Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What NOT To Do In A Relationship

I've talked a lot about what you should do in a relationship. We've bonded over shared stories of where we all went wrong. We've even discussed how to make being single more fun and less lonely. But something that a lot of time hasn't been spent on is what NOT to do in a relationship. The bad news is, these things can only be learned after they go wrong, and some relationships don't snap back from these sort of things. The good news is, you can take my and my girl friend's sharp learning curves and apply them to your life, maybe before you experience these bad behaviors in yourself. Here are the 7 most important lessons we've compiled from our dating histories. While I have never snooped in a beau's phone, a friend of mine did, to disastrous results, which more firmly implanted in me a desire to never spring into action over that curiosity, and now, might nip your yearning in the bud, too. And while we all have wished sometimes that we could change a man, I'm here to tell you that sorry, doll, but you can't. What are these things that brand you in a relationship as brightly as a scarlet letter?

Never, EVER, EVER look in his phone or email or planner or what have you. Believe me. It is not worth it to you to put yourself in that kind of pain if you DO find something that upsets you. Women have great intuition, so trust it. If you think he's creeping, he's probably creeping. So, make like I do, assume the worst, and act from there. What do I hate more than nearly anything? When the guy in bed next to me is getting texts at 2 AM. Do I assume some of these are from other women? Oh, totally. So instead of snooping around and either making myself feel like an idiot or making me someone he feels like he can't trust, I assume that if I were to look at his phone, yeah, I'd see other women. I don't like it, but it gives me enough of a shell that were I to ever be there at the same time as another woman (oh, and but it happened TWICE,) I'm ready to act with class, and not distress. And if he really isn't creeping? Then you all can feel better about it. Maybe I'm jaded, but I've learned to operate on "plan for the worst; expect the best." I expect to be considered the best and that a man would have the decency to acknowledge this, but I plan because sometimes we need to remember that people are, in fact, just people, and therefore, fallible.

REMEMBER-- Until you have the discussion about it, assumption can make an ass out of you, but it can also prepare you to either be strong, or pleasantly relieved. Also, would you want him going through your phone? OH, HELL NO.

In the words of The Clash, do not NOT stand by your man. If your friend is talking shit, prove her wrong. If your mom isn't his biggest fan, tell her the reasons why she should be. (The best argument for this is that he makes you genuinely happy.) Basically, be as loyal to him as you hope he's loyal to you. I've proved loyalty more times than I'd like. I've stuck through legal troubles, some dubiously unlawful activities, infidelities, and long-ass distances because I feel that when you find a good man, you don't let him go so easily, even if there are learning curves that may be a little steep.

What does loyalty mean to you? Is it something you can turn your head the other way from, or is it a deal-breaker? I can tell you from experience that turning the other way is more painful than it does good, even if it does stave off an epic WWIII blow-out. But sometimes it's more important to stand up for yourself and have that blow-up than to keep letting someone disrespect you.

Don't be together every day. Take some time off from each other. You start to appreciate each other more for the things you do, whether it's the way you bring him his favorite ice cream for a night in watching movies on the couch, or the way he smells when he sleeps at night. The best times I've ever had in relationships are the times when there's a little bit of absence. I'm an only child, so I'll admit it-- I like my space. If I spend the night at a guy's house, I prefer not to see him or talk to him the next day after I go home. I'm under the impression that everything that needs to be said has been said, and done, at least for a little while. You both should get to chillax without the other. In a recent interview with Katy Perry, it was noted that she started reading now-husband Russell Brand's memoir, "My Booky Wook," after they started dating, but, she said, "...then I stopped because I was like, I can't eat, sleep, and shit you. I need to just experience you." I think these are incredibly wise words from someone who has made major bank off of the fact that she kissed a girl and liked it. You CAN'T, and SHOULDN'T eat, sleep, and shit anyone other than yourself.

This also applies to phones. I was smitten when a guy I was seeing called me on the days we didn't see each other just to check in, but then again, HE was the one calling ME, not vice-versa.Don't be the blowing-up-the-phone girl. Let someone else be her, because she doesn't get responded to for long. Leave some silence in hopes that he's the sort of guy who will want to talk to YOU when he has something he wants to say, or needs a secondary opinion. Or just wants to say hey. Conversely, when you're in a really comfortable, effortless relationship, it doesn't really matter who calls whom, because it's not that big of a deal. When you're into each other equally, you know it. You lose the stress. That's a really nice place to be.

Don't be a bitch. Don't be a nag. Don't put the other person down needlessly. You say something you shouldn't have, you take a quiet moment to apologize for it later. End of story. Same applies toward men. You too, sir-- don't be a bitch.

The only flip-side to this is that sometime egos running rampant need a check. You should be comfortable enough with your S.O to provide that check, and know when to provide that check. They should also be able and willing to do the same for you.

