You don't need to Google "relationships + happiness" to know that they're irrefutably linked—though if you do, countless studies will come up, each one providing further evidence that "loving relationships are key to happiness." And it makes sense. I've often said that my family comes first, followed by friends, passions and hobbies, then work (in that order). The strength and stability of the relationships I have now, from Geoffrey to my mom, and even acquaintances and coworkers, directly contribute to my mood and overall happiness. In some cases, like the bond I have with Sloan, they provide me with a sense of pride and purpose.
As a teenager and into my early twenties, I went through several relationship-related obstacles—including nonstop bickering with my mom, a dramatic breakup, and making friends in an entirely new city—that influence the way I create and foster relationships in my thirties. As a friend, daughter, wife, and mother, I've realized that I can pinpoint mistakes I've made in relationships to three key points. Here are three relationship mistakes I made—which you might be able to avoid:
In romantic relationships:
When I was first out of college and living in LA, friends were scarce and I was essentially on my own for the first time (college was still very much a safe bubble). Because of that, the thought of breaking up with my long-term boyfriend—even when there were red flags—terrified me. I remember feeling like he was all I had, and I essentially let my world revolve around him. In retrospect, I let myself feel 100% dependent on him for happiness and comfort, which wasn't fair to me—or him.
Well, you can probably guess where this story is going. He ended up breaking up with me to attend law school (very Legally Blonde of him). At the time, it crushed me, but looking back, it was one of the best things that could have happened. It forced me to go out and venture in L.A., make friends, attend things solo, and get to know myself without him being a huge part of it. A turning point came when my boss at the time invited me to a company picnic and I declined, fibbing that I had plans. When he asked what my plans were, I confessed that the only reason I didn't want to go was because I didn't have a plus-one. In the end, I went to the picnic and had a blast—but most importantly, learned I didn't need to put the burden of my happiness on someone else.
I've dealt with friendship growing pains that felt just as significant as heartbreak. Especially when a friend has been in your life since childhood, or you spent every day together in college, it's hard to let them go. But as people change, there's no rule that you have to stay friends. Now, I use a baseline trick to check if someone is still worth going out of my way to get together with. If I catch myself talking about past memories every time we get together, rather than creating new ones, they're a "Remember when" friend, not a real friend—and probably aren't worth my time anymore. Instead, I devote my time and energy to my real friends, the kind I've grown and changed with and can't imagine my life without. But the good thing about a fizzling friendship is that it doesn't have the finality of a breakup—if you find that your paths cross again in the future, and have a new set of common interests, you can always rekindle the relationship
If there's one thing I've learned about myself through relationships (and therapy), it's self-awareness. I used to be that girl who would plan her outfit the night before, make sure my lunch was packed, and review my schedule for the next day... in 2nd grade. I'm a natural planner, and tend to get anxiety if I don't know every detail of every day. And while that worked for me on my own, boyfriends and friends made me realize that it could get pretty obnoxious.
If I had plans with someone, whether it was a phone call or dinner, I'd be strict about planning the details. If they weren't there at exactly 5:00 on the exact corner we planned on, I'd call them out. A dear friend finally sat me down and bluntly, but kindly pointed out that my obsessive planning made her not want to make plans with me. Of course this was a huge blow, but I understood where she was coming from. I had simply never looked back at myself to realize that fault.
Since then, I've become more aware of going with the flow and accommodating non-planners. I've gotten better—and having Sloan has helped, because plans definitely go out the window often—but it's something I'm constantly working on, which my friends appreciate.
So whether you struggle with a similar fault or not, it's crucial to take a step back and reflect on yourself. What kind of friend are you? Would you want to hang out with you? It's never too late to improve to yourself, and you owe it to your relationships.
This lesson came from my mom in a particularly sad time. A family member had just passed away, and my mom was getting calls from friends and family. While she wanted to talk about her emotions, she found that nearly everyone calling would jump into their own stories: "When my mom was sick..." They were obviously trying to be helpful—and grief is always uncomfortable—but to this day, I remember my mom being affected by that. Instead of their stories, my mom wanted a friend to ask how she was. As simple as it sounds, she needed someone to listen.
Dealing with social anxiety, I've been that girl to chime in with my own stories. In a way, it makes me feel comfortable—especially if an awkward silence arises. Instead of asking more about my friend's life, or whatever we were talking about, I'd bring up my own life on auto-pilot. Seeing my mom go through that with my grandma really made me realize how important it is to just listen.
Are there any relationship mistakes you could have avoided? Tell me in the comments, below!