10 Ways I Blew My Relationships

I’ve been single for a while now. My post-college dating history includes a 3.5-year relationship with a woman who moved in with me for a while, a 1-year long distance relationship….and then lots and lots of dates over the last 4 years.

Recently I read a blog entry called 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage that made me reflect on my past relationships. The writer has some fantastic insights about things he messed up or stopped doing once he was in a relationship. Actually, some of the things on the list are things that both he and his wife stopped doing. I don’t personally connect with everything he said, but there’s quite a bit that resonated with me.

So I decided to make my own list. These are things that are helpful for me as I move forward into better, healthier relationships, but perhaps a few of them will connect with you as well. Let me know if there are any on my list or the other author’s list that you think are worth calling out.

10 Ways I Blew My Relationships

  1. I Stopped Flirting: Not just me in this case–rather, we stopped flirting. I’ve come to realize that flirting is incredibly important for keeping chemistry alive in a relationship. There’s no reason it needs to stop after I’m in a steady relationship.
  2. I Stopped Saying Her Name: Again, we stopped saying each others’ names. Instead we used pet names. I love a good pet name–it shows intimacy–but every once in a while I really need to hear my name. And I need to say her name. Think about the last time you were in the throes of passion and your lover said your name. Not “babe” or “peaches” or “snugglymuffin,” but rather your first name. There’s a different kind of connection when you hear someone say your name and on one else’s. Anyone can be “babe.” But only I can be “Jamey,” and only you can be “Amy Adams.”
  3. Here's me the last time I was in a long-term relationship. So young, so naive...

    Here’s me the last time I was in a long-term relationship. So young, so naive…

    When I Wanted Her, I Rarely Did Something About It: I have a funny libido. It comes and goes. It can be triggered by proper flirting, but sometimes it’s stagnant for a while before it rears up out of nowhere. The odd thing is, I often didn’t act on it even when I was in full heat. I need to be better about that.

  4. When She Wanted Me, I Rarely Was Open to It: Perhaps some couples encounter this in reverse, but that’s how it tends to be with me. Again, I think it comes back to flirting–I can’t just turn it on like a light switch when she’s in the mood. But I need to be more open to the seduction, even if I already have specific plans for the next 45 minutes. Sometimes I need to have less structure in my life to leave room for afternoon delights.
  5. I Hardly Ever Went Out with Her and Her Friends: One of my girlfriends was very social, which was generally nice for me, because I’m an introvert. She didn’t rely on me for entertainment. But it got to the point where I hardly ever went out with her and her friends, and so I stopped getting to know that side of her. I don’t think she wanted or needed me on those social outings all that often, but every now and then would have been nice.
  6. I Poorly Communicated When Something Was Wrong: I’m the type of person who doesn’t realize how much something bugs me until it REALLY bugs me, and then I start acting weird. Typically this results in a girlfriend asking me what’s wrong, and I say that nothing’s wrong because I didn’t realize how wrong everything was until that moment, and so I need some time to digest it. But by then it’s too late, because she knows something’s wrong, and she starts acting weird, and I get annoyed that she’s acting weird, and it ends up being this huge mess. So I need to get better at figuring out that something’s wrong before it gets big, and then when she asks if something’s wrong, I need to say, “Yes, but I’m still thinking through it. Can we talk about it tonight?” Which might be annoying to her, but it’ll make for a much healthier discussion.
  7. I Stopped E-mailing Her: I love e-mail as a form of communication. I communicate best via the written word (well, second best next to carrier pigeon), and I often e-mail with women a lot during the “courtship” period. Then when we start dating, the e-mails stop. It’s natural for them to change–after all, an in-person conversation is ideal–but to disappear completely? That makes no sense. If it’s one of the key ways I connect with people, I need to continue to do that even after we’ve started dating.
  8. I Wouldn’t Do Her Favorite Things Without Complaining or Bargaining: We have this outdoor theater in St. Louis that everyone goes to in the summer. It’s a staple of St. Louis life, and it’s literally a 5-minute walk from my condo. My live-in girlfriend loved the idea of going to this theater (it’s called the Muny), and I had no interest in going, so I agreed to go with her once a year. I remember telling people about that idea like it was a prime example of a healthy, communicative relationship. What the hell was I thinking? That girlfriend went with me to every terrible movie I ever watched in the theater, and the best I could do was go see Les Mis with her once a year?! Come on, dude. And sometimes when I’d do stuff like that, I’d make passive-aggressive jokes the entire time or bargain for something I wanted afterwards. That’s not a healthy relationship. It’s not a game. There’s balance, sure, but if you love someone, sometimes you do things you don’t like just because you know it’ll make the other person happy. And you don’t ruin it by complaining or bargaining.
  9. I Stopped Kissing Her: This is one I’ll steal from the other guy’s list (it was between this and “don’t poop with the bathroom door open,” which is great advice) because it was so true for me. I love kissing, and yet I find myself kissing less the longer I’m in a relationship. I’d like to have one good make-out session every day, even if it’s only for 10-20 seconds. And I want to make sure that kissing is the only thing on my mind when that happens. My mind drifts all too easily.
  10. Break Up with Her in Real Life When I’ve Broken Up with Her in My Mind: So many times I break up with someone in my mind, but doubt myself, as if I’m missing something or I need a better reason than simply not liking her anymore. Then I continue to date her for a few weeks. I owe her the respect of breaking up with her in real life instead of putting her through an annoying couple of weeks.