We all have traps in life that we have fallen into, or will fall into. Hopefully, these are few and far between, and relatively painless – but all too often, we fall into traps where we have provided the bait ourselves, not recognizing at first what we are getting into. And once we’re in, the extraction process is much harder.
One of the most painful relationship traps that we can fall into is that of caregiver. Although the caregiver may be a male, sadly, most of the time it’s the female. The woman may gradually be eased into obligations that the man should actually fulfill. Many times, the man has children from a previous relationship and the woman, being the caring individual that she is, encourages him to see these children and take part in their lives. That usually means that the children will come to visit, and there usually has to be adult supervision of these children. Who ends up doing this? Typically, the woman does. She may find herself being the primary source of babysitting for the man to rely upon and, sacrificing her own time and energy, falls into a trap she hardly saw coming – that of primary, responsible parent. To compound this, she may have developed a real caring for the children, and vice versa.
Another snare that many people still fall into in the female role is that of emotional cheerleader. Of course, we all want to believe that we have the nurturing qualities that since youth we were led to believe were a necessary part of our personalities. But in a relationship between two adults, there should be a give and take of emotional support, with no person taking more than they are giving on an ongoing basis. All too often, one party ends up supplying much more than they ever receive, even in dire circumstances. This usually leads to resentment and frustration – a feeling of “why do I feel taken?”
A third, less tangible way where we are trapped is when we fail to encourage ourselves to make progress on our inner growth. This is often a result of not wanting to “rock the boat,” not wanting the relationship to change. We often perceive change to be a bad thing, but good relationships may change for the better when both parties strive to be more than they were at the beginning. The trap is when we never attempt to be more than we are, with the fear of out-distancing our partner.
A last relationship pitfall is when we (perhaps unconsciously) believe that good relationships cannot survive true intimacy. Intimacy is actually easier on a physical level than a mental one. I know people who are nonchalant in talking about their sex lives, but balk at talking about their feelings of fear or embarrassment. They feel that they are exposing their real selves to the other, “warts and all,” which they expect will not make them appear very lovable.
These are just four of the relationship traps that come along with, all too often, just being human. Of course, I’m betting that you can name many others, others that are just as distressing and as hard to get out of. When we realize what we are doing, however, when we can visualize the steps that have led us into these situations, the possibility is much greater that we will not repeat what we have done before. And not repeating self-defeating behaviors is another trap for us to avoid.