And how to avoid them so yours will succeed.If your wife asked you to give a podcast interview with not just her but also your ex-fiancée, who happens to be a psychologist, how would you respond?
Andy Levine faced this exact question, and even though it sounds like a great way to blow your marriage, he said yes. Andy has been married to Sharleen Joynt, an opera singer and former Bachelor contestant, for five years.
In the 5th episode of their podcast, Dear Shandy, Margie, clinical psychologist – and Andy’s ex-fiancée – makes an appearance. Besides turning a terrifying prospect into an insightful conversation, Margie also shares the most concise list of relationship dos and dont’s I’ve ever come across.
She’s a true “bottomless pit of wisdom,” as Sharleen describes her. Here are the 6 most common mistakes Margie sees us make in dating and love — and how to avoid them so your relationship can thrive.
According to Margie, we do the same thing in relationships: We try to run before we can walk.
In other words: You can’t find true love before you truly love yourself.
Your life will never be perfect, and you can’t exactly time when you’ll meet “the one,” but until you feel genuinely satisfied with your life as is – your work, your health, your non-romantic relationships – that should be the baseline you’re working towards, not “let me get a partner who can fix it.”
“Everybody knows what that feels like – when you arrive within yourself and you’re living in the heart of who you are. You start to attract the right people and things. And if you’re not there, you know it too, and so give yourself the time to get there,” Margie says. Amen.
This is what it means to resolve conflict in your relationship, but, according to Margie, a lot of people never even allow theirs to get there. “It’s not that you want to seek out conflict with your partner, but it’s important to test whether the relationship has the capacity for growth.”
How you do this matters less than that you do it, she says:
“What is the relationship asking of us?” is the key question here, Margie says.
Your relationship should grow, not contract, after each fight. For it to do so, you need the words “I’m sorry.” You need empathy, patience, and humility.
You need to find the path with enough space for both of you, and while it may not always be the fastest, it’ll be the one on which your relationship can last.
In fact, if you’re constantly frustrated that people aren’t who you need them to be, you should evaluate whether you actually love them, Margie says.
Or, in Andy’s words: “Fixer-upper is for houses, not people.” If your partner wants to change, that’s an effort you can support, but it’s not for you to decide when, how, and why other people evolve. That just leads to entitlement, gratification, and manipulation. The exception to the rule? Lead by example:
Still, never change in hopes of changing your partner. “Understanding that you can’t make people different is a really liberating thing.”
If your partner starts smoking and smoking is a no-go for you, you can observe the situation for a while. You can see if they have a desire to stop you can support, and you can try being accommodating to your partner’s habit. Realistically, however, you can neither expect them to change nor give up your principle. This might be a line in the sand you can’t overcome.
“Adult relationships are not like parent-child relationships,” Margie says. “When a parent loves a child, it really is unconditional.” When two adults come together, however, it’s normal to expect some form of give and take.
Don’t test how much your partner loves you. Don’t play child-like games. Don’t expect them to take whatever you dish out, Margie says. It’s not fair.
You’re not a bad person for not laughing off every stupid decision your partner makes, and neither are they for not putting up with all your antics.
You’re two grown up people, living in the real world. Act like it.
Whatever problem you have in your relationship, when you talk about it, you’re already working on it. Bring up important issues. The trick here is to realize that anything is mentionable, as Mr. Rogers would say:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
Don’t be afraid. Talk about your feelings.
Not pushing your partner’s buttons is a good start, but you’ll also have to let go of bigger issues – as long as they are not more important than the relationship itself. Andy learned this in his relationship with Margie:
Your relationship will never be the only thing that matters in your life, but you’ll face situations in which you must decide that it matters more than anything else. Margie confirms:
Some problems must be solved. Most needn’t be. Protect your relationship.
All You Need to Know
With her charming soberness, Margie ends the conversation:
For Andy, the “stuff that was miserable” led him to marrying Sharleen, a relationship he describes as “so rock solid that I can have this memory lane conversation with my ex-fiancée, and I know we’re not gonna have a fight about this.”
You might not end up on a podcast with your spouse and ex-fiancée, but if this rock-in-the-ocean kind of relationship is what you want, heed Margie’s advice:
- Give yourself time to become someone you like
- Allow your relationship to face conflict
- Understand you can’t change other people
- Accept that romantic love is conditional
- Talk about anything
- Let go of everything less important than the relationship itself