Don't be a little piggy. I hope that you are not the only thing going for him in a man's life. I hope he has friends and family and a job and hobbies. I hope he has a favorite sports team and favorite TV shows and a favorite beer. I hope he plans vacations or at least road trips or hikes with his friends. I hope you're not the only person he goes out to eat with (in a non-romantic or dating capacity, that is. Then, I SINCERELY hope you're the only person he's going out to eat with). So, don't be little Miss Piggy and hog all his time. He needs time drinking beer and yelling at the TV screen with his boys. He needs to take his mom out to brunch and play with his nieces and nephews. He needs to work over-time to pay rent at times. Even if you don't needto do all those things as well, you need to realize that he does, and let him do them, sans you.

How would you feel if you had a girl's night planned full of cocktails and gossip and getting dressed up and going out to innocently flirt with other guys who you'll never see or talk to again (the girl's equivalent to a guy's game night with his dudes), and your S.O decided he was coming out with you? It'd just about put a dampener on everything, wouldn't it? So don't you be the dampener in his life! Respect each other's time and space and separate activities. (This includes cell phone privacy. If you want to tell each other who's calling, you can. But it's not obligational. I got into a spat with a guy over this. Same deal-- don't ask; don't tell.)

You can't change a man. I've been remarkably lucky in relationships for the past 2 years. The last 3 guys I've been with have all been the most intriguing, most considerate, and yes, most gorgeous I have ever dated. Last summer's was a virtual Greek athletic god on Earth; last fall's was ever so popular and out-going; and the most recent, well...the most recent has been not only quite possibly the most stunning person I've ever met, but also the most interesting, as well. But as attractive and impressive as all of these men have been, it still doesn't mean that they all were perfect. There were things about all of them that I would have changed, given the chance, and a magic wand. But as I learned, in the sleepy-and-whiny-5-year-old's-early-morning-hour's voice of the most recent, you "don't try to change meeeeeeee!" You can't change a man. You just can't. There are things that you can suggest-- like using a variety of punctuation, possibly investing in some boxer-briefs (the Wonderbra for men; I'm serious, they're like magic), or trying out some new positions in bed-- but you will never make spots into stripes. If you're with a leopard, and looking for a zebra, cut ties, and don't waste both your time trying to make an herbivore out of a carnivore.

Just like you can't really change a woman. I guess empathy is a big thing here. I know we're all guilty of making demands or suggestions that aren't the most graceful-- and here's my mea culpa-- but think of how you'd take it if a guy told you he hated the way you wear your hair, or wanted you to spend half the time it takes for you to get ready in the morning cuddling with him instead. I think we all know how that'd go over-- like a lead balloon. Like the Hindenburg crashing and burning. But with more fireworks.

For god's sake, don't let yourselves become boring! We all have routines. I'll admit it. After a lot of time spent together, we tend to develop habits. We're all guilty of this. You spend the night on Tuesdays, Friday, and Sundays. He makes lasagna for the two of you once a week. You have-- heaven save us all-- a sex routine down-pact. There is more to life than this! SHAKE THINGS THE FUCK UP. Don't spend the night on a Tuesday. Spend a Wednesday. Ask him to make something new, and tackle a different recipe together. Wear some lingerie to bed. For god's sake, try a new position. Variety is the spice of life.

But make sure to keep the things that you do love to do together consistent. Talk to each other about your favorite things to do together. (Yes, sex can be one of them.) Commit to doing those things with each other, even if it's a random, last-minute plan. (Not as in, "Hey, you're at work and on deadline with a really important project, and I'm grabbing lunch at our favorite spot-- wanna play hooky and come?" Even though that might be fun. More like, "Hey, I know the show starts in 5 minutes, but if you leave to come over now, you'll only miss the opening credits, and I can fill you in," or, "I'm at the bar, and the seasonal brews just came out! Wanna come down and grab a pint?") Watching favorite TV shows together is a great weekly bonding ritual. Spending a night together a week is crucial for keeping up with not only each other's lives, but also in keeping up your connection. Chemistry just happens sometimes, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have to be nurtured, just like everything else.

Feel free to comment with your own dating revelations and tips on things NOT to do, or the cases in which there are exceptions to the rules.



  1. Girl, this is all so very true, especially the last one. I know this couple who've been dating for about two years, but the way they act, you'd think that they were about to celebrate their twentieth year wedding anniversary. The girl (a friend of mine), is one of my really good friends, and we used to do tons of wild things together. But now (or rather, ever since she started dating him), we're lucky if we stay out past 1am. So, I guess my point is that being boring is not a toxic disease that only strikes the relationship between you and your man, but it can affect your relationships with everyone else around you. Remember what they did to lepers in the middle ages? They were shunned, and had their own colonies on the outskirts of town with all the other lepers. Boring people met the same fate.

  2. Carissa,

    I couldn't agree with you more on the first item. As a longtime married guy (almost 30yrs) 3 things were sacrsanct right from the beginning; our wallets/purses, our mail and now our cell phones. If she asks me to get something from her wallet/purse, I bring it to her and the same goes with my wallet. We NEVER open each others mail and I never look in her phone. We do these things not because we're afraid of what I'll find, but believe some things are totally private. We also have extended this habit ot both our boys.


  3. A relationship with emotional and physical closeness, that may involve sexuality or may come close to sexual expression, when desired.There is no aspiration to long-term commitment and no expectation of exclusivity.