Some of this is based on personal experience, but most is based on years of observing other people, and working with other people at the counseling center.
1. Commingle your finances with someone you're not married to. If you're married, the law provides a system for deciding who gets which debts (or in which amounts). If you're not, you'll end up in court and you'll have to be able to prove that the money you gave your former affinity for plastic surgery was a loan, not a gift (good luck with that) and ditto on the car payments, food, furniture and all the rest of it. Blubbering, "I trusted him or her" isn't usually going to do any more good when you're talking to a judge than when you're talking to your erstwhile friend/partner. Judges are notoriously hard-hearted.
Several of the examples which follow are specific instances of 1.
Money is so often the sticking point in relationships, particularly
when they end.
2. Co-sign a loan. Unless it's a child or a relative, and you are truly prepared not to get paid back EVER, DON'T DO THIS. Give them some money if you can; say no if you must; but don't put your credit on the line for anyone else. It's like you're handing over control of your future ability to buy a car or a house or a college education for your kid to someone else----someone else who wouldn't need you to co-sign a loan if they hadn't already destroyed their own credit. Think they'll be more careful if it's your credit? Think again. Someone who ruins his or her credit doesn't understand why credit matters.
3. Get someone else a cell phone. This never, ever works. If you get an extra "free" phone with your plan, just say no. Your phone plan isn't something you should be sharing with anyone else, not even your mom. Don't believe anyone who promises not to go over 10 million free minutes per month allowed by your plan. Whoever it is, and however generous the plan, he or she WILL exceed the allowable minutes----probably by an additional 10 million minutes and the person who is liable to the cell phone company is you.
If you want to get someone a phone, buy a Virgin phone and a card for a specified number of minutes. You'll pay a lot less if you just go ahead and make the investment up front. Buy them a "top up" card every week or month. At least you'll have control of what you spend.
4. Borrow money from your credit card to lend to someone else. No! No! No! No! If the only money you have access to is money you borrow from your credit card, you don't have money. Don't ever do this--- for anyone.
5. Expect to control your grown-up child's or grown-up husband's or parent's or boyfriend's amusements, life-style, or life choices. The thing about being an adult is that you get to decide these things for yourself. If you're contemplating moving in with another adult, make sure you discuss ground rules BEFORE you move in. If overnight guests are not allowed, or if you aren't prepared to tolerate controlled substances in your house, make this clear at the start (preferably in writing). Don't wait till after the fact to find out just how incompatible you are; but if you make this mistake, either learn to tolerate the other person or get out. You don't have the right to make somebody else change to meet your specifications.
If you think a friend or loved one is in trouble, you can stage an intervention, or you can call the cops on someone who is breaking the law, but at the end of the day, you DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT to stop your grown up son or husband from looking at free porn on the internet, cross-dressing, or refusing to go to the church of your choice. If you try, it's going to end in tears and screaming.
6. Invade another adult's privacy. See number 5. I don't care if the adult IS your child or husband, or if she IS your girlfriend or best friend: you don't have the right to do any of the following: read his or her mail or email, to review his or her cell phone or credit card statements, to go in his or her drawers or handbag, or to have him or her followed or otherwise monitored. Invading someone's privacy is an affront. Some people--I am one of them---think it is such an abuse of intimacy and proximity that it completely vitiates the misconduct you're trying to establish (yes, even cheating). Getting access to information by invading someone else's private space proves something much worse about you than you will ever prove about him or her.
Either you trust the person or you don't. If you don't, you need to have a chat. If the chat doesn't resolve things, you need to remove yourself from the situation so it's not your problem anymore. If you have to spy on the other person, the relationship as you knew it is already over.
7. Ridicule the other person's relatives or friends. I don't care if the other person said it first; this is something you must never do. If you can't get along with the parents, the children, the sister, or anyone else, it's fine to explain that you don't feel it's in anyone's best interest for you to socialize with them but stop there. If pressed you can smile wistfully and say something vague along the lines of "Your mother seems so uncomfortable when I'm around," but that's the most you can say. Never, ever say anything derogatory about the relative's or friend's character, personality traits, appearance, or beliefs.
Make the other person say, "It's not you, it's them/him/her." And just smile ruefully and demur.
8. Get between your divorced parents, your spouse and the spouse's ex, or a friend and the friend's ex. If you want to take sides, take sides, but don't place yourself in the role of the other's defender or advocate. There are always two sides to every quarrel and you only know one of them.
Before you know it, you'll have pissed everyone off. If you get in the middle, you're going to end up with both of them furious with YOU.
9. Expect to have control of the remote all the time. It's just a metaphor, but you know what I mean. Let the other person make some choices.
10. Spend all your time pursuing your own interests without making time for the other. If you're online or at the gym or studying all the hours God sends, your spouse, your girlfriend, or any other person who is supposed to be in a relationship has a right to be pissed off.
They don't have a right to try to stop you, but they also don't have the obligation to "support" you by having no life of their own. Just don't come crying to me when they decide they will get more out of life by giving their support to someone who pays attention to them.
11. Have a secret relationship with someone who is already in a relationship or who is in a relationship with someone who doesn't approve of you. That's not going to work,, ever, ever. A person who has to keep you a secret from other people in his or her life at first isn't going to get over this phase at last, no matter what they tell you.
If you're being kept secret, it means that someone else has got hooks in him (or her) too deep for extraction. People who want to walk away from a relationship just walk away---it happens all the time. Those unacknowledged dependencies aren't going to go away, no matter how much you and the other person wish they would.
12. Develop elaborate expectations about what someone else owes to you. After you stop being a child, nobody owes you a damn thing: money, sex, attention, compliments, reassurance, time, allegiance, birthday presents. Someone can like, or even love you, without necessarily sharing your assumptions about what liking or loving implies.
Life is not an "If>then" proposition; people just behave as if it is. If your husband buys you an $800 vacuum cleaner for your anniversary instead of the bracelet you were hoping for, try to see the gift from his perspective: maybe he thought that the vacuum cleaner would make your life easier so you'd have more energy for spending time together; or maybe he's like my husband, and secretly thinks most jewelry is sort of ugly.
Before you assume that the other's failure to live up to expectation supports a particular conclusion about one or the other or both of you, check it out with the other person.
People are NOT all the same. Some people think love means bringing you glasses of juice while you're sick; others think it means leaving you alone. Don't assume your assumptions apply to everyone else.
If you don't pay attention to this, you'll find yourself screaming "YOU DON'T LOVE ME! YOU NEVER LOVED ME!" and hurling plates and things; and perhaps breaking off what might have been a good relationship for you just because the other person failed to act the way you assume he or she should.
13. Neglect to educate yourself about the other person's needs and expectations and to make reasonable efforts to meet them. Yes, I know what I said in 12. But if you care about someone, you'll try to do some things you know will make the person feel good even if you don't see the point. (For example, my husband bought me a beautiful ring I wanted even though he couldn't understand why I wouldn't rather put the money toward a vacation.)
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