Our perceptions and beliefs regarding relationships are often shaped by romanticized ideas and rather misguided notions that have been perpetuated throughout the ages by popular culture and social media, or even handed down as pearls of wisdom. These beliefs not only guide our behaviors and attitudes but also serve as a measure for how successful we think our relationship is. However, when it comes to real people in real-life scenarios, these idealized fantasies often fall short. They create unrealistic expectations of what healthy relationships should look like or how people in love should act and feel. And when reality doesn’t measure up to fantasy, it inevitably leads to disappointment, resentment or even a sense of failure.
Here are a few common relationship myths that may actually be hurting your relationship instead of improving it:
- “It will be easy with the right person.” No relationship is ever easy, no matter how long you’ve been together or how well you think you know each other. Even couples with seemingly picture-perfect lives experience their fair share of challenges. When two people with individual personalities, life experiences, fears, dreams, and aspirations decide to intimately share their lives together, it is unrealistic to expect that everything will magically fall into place smoothly. Relationships that truly stand the test of time are built not only on love but also on mutual trust, respect, compromise and a lasting commitment to learn and grow with your partner through all the challenges that the universe throws your way at each stage of your lives. It requires hard work, patience, kindness, a willingness to understand your partner’s perspective and the determination to aim for the middle ground that caters to both your goals. It may take years for couples to hit their stride, even in marriages which happen after many years of being together. That being said, if you find yourself consistently being the only one trying too hard to make it work, that may be a red flag signaling an unhealthy relationship.
- “My partner should know what I want/how I feel.” It is a common sentiment to expect that your partner will naturally understand and fulfill your wants and needs. This is especially true when people get into the habit of making comparisons to couples around them where partners appear to meet each other’s needs seamlessly. No matter how long you’ve been together, it is always important to clearly communicate your thoughts and emotions to your partner instead of assuming or expecting them to know them naturally. This will help them understand you better and will lessen the disappointment and frustration that invariably stem from unmet needs. Also, bear in mind that needs and expectations evolve over time through different phases in each person’s lives so the best way for both partners to remain attuned to each other is to communicate openly with the intention to understand the other person’s feelings and desires.
- “Never go to bed angry.” The intent behind this sentiment may have been to ensure that disagreements are discussed and resolved timely and not left to linger and disrupt the peace. While it would be ideal to have everything nicely squared away by the time you hit the bed, it may not always be the most realistic approach for everyone. If you find yourself in an argument with your partner at the end of a long day, neither of you may be in the best headspace to constructively work through your issues to reach an understanding or solution. In fact, things may even escalate in the heat of the moment when emotions and exhaustion run unchecked. So, in times like this, if your partner needs to sleep or some time to calm down and reflect, it may be helpful to respect their choice. It is important to recognize that it may be their way of processing or self-soothing and that the intention is not to dismiss or trivialize your concerns. On the flip side, if you are the partner who needs time to cool off or rest, it is important provide reassurance that you are not making an excuse to ignore the situation at hand but that you intend to address it at the earliest opportunity (and remember to follow through on that intention). Revisiting the issue when both of you are better rested and have had the chance to let things settle can provide a fresh perspective and allow you to discuss things more rationally and not just react emotionally.
- “Things will get better when …” It is natural for relationships to have ups and downs – when going through a rough patch, a common approach is to think that things will improve once a couple has more money or gets married or has a baby and so on. While these examples can be beautiful milestones in a couple’s lives, it may not always be a magical fix if both partners are not on the same page regarding their current predicament. Chances are, if things are challenging in the present time, going through inherently stressful major life changes will only amplify present anxieties and insecurities and add more tension to an already strained relationship. Relying on a future event (which may or may not materialize) only ends up distracting from the present issues at hand that should be examined and addressed. It is therefore important to actively seek to understand the true cause of the disconnect in the relationship and find ways to work together to achieve realistic outcomes that meet both partner’s needs. Ultimately this will bring couples closer together and help make future life transitions much smoother.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, the common theme is to recognize that each partner and each relationship will pose their own set of challenges and adventures which evolve over time. There is no such thing as a perfect fit or a perfect couple – rather, a more realistic goal would be to strive to balance both partners’ needs, expectations, and ambitions in life in order to sustain a healthy long-term relationship.