We typically think love means a heart-shaped box of chocolates or the last page in a storybook, but in reality, love is no easy feat or fairy tale. In 2022, a quest for love looks more like a week of texting back and forth that goes nowhere than a romantic montage. On top of the last few years resembling a horror movie more than a rom-com, most of us have ingrained habits that are holding us back from the happiest relationship possible, whether we’re in one already or still swiping through Bumble.
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Brief but important side note: If a relationship is not high on your list of priorities, you do you, and this article is not meant for you. Throw on this playlist, read this article, and keep on with yo’ bad self.
But for the Everygirls who do want a perfect relationship, here’s the good news: We can fix the bad habits holding us back from finding pure relationship happiness, but it requires some brutal self-honesty and reassessing what “happy” truly means. Whether you and your partner keep getting stuck in the same fight or you’re swiping right on every dating app to no avail, here are eight surprising habits that might be hurting your love life.
1. You have trouble with commitment in other areas of your life
So you’re fully committed to your partner (congratulations!) or maybe you’re so ready to be in a relationship that you know you’d go all-in if you found the right person. However, if you’re unhappy in the city you live in or you can’t stick to one job, commitment issues might be showing up in other areas of your life. The problem with non-relationship commitment issues affecting your love life? If you’re waiting on a major life change like moving to a new city or starting a new job, you might not be as open to a new relationship as you may think.
When you’re waiting for your life to change, you may be hesitant to form a bond with another person (including deepening the connection with a current partner) out of fear of the unknown. So instead, work on achieving the life you want before you focus on finding a partner, or figure out how your current partner will fit into the dream life you want to have.
2. You want a relationship so much that it doesn’t matter who it’s with
Picture this: You really, really want to get married, so you ignore any red flags and warning signs because you’ve already invested too much time in your current relationship. Or maybe you become attached to new people early on because you’re thinking they’re “The One” (you’re just so tired of being single!). Sound familiar? You might be more interested in being in a relationship than about being in the right relationship. In other words, you’re more in love with the idea of love than with a person, which isn’t exactly setting up your relationship for success.
If you find yourself so ready to meet “The One” that you’re ignoring red flags or pining over people who are not worth it, take some time to examine why you want to be in a relationship. Is it just to have a plus-one or is it to live your best life possible? In the end, all we want is to be happy. Remember that a relationship for the wrong reasons won’t get you there any more than being single.
3. You respond to every text, DM, email, etc. right away
It’s 2022: The majority of us are addicted to our phones. Maybe you feel the need to respond immediately when a Slack message from your boss pops up at 9:30 p.m. or you want to get back to your friend ASAP when she’s texting you about boy problems (#beentheredonethat). But being bombarded by constant distractions means you’re not being present in the moment and therefore unable to be present with your partner and give them your full attention.
You’re also training your brain to focus on everything except the present moment, which means a potentially good relationship could pass you by (and I don’t mean accidentally swiping left when you wanted to swipe right). Turn off notifications, schedule designated phone time, and then actively work on being present.
4. You don’t ask for what you want
If you have trouble communicating needs—whether it’s with family, friendships, or at the office—you’re likely going to have trouble communicating in a romantic relationship too. Are you expecting your boss to give you more responsibilities or you want your sister to call you more, but you don’t vocalize what you want and how you feel? If you have expectations without communication, you need a mind-reader, not a life partner.
Instead, practice asking for what you want with respect and empathy. Set up a meeting with your boss to go over where you can take on more responsibilities and let your sister know you miss her and wish you’d talk more. Communication in all other relationships of your life will help you communicate more openly and effectively when you find the right person to be with. If a perfect relationship is what you want, communication is the key to get there.
5. You expect a perfect relationship
Yes, this article is about how to find or achieve a “perfect” relationship, but one of the things that might be holding you back from finding the right relationship is seeking perfection. Let me explain: A “perfect relationship” should mean healthy, happy, and respectful love between two people. It should not mean you will always get along or your partner won’t have flaws. Expecting your relationship (and your partner) to be flawless will result in unrealistic expectations that cannot be met, no matter who you meet. In the best relationships, the love should be perfect, but your partner shouldn’t have to be. Accept people for who they are, but wait for people who don’t have to change for you to love them.
6. You don’t like your body
Sadly, our bodies sometimes hold us back from finding or having a great relationship. No, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with our bodies but because we think there is. A lack of confidence is often the #1 thing that stops us from finding a great relationship or committing to a great person to be with. We worry we don’t deserve the love that we want or we rule people out because we think we’re not up to their standards. When we do find someone we like who likes us back, lack of self-confidence can damage relationship intimacy (low self-esteem literally kills sex drive).
Instead of focusing on what other people think of you, start to focus more on what you think of them. You’re obviously up to their standards (duh!), but are they up to yours? Don’t forget that the way you feel about your body is not a reflection of the way it looks or how other people see you. Crank up that Lizzo, boost your self-esteem, and know that confidence is sexier than a pant size could ever be.
7. You’re not building healthy habits
You’ve heard that you need to love yourself in order for someone else to love you. While this is true, I think it makes more sense to say that if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of someone else (or expect someone else to take care of you). When you take care of yourself (i.e. you prioritize mental health, feed your body the nutrients it craves, and are intuitive about when and what you need to feel your best), you give off a different energy that not only attracts people to you but, more importantly, will also make you feel differently about yourself and your life. Work on breaking bad habits, implement easy habits that make your life better, and become a happier person.
8. You’re waiting on an end result to feel happy
I’ve said it before (and I’ll definitely say it again), but contentment in your life is a skill, not a circumstance. If you’re waiting on a different job, a better raise, a new apartment, a toned body, or a committed relationship to finally feel happy, you’ll never achieve it. It’s not cheesy, and it’s not cliché; it’s the most powerful way you can get what you want out of life (including a perfect relationship). Be happy right here and now, no matter what your job title or relationship status is. After all, the easiest (and only) way to get the relationship that will make you happy is not to wait around for a partnership that checks all the boxes but rather just to be happy, and then find a plus-one to an already enjoyable life.