There’s more information available about how to be happy in our relationships than ever before, yet so many of us continue to struggle with this essential aspect of our lives. 

The data tell a pretty sad story. 

About 45% of 1st U.S. marriages (the relationships people had the highest hopes for) end in divorce (with numbers significantly higher for 2nd and 3rd marriages). Infidelity rates are around 20-25% of all marriages, and over 50% of dating relationships, although the number depends on how you ask the question. 

About 35-40% of partnered people are not happy in their relationships or satisfied with their sex lives, and more than 50% want more sex than they’re currently having. Almost 10% report struggling with excessive porn use or self-perceived “sex addiction” . 

And, in case you were wondering, people in open and polyamorous relationships fare no better or worse than those in monogamous relationships.

Much of this dissatisfaction and suffering is a result of people making poor choices about their sex and love lives. The good news is it’s also almost entirely preventable. 

Here are the 7 most common and heartbreaking, yet avoidable, mistakes I see people make that prevent them from living their dream sex and love lives.

Are you one of these statistics? Worried you might become one?

You might benefit from the LoveSmarter™ University program: A breakthrough new conceptual framework and practical toolkit designed to help you stop making preventable mistakes in your relationships AND align your life with the sex and love life of your dreams. Sign up for the waitlist here

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Mistake 1: Living the life others want you to live instead of the life that is right for you

Every society and every family has specific expectations, norms, and rules about how sex, love, and relationships should or should not be done.

While there’s a lot of variation in levels of strictness, religious influence, sex and gender roles, etc, nearly all of them have a common thread – they offer a limited menu of options: Stay relatively or completely celibate before marriage, get married (ideally heterosexually), and stay fully monogamous throughout your marriage. Sounds simple, right?

In reality, the trajectory these norms suggest is merely one of many options we have for our journeys across the sex and relationships landscape.

These days there are so many ways to go about your sex and love life: strict monogamy, hot monogamy, monogamish, open relationships, swinging, don’t-ask-don’t-tell, casual sex, dating around, hierarchical polyamory, non-hierarchical polyamory, solo poly, relationship anarchy, intentional celibacy, and the list goes on…

While each of these is a good option for some people, each is also a terrible option for other people, and this can change with time and circumstances…even for the same person!

The ideal relationship type for you at any given point in time depends on your unique combination of personality tendencies and current life circumstances.

As I often say: there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sex and love. But you have to find and wear your own unique size to be truly happy in your sex and love life.

Yet, too many people never even begin to explore what their unique size really is.

Many unquestioningly accept the relationship structure and trajectory imposed on them by society and family. Others simply “go with the flow,” allowing themselves to be haphazardly taken in whichever direction the wind blows, never making intentional and deeply-considered choices about this key aspect of their lives.

Sometimes we get lucky and the default situation ends up being the right one for us.

But more often than not, following the wind or whims of other people leads to misery and frustration.

This is why it’s so important to get clear guidance on which of the available options is the right one for you at different stages of your life.

Mistake 2: Choosing an incompatible partner

Your long-term partner will greatly influence almost all aspects of your life: where you live, whether/how you parent, how you eat, how you spend your free time…

There’s so much riding on this decision. Choosing an incompatible match is one of the most harmful decisions for your overall health and happiness that you’ll ever make. Choosing a compatible one is one of the most beneficial.

Of course, you’re not going to find a clone of yourself (and that would be boring anyway). And many things can and do change over time…for better and for worse.

But there are many things about ourselves and our partners that we cannot or don’t want to change.

When these things are incompatible, it can cause serious strain on our relationships! Yet, all too often, we commit to people with these major incompatibilities…even when we’re aware of them at the start of a relationship.

These cause strife in all relationship types, but they’re especially insurmountable if you want a monogamous relationship that doesn’t permit you to outsource many of those needs your one and only partner just can’t meet. 

