

So many of us women believe that mind-reading is a sign of love — that if our partners know what we want without us having to tell them what we want, we’re truly meant to be or they know us so well or they paid attention that one time we said we wanted to try that new restaurant.

It’s insane, but it’s very real for so many of us women. We may not have even come to the conclusion/realization ourselves, but the idea of our partners wanting Chinese takeout at the same time we do without us ever having to say “I want Chinese takeout” is, like, so romantic in the weirdest way, right?

I literally think, “I know what I want, but I don’t want to tell you what I want, because A) some weird, old-school feminine place inside of me says you’re “supposed” to decide and I’m “supposed” to submit and because B) I want you to want this, too.”

For the record, I’m aware both A and B here are totally ludicrous, but correct me if I’m wrong here, sisters. Have you, or have you not experienced some form of this in your own relationship?

My solution for this is so terribly obvious even a man could think of it.

A man did think of it.

Many men in my life with whom I’ve had this discussion have given me this exact feedback: just tell us what you want!

I know, it’s not the answer you wanted to hear. You wanted me to tell you how to get them to read your mind! But the truth is: they aren’t mind-readers.

At best, they’re gentle-giants who will curse unnecessarily at the driver in front of them who didn’t use a blinker but then melt at the sight of you in your pajamas. At worst, they’re illogical creatures who think it’s okay to go 2 days in a row without showering and that as long as they haven’t crossed the threshold of the kitchen, they’re free to fart.

They’re weird.
They’re stinky.
They’re hilarious.
And they’re so logical it’s illogical.
They’re a lot of things, but they ain’t mind-readers.
Just tell him what you want! You can 100% follow-up with something like, “But I really only want to go there/do this if you want it, too. This will not be an enjoyable experience for me if I feel like I am the only one who wants to do this.”

In fact, I highly recommend explaining that last part to them because it’s been a game-changer and mind-blower for us. Once Michael knows that I’m indeed not a psychopath who expects him to read my mind and I’m just genuinely wanting us both to want the same thing (okay that’s still pretty psychopathic) things are so much different! You just have to get over yourself and that weird mind-reader fetish and say, “Look, this is what I want, but I will not enjoy it if you don’t want it, too.”

That’s just the way we are. I’m a strong, independent woman who will totally go #Lemonade on Michael if need be, but I have no shame in admitting I will bend for him in the name of us.

That’s really what it’s all about: an us concept over a me concept. If you remember that a relationship is a joint-venture meant for the elevation of you as individuals but only through the elevation of you as a unit, then you will understand the importance of sacrificing the “me” mentality for an “us” mentality — no shame or femininity sacrificed.



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Emily Steele

Emily Steele


lifter of heavy things: thoughts, words, weights, burdensome beliefs