Mistakes in Relationships

Our relationship with other people is an intrinsic part of our life, yet, despite its importance, we often repeat the same mistakes throughout our life. If we avoid these mistakes in relationships, we will find them much more harmonious and fulfilling.

Some Common mistakes.

Trying to Change the Other

In society we often have an expression ‘When you get married, she’ll make you into a good man…’ At this prospect, we either shudder or laugh; but for many people they find themselves in relationships where there is a persistent attempt to mould and change the other person. When we try to change another person we invariably create friction and resentment, and push the other person away from us. Also, when we try to change the other person, it is often merely a surrogate for changing our own attitude. The difference is we cannot be responsible for another person, but we can change our own thoughts and behaviour. We can point out certain things, we can try and inspire the other person, but it has to be with the understanding that only he can make the change. Don’t hold onto the thought that the relationship will be successful, just as soon as you can change the other person; it will never happen.


“What is love? If love means possessing someone or something then that is not real love; that is not pure love. If love means giving and becoming one with everything, with humanity and divinity, then that is real love. “

– Sri Chinmoy 1

The world is filled with romantic notions that we will love a person for eternity, and nothing will impinge on this love. We feel that love and joy are limited and we need to protect our access to it. This sense of possessiveness easily creates jealousy and insecurity. We become jealous if anyone gets close. We become insecure we may lose the other person. Possessiveness is not healthy; it restricts relationships and makes them tense. It is important to have confidence in your self. Don’t feel your existence requires the presence of a certain person. You have to feel you are complete with or without other people. It is the nature of all human relationships that they are transitory; they may last one week or ninety years, but ultimately they come and go. All relationships are an opportunity to make progress and know more about ourselves. Don’t worry about holding onto someone, worry about becoming a better person.

Trying to Please

This may seem a paradox because we feel to make a relationship work we need to try and please the other person. Surely, it is good to think of the other person? The problem comes when we have to change who we are in order to try and please them (in the way we think will please him). The first problem is that we feel uncomfortable trying to be someone we are not, and our friend will pick up on this. Also, trying to please the other is difficult because how can we really know what he really wants? This does not mean we act in a selfish way. But, the basis of a good relationship has to be from a starting point of being true to ourself. If we are sincerely happy then we will be able to make the relationship work. If we feel unhappy and ill at ease – trying to be someone we are not – then the relationship is based on false pretences and is liable to problems.


“Love sought is good, but given unsought is better”

– William Shakespeare, 2

In human love we give to the other person, but expect something in return. When we love in a divine way, when we love unconditionally, – we give without expecting anything in return. When we give with expectation, we suffer frustration because our expectations are not met. When we love unconditionally, we can be joyful however the other person responds.

Brooding not Communicating

We sometimes feel that relationships should be perfect and any problem is a sign of weakness or failure on our part. Therefore, we tend to try and give the impression everything is fine, when actually it isn’t. This causes us to brood and not communicate. When we brood we inwardly think negative thoughts, and inwardly criticise the other person. This is not healthy as the negative thoughts can go round in circles and reinforce the previous problems. It is much better to communicate in a constructive way; explain why you feel unhappy for this particular situation. Don’t make the other person feel guilty, but share how your friendship could be improved. Try to let little things go, but we do need to communicate before our mind magnifies a small issue and becomes a big misunderstanding.


When we judge there is a feeling of inferiority or superiority, and guilt or pride. If we spend our time judging, the relationship will never be harmonious. This doesn’t mean that we can never point out flaws and mistakes; a healthy relationship needs this. However, we can always act in a non-judgemental way. When we point out mistakes we can do it without making the person feel inferior. Rather than judging, our relationship will be made stronger by forgiving.

If we really want to love
we must learn how to forgive.

– Mother Teresa

When we judge, we separate. Love is a feeling of oneness. We can feel we are just judging ourselves.


Photo: Tejvan, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

  1. Excerpt from Service-Boat And Love-Boatman, Part 1 by Sri Chinmoy
  2. Twelfth night – Act 3, Scene 1

Thinking of Others


Instead of thinking
Of everyone,
Just love everyone.

– Sri Chinmoy (1)

I was reading some aphorisms in a book when I came across this short poem, and it hit me like a proverbial metaphysical sledgehammer (whatever that might be) over the head. It made me realise how I waste too much time thinking of others.

We all have a tendency to think of others a lot. We sometimes remember their good qualities and how they helped us. But, unfortunately, we tend to think about how others have aggrieved us or let us down or how they are far from perfect. When we think of others, we can’t help judging them. When we are judging people we are not loving them. Love is not love when we spend all the time ruminating over their imperfections. As the immortal bard said with poetic brilliance.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

– William Shakespeare Sonnet 116

Avoiding Speculation

One of the most dangerous characteristics of our mind / thought process is to engage in speculation over potential outcomes. Our mind can come up with fantastic speculations, often fearing the worst outcome / worst motive of others. When we let the mind run riot, our thinking can gradually become divorced from reality; we can start assigning motives and false ideas about friends and families. This can be the cause for deep misunderstanding. (See: How to avoid misunderstanding) This is a good reason to spend less time thinking / speculating.

How To Love Others

What does it mean to love others? Perhaps it is hard to say, if the poets struggle, how can we write about love adequately? But, I think we can more easily say what real love is not. If our love is conditional, if we expect certain things to be reciprocated, this is just emotional attachment (See: difference between love and emotional dependence). Love is not judging the person with our critical mind. It is not about getting angry with someone because they are falling below our expected standards. We could say love is an instinctive emotion / quality; it is only that love often gets clouded with the darkness of our mind and thoughts. If we can avoid clouding our opinions with negativity, then naturally we will be offering our good will to others.

It is said that we hate whom we really wish to love. Hate is just blocking the natural flowing nature of love. If we remove barriers such as hate, then we can love others spontaneously and unconditionally.

Practical Steps To Take

Don’t Brood. When we brood, we inevitably spend our time thinking, (rarely positive) thoughts. Rather than brood, it is much more worthwhile to move forward, to do something positive. If we spend time with other people in a positive activity, we haven’t got time to brood over our inner thoughts – nursing minor grievances and feelings of being hard done to.

Don’t Think anything you wouldn’t say aloud. This is a bit of a challenge. Analyse your thoughts that come through your mind; would you be embarrassed to speak them out aloud in front of other people? We shouldn’t feel thoughts are not important because only we can hear them. They are important – they determine our mood, they affect the energy we offer to other people. We can choose whether to send good will or send our judgemental thoughts. There is a big difference between the two.

To some extent our thoughts will create outer circumstances. If we are constantly thinking negative thoughts about other people, it will inevitable create outer difficulties in our relationship with other people.

Thinking of Others Before Ourselves

One thing we often are told to do is to think of others before ourselves. What this implies is that we consider their needs / welfare; how can we help / serve others. This encourages us to be self-giving and selfless. It encourages us to offer good will to others. It doesn’t mean we just sit thinking of them. This is a practical implementation of love. When we put others before ourself, we are expanding our sense of self and becoming less selfish.

Further Reading

Photo: Suswara, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries. (Monks Cave, Kirkstone Pass, Lake District)

1) Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees vol 31 by Sri Chinmoy