Some of the most common sources of incompatibility include major differences in:

  • the type of relationship you want (monogamy, open, poly);
  • sexual attraction to your partner;
  • levels of sex drives;
  • sexual preferences (eg. one is kinky, other is vanilla; or one loves to get oral sex, the other hates giving it);
  • need for alone vs together time;
  • love languages (ways you like to show and be shown love);
  • how you like to spend your free time;
  • desires for parenthood (one wants kids, the other doesn’t);
  • parenting styles and philosophies;
  • views on how to manage relationships with other family members;
  • levels of health-consciousness;
  • financial priorities or spending habits.

If you’re single and looking for a partner or in the early stages of a relationship, please be super honest with yourself and your (potential) partner about whether you two are compatible for a long-term partnership . 

If you’re already partnered and want to stay that way, you may have to live with some incompatibilities, but there is often still a lot you can do to navigate them with as little friction, frustration, and resentment as possible.

Mistake 3: Skipping The Relationship Talk(s) early on

You know how parents should ideally have the Sex Talk(s) with their kids early and often, but in reality most parents have “The Talk” wrong, way too late, or not at all?

That’s what happens for romantic partners and “The Relationship Talks.”

The type of relationship you’re going to have (monogamy, open, polyamory) at different stages of your journey is a key aspect of compatibility. Yet, most people never sit down and have the conversations necessary to make sure they’re aligned on this issue and agree on how exactly they’ll go about it.

Instead, people just slide into default monogamy after dating for a while since that’s the societal norm, whether or not that’s what they truly want.

When, many years later, one partner finally tries to have “The Talk” and attempts to change the structure, they often realize their partner is absolutely not interested in such a change.

They then find themselves facing one of 3 almost equally bad options:

  1. remain in the same relationship format they’ve been in and are not happy in;
  2. end the relationship in search of someone more compatible; or
  3. make unilateral changes without their partner’s knowledge and consent (i.e. cheat).

While some of these options are more ethical than others, none are win-win. It’s not a situation you want to find yourself in if you can prevent it.

If you’re not partnered, or just starting a relationship, I cannot overstate the importance of having the conversations you need to have with your potential or new partner so you make sure you’re building toward the kind of relationship that’s right for both of you…

… or walk away before you’ve invested too much.

If you’re partnered and haven’t had The Talk(s), it’s not necessarily too late. A lot of people come to these conversations years or decades into their relationships, and they can go well… if you have them the right way.

Which brings us to the next point…

Mistake 4: Bringing up major relationship changes
the wrong way

Ok, so you didn’t have The Talk early on, and later realize you don’t want the default monogamy. Are you doomed to lifelong unhappiness, suppression, breakup, or cheating?

Not necessarily.

You can–and many people do–have The Talk(s) later in their relationships, but there’s a right and wrong way to go about it.

If all goes well, they manage to find a new format that makes them both happy. If it doesn’t, they can find themselves in a worse place than where they started.

Many factors determine how things will go, but one that can make or break attempts to transition into a different relationship structure is the way they bring up this issue with their partners.

Expressing a desire for some type of nonmonogamy can be a painful and confusing experience for the person on the other side.

Even when done skillfully and with excellent timing, it can unearth insecurities, doubts, fears – “does she still love me?,” “is this just an excuse to leave me?,” “does he just want to have sex with other people?,” “is there something wrong with me?”…

Do it carelessly or at a poorly-chosen time and place, and it can scar your partner, do more harm than good, and push the relationship towards the point of no return.

If you’re going to attempt having The Talk(s), please make sure you have the proper language and skills to find the right time, place, mood, words, and tone to have these conversations in the most supportive and effective way possible.

Mistake 5: Rushing major relationship transitions

Let’s say your initial conversations about transitioning to a different relationship type went relatively smoothly, and you’ve decided to move to a different place on the relationship map.

Say you’re going from strict monogamy to an open relationship, or from open to polyamory, or from some version of nonmonogamy to monogamy.

One of the most common mistakes: Rushing things before one or both people are ready and properly equipped.

