"What is the most dominant problem in relationships, the one thing we do more than any other to sabotage our own love lives?"
I got this question a while back and liked it so much I decided not to answer it. I knew someday it would make a good blog post, that is, once I figured out the answer. Sure, there's the obvious stuff--infidelity, abuse, not washing your hands after you pee--but I wanted to go beyond that.
I never came up with one single answer, but three--three things we all do in relationships that can sink them "faster than a dog can lick his [testicles]," as my redneck uncle used to say, which never really made sense to me, because all the dogs I've seen doing that take their sweet time with it. And who can blame them?
1) Have a long memory
Your S.O. said something mean that time four years ago during that fight you were having about whatever it was you were fighting about. Be sure you never forget it. Keep a mental list of every little slight (real or perceived), every misstep, every unkind word--you never know when you might need to bring them up again. All that stuff about love not keeping a record of wrongs? Hogwash. All these long-term couples who say that having a short memory and being quick to forgive are the keys to relationship success? Liars. Never forget, never forgive, because you will never screw up and you will never need forgiveness from your partner.
2) Don't apologize
Never admit you were wrong; it's a sign of weakness. Maybe you screwed up, maybe you didn't, who's to say? Even if you did, it's your mate's fault because he provoked you. So if you do apologize, keep your pride intact by assigning some of the blame for your actions to him. I mean, who doesn't love contrition with a qualifier: "I'm sorry I said that, but...."? You have to keep the upper hand in the relationship, so never let them see you sweat. If you feel badly about hurting your mate, you can say something like, "I'm sorry you misinterpreted what I really meant," which is a nice way to apologize without actually admitting any wrongdoing.
3) Be selfish
As I read back over this, I realize that the first two examples really fall under the third, so I suppose I do have a single answer after all: the dominant problem in relationships is selfishness. To me, selfishness is the antithesis of love, because the best definition of love that I know is to care actively and consistently about another's needs as much as or more than your own. I say actively because love is deeds, not words; I say consistently because you can't just do it when you feel like it. Being unselfish and caring for another person is an ongoing, labor-intensive affair. No one can do it 24/7/365, but that doesn't mean you can't try. Vow to keep selfishness out of your relationship as much as possible, and watch your love grow and endure.