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What Intimate Relationships Are Not Supposed to Be

RANDI GUNTHER Clinical Psychologist & Marriage Counselor

Many of the articles published on the creation of successful relationships are

focused on how to find the right person, create and authentic partnership, and

readiness to meet the pitfalls that will come.

To keep a relationship thriving, intimate partners make sure they do not betray,

work as a team, master communication skills, create satisfying sexuality, work

towards the same dreams, and support each other in times of hardship.

Yet, even if these well-established rules are followed, many relationships still

falter. The reasons are diverse and multi-layered, and I have heard many over my

four decades as a relationship therapist. But what is consistent amongst them, is

that the partners accepted certain behaviors at the beginning of their

relationships that became unacceptable over time.

In the shaping of a new relationship, most people understandably focus on what

they love about the other person, and push aside potentially sabotaging

behaviors that can become deal breakers as the relationship matures. They feel

that the strength of their love will be able to easily deal with them. Sadly, that

does not always happen.

So, instead of using the typical evaluations to predict the success of a relationship,

I’m going to ask you to approach this dilemma from a different perspective. As

you read through what I have found to be the seven most common lurking deal-

breakers, ask yourself if you allowed them to be part of your relationships, and if

they have ultimately contributed to their failures.

Behaviors That Relationship Seekers Should Never Accept as Part of An Intimate


One - Ownership

Lovers do not own each other. They may reasonably expect to be high priority for

the relationship’s resources but the automatic first choice in every situation.

Though the first few months of new love do promise that “always come first”

expectation, life requires other situations to take precedence and great partners

feel secure during those times of understandable absence.

The most common contributor to feelings of entrapment in a relationship come

from feeling that the other partner wants complete control of the other’s life


Two - Exploitation of Vulnerability

Too often a person lost in the difficulties of life will attract a rescuer who comes in

to help by becoming the mentor/symbolic parent/spiritual adviser to “fix” the

situation. Too often, that fixing is what the rescuer wants the other to be, not

what is best thing to happen. Molding is something a person may seek from

another at times, but never as payback for security.

Three - Pressure to Succumb

If one partner uses bribery, threats, coercion, threatened abandonment, ghosting,

gaslighting, pressure, seduction, over-talking, or any other kind of pushing to get

the other partner to subscribe to a way of life that is not good for them, the result

is never positive. The “pushed” partner may appear to succumb outwardly but is

more often martyred or angry on the inside, angry at themselves for selling out to

the emotional blackmail. Other, safer havens will eventually beckon.

Four - Score-Keeping

There are two kinds of giving and both are fine if authentic and above board. The

first is a clear transaction agreement as to what is offered and what is expected in

return, and agreed upon by both partners. The second is chivalry, the true one-

way sacrifice that is complete within itself and requires no reciprocity. Never

accept that something presented a gift will come with an unexpected price-tag


People score-keep when they fear they are being treated unfairly. They can be

that way from the beginning or suffer too many unmet expectations.

Five – Promises of Unconditional Love

Promises made by any partners that they will always be there no matter what, are

doomed to fail. Life choices change, demands come and go, obligations arise,

conflict go unresolved, dreams shatter or reform. The chosen partner knows that

they matter but never expects to always be supported and sacrificed to in every

situation and at all times. Certainly, there are sacred moments where both

partners put aside anything for the other, but it must never be an automatic


Six - Expecting to Always Be “Number One”

Interesting and interested people make the most successful relationship partners

because they live life so fully. A primary partner has every right to be included

and informed as to what their partners thrive upon, but never to believe that

relationship will fulfill all that the other needs to thrive. “I don’t care where you

get your appetite, as long as you come home for dinner,” is one of my favorite

aphorisms. Maybe added to it would be “and bring the best leftovers.” Great

partners bring the benefits of those external experiences home to one another

and the relationship is more alive as a result.

Seven - Perfect Compatibility

New lovers often turn themselves inside out to prove to one another that they

will always want the same things at the same time in the same places as the

other. If one is hungry, they, of course, the other is also. Sex, of course whenever

it comes up for either. Friends? Well, one has a few close ones. The other is

surrounded by constant social chaos and thrives on it. They both want children,

even if one didn’t feel that way before. They know they will easily and ultimately

fit anywhere and everywhere in each other’s lives. All differences will blend into

one perfect union.

Compatibility creates less challenge but also more predictability and less energy.

Different strokes for different folks, well received and relished, make for

continued interest and spice.

Eight - That All Outside Dimensions Will Mesh

New lovers live in a bubble. No one else matters and all other obligations are put

on a back burner wherever and whenever possible. Within that bubble, both

partners do everything they can to “blend.” No external threats are considered

nor allowed to burst that idyllic atmosphere.

As the relationship matures, life’s other dimensions arise and demand their fair

share of time and energy. Past relationships, family expectations, work demands,

social commitments, financial restrictions, hobbies, and other interests emerge.

Those prior dimensions now require re-blending as they present themselves.

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