Everyone moves at different speeds given their unique combination of needs and limitations, and there’s no one right speed to move. Packing up and moving from one “country” on the relationships map to another is a major step filled with countless obstacles along the way. You have to approach the journey with the seriousness and care it deserves.

If you’re going to embark on this major undertaking, make sure you and your partners understand what exactly it entails and which tools you need in order to do it safely, acquire at least some of the skills and tools you’re going to need, then go at a pace that feels manageable to everyone. And enjoy the process of discovery together!

Mistake 6: Confusing equality with equity

In general, equality means everyone gets allocated the same resources or opportunities.

Equity recognizes that each person has different needs and circumstances, so it allocates different resources and opportunities to different people so that everyone reaches the same outcome. (This article from the George Washington University Institute of Public Health illustrates the difference well.)

In relationships, the ideal outcome is equal amounts of happiness for both (or all) partners. This often means different things for different partners at least to some extent, requiring the practice of equity.

Yet, people often try to achieve equal happiness by seeking equality instead: Setting up the same rules or agreements for both partners.

For example: “If you date multiple people, I need to date multiple people”. That works great if we both want to date multiple people, and we’re equally ok with our partner doing the same.

But more often than not, partners don’t have the same wants, needs, and capacity to handle each other’s needs and wants. What if I don’t want to date multiple people? Or you’re having a really hard time with me dating multiple people right now?

When there is a mismatch of wants, needs, and capacities, equality in agreements leads to inequality in happiness.

For equal happiness, you need equity – giving everyone in the relationship what they need and what they can handle, even if that is fairly different across partners.

It’s the difference between the Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated (ie. equality), and the Platinum Rule of treating others the way they want to be treated (ie. equity).

If you want mutually happy healthy relationships for the long run, it’s critical for you and your partner(s) to truly understand your own and each other’s needs and limitations, then work together to find the most equitable solution for your particular situation.

Mistake 7: Neglecting your relationship

Even with high compatibility and shared goals, relationships require continued nurturing: putting time, energy, and effort into taking care of yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

All too often people:

  • Ignore their own or their partner’s needs;
  • Fail to communicate with each other;
  • Don’t spend quality time together;
  • Prioritize other people and things over each other;
  • Fail to show affection and appreciation;
  • Avoid conflict resolution and let arguments fester;
  • Fight in ways that are destructive;
  • Disrespect each other’s boundaries;
  • Take each other for granted;
  • Don’t go to therapy to resolve past traumas;
  • …the list goes on.

It’s easy to fall into these patterns, we’ve all been guilty of at least some of these at least some of the time. As the famous psychoanalyst Erich Fromm argued in his seminal book The Art of Loving (that is still as relevant today as it was when it was written almost 70 years ago), love is a skill that requires active effort and practice rather than a passive, spontaneous feeling, we’re often never really taught any of the skills we need for maintaining healthy happy relationships long term. If you want a happy, healthy relationship for the long-run, start developing your skill of loving.

Luckily, unlike some of the other mistakes that are harder to fix if you’ve already made them, this one is a daily practice – you can wake up tomorrow and start treating yourself, your partner, and your relationship better. You can’t completely erase past neglect, but except in extreme scenarios, you can undo a lot of the damage done, and create a much brighter future for your relationship .

With the right knowledge, skills, guidance, and support, every single one of these mistakes is preventable. You can also recover from many of those you’ve already made. But every day, week, and month you don’t take the right action is a step closer to bigger and deeper regrets at your deathbed. What are you waiting for?

No educational course or program can ensure you avoid or fix all of these mistakes.

But if you’re willing to invest in yourself, my upcoming LoveSmarter™ University membership program comes pretty damn close. You’ll receive everything you need to clarify your ideal relationship type, navigate your life to get you there as safely and ethically as possible for everyone involved, and ensure you have the skills to enjoy it sustainably when you arrive.  

 In April, we’re opening this program up to ONLY 105 members to join. Learn more and sign up for the Waitlist here.