1. You’re assuming that true love should be easy.
When you fall in love, even the most mundane aspects of life suddenly take on new meaning. As much as you enjoy watching your favorite movie, it’s doubly awesome to watch it alongside your significant other so you can experience the cinematic pleasure from their perspective too. But while living day-today with someone you love can be incredibly fulfilling, it isn’t easy—not even for the happiest couples. There will be days when you wake up quasi-hating each other, stretches of time when your moods fall out of sync and you can’t seem to enjoy each other’s company at all, and weeks when everything seems to be going wrong for no reason. Love isn’t some magical force that protects you from Life’s shit. You have to work hard to steer through all the crap if you want to stay together. True love takes teamwork, and it’s hard AF.
2. You’re a little too truthful with each other.
I hate to burst anyone’s romantic bubble, but total transparency doesn’t facilitate lasting love. You don’t have to be totally honest with someone to build a foundation of trust. Sometimes, fibbing or omitting the truth is the decent thing to do. Your partner will need you to lie to them sometimes—to protect them from the reality that you woke up in the middle of the night fantasizing about another man or woman, or that they don’t actually look amazing in that new outfit you can sense they feel so confident rocking. There are times when a little white lie can go a long way in sparing a person pain and heartache. As long as you’re well-intentioned, skirting the truth isn’t always such a bad thing to do.
3. You’re comparing your relationship to others’.
It’s tempting—natural, even—to draw comparisons. With everyone broadcasting the highlights of their lives over social media and using ridiculous hashtags (e.g. #proudwife #solucky #loveourlife) to accentuate their boastful posts, it’s virtually impossible not to feel like you’re falling short in the happiness department sometimes. You want to be sure that you’re in a “good relationship”—that you’re not less happy than you should be. But the fact is that social media isn’t an accurate portrayal of anyone’s life. You know this because you curate your own feed to reflect your best self, featuring only the most glamorous, loving moments, all of which are filtered. With or without social media, the only two people who know what’s going on in a relationship are the people who are actually in it. It’s impossible to know what other couples’ lives are really like, so measuring your relative happiness against theirs is a laughably futile exercise.
4. You’re looking at fighting as a problem rather than a chance to learn.
Passion is awesome when it’s directed towards adoring the person you love, but when something goes wrong and your passionate feelings are suddenly coupled with acute anger, things can get nasty fast. When you know someone intimately, you have a lot of power to hurt that individual. At your weakest points, you will use that power recklessly. You will become the worst version of yourself, saying and doing things so out of character that your own behavior disgusts you in real time. You won’t stop—until you do. Every storm eventually passes, and when it does, it leaves an opportunity to learn in its wake. If you take something positive away from every battle, thereby seizing the chance it presents to do better, you will be far less likely to repeat the same mistakes. Fighting isn’t a sign of your impending downfall as a couple. It’s just part of the deal, really.
5. You’re not apologizing often enough.
The simple act of saying “sorry” regularly is critical. Why? Because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes as time goes by—some purely by accident, others out of complete idiocy, and still others because your inner jerk decides to shine through. Remember, you’re human. You’ll step on your partner’s already sore pinky toe at the suckiest time, you’ll forget to pick up the dry cleaning one night as you promised you would, or you’ll say something appallingly insensitive just to fuck with the person you love. Hopefully, you’ll regret every mistake you make, large and small. But feeling bad isn’t enough. You have to convey your remorse clearly every single time. If you want to grow as a couple, after all, you have to commit to personal growth, which requires shelving your ego and admitting when you’re in the wrong.
6. You’re dwelling on the past.
Healthy relationships are built on forgiveness and acceptance. Your significant other is an accumulation of everything they’ve experienced to date, so you have to accept every piece of their past, including those relationships with exes you’d rather not acknowledge and those ridiculously misguided things they did as a young adult. If either person is consumed by frustration over things that occurred in the other’s past, contempt will eat away at the relationship until its totally dead. You have to let go—not just in the beginning, when you first learn the details of your partner’s history, but throughout the relationship. As time goes by and you accumulate shared experiences—some good, some bad—you’ll have to practice forgiveness and plow ahead without harping on the problems you once faced. The art of moving on requires compassion and patience, and it’s crucial to long-term contentment.
7. You’re fixating on the future.
It’s always a good idea to set goals as a couple and to work towards meeting them together. Tackling a new exercise regimen seems a lot more like a fun game and less like an impossibly gargantuan, unpleasant task when you do it with someone you love. So does saving up to buy a new car, or speculating about what life would look like with kids in the equation. But if all you can think about is what you want from your future together, you’ll end up devoting too much mental energy to what might be instead of what is. You have to be careful not to dream at the cost of appreciating the present.
8. You’re interpreting every relationship doubt as a bad omen.
Only a fool is 100 percent certain of anything. No matter how deeply devoted you are to your boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re destined to doubt the strength of your bond occasionally. You will question whether or not you’re with the right person, and wonder if you’ll be able to make it long-term. You will speculate about what life would look like, had you made different romantic choices. There’s no shame in entertaining relationship uncertainty. Doubt creeps in when you least expect it, and it can feel like a serious betrayal of the person you love. But examining your life as an individual and as part of a couple is an entirely healthy pursuit. It certainly doesn’t mean that you weren’t meant to be together, or that you love your partner any less.
9. You’re afraid of change.
Change can be terrifying, but it’s also inevitable. Over time, circumstances beyond your control will force you to move or to switch careers or to adopt a new diet. You and your partner are both likely to change in ways you can’t predict at this very moment. You’ll pick up new hobbies and make new friends. One of you might join a different political party, or suddenly develop an interest in religion. People aren’t static. They’re fluid. You can’t shy away from change, even if it means deviating from the path that led you to each other. Instead, you have to find a way to evolve together.
10. You’re setting outlandish expectations.
Falling in love isn’t the answer to everything. Your relationship, even at its best, won’t necessarily make you feel whole, or happy. You will still have to answer to yourself every day, and figure out how to lead a fulfilling life. You have to figure your own shit out, so to speak—and even when you have a supportive, loving partner at your side, it’s tough. Don’t expect love to fix your life. When you set crazy expectations like that, you set yourself up to be crazy disappointed. There’s no such thing as a one-way ticket to Happily Ever After.