A critical mistake people make in relationships

If there's one thing that leads a relationship down the road to ruin, it's when someone assumes that whatever they do -- no matter how selfish or heartless -- will be forgiven and forgotten, and that his or partner will always be there to receive them with open arms.

My girlfriend in high school learned this the hard way. She was as flaky as can be, telling me one minute that she wasn't ready for something serious and reeling me back in the next with hugs and tender messages.

Well, she was completely blindsided by my decision to end the relationship only a few months after we began dating. I just couldn't stand the games anymore, and I knew I could do better. I was then on my way to college, where a bountiful crop of single women awaited me.

I will admit that I probably asked for it. I was a bit of a pushover in those days, virtually worshiping the ground whichever girl I was interested in walked on. A similar situation played out with another girl I dated a few months later. After that relationship imploded, I started thinking that maybe I was somehow attracting these immature, commitment-phobic girls, and I needed to make a change.

The irony was that I was an unbridled romantic who poured my heart and soul into relationships and yet the girls I was drawn to seemed so emotionally vapid. I eventually learned that you don't have to tell someone you love them five times a day in order for them to stay with you. You don't have to buy their affection with gifts and constant love notes.

Instead, being a little mysterious -- leaving things to do the imagination -- can work wonders. No one wants to be the center of someone else's world; that's an awful lot of pressure to put on an individual.
People are more drawn to you when you have other things going for you in your life -- that makes them want to be a part of it.

Going back to the two girls I dated in high school, they relished the attention I was giving them so much that neither thought I'd do the unthinkable -- send them to you know where -- but I did. And it felt great.

Unfortunately, many people allow themselves to become doormats, and it isn't until they stand up for themselves that they finally earn the other person's respect. In many cases, it isn't until the latter gets dumped or scolded that they commit to changing their ways.

If you're currently not in a relationship and want to avoid this predicament next time you meet someone, simply make it clear from the get-go that you are not someone to be trifled with. That even though you're willing to give your heart to the right person, you will never let him or her take advantage of you. And you can do this by standing up for yourself when you think your partner is in the wrong.

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