MYTH # 1: RELATIONSHIPS ARE EASY
Relationships are not easy! I am always amazed how people spend so much time, money and energy studying, training and applying themselves in their professions to become the best they can be. Yet, when it come to relationships, many people think they will just happen and take care of themselves without much investment of time or effort.
Relationships do take work, commitment, time and energy! To create a truly rewarding relationship, you may need to make sacrifices in other areas. You may need to work less, earn less money or invest more energy into spending time with your partner. Your relationship is like a garden. You need to attend to it, spend time in it and water it frequently. The result will be you will see it bloom and it will provide you with ongoing joy and happiness.
MYTH # 2: GREAT RELATIONSHIPS DON’T HAVE CONFLICT
This is a very common myth. If you have been in the early stages of romantic love with your partner, it can come as quite a shock the first time you experience some conflict. Some couples think that it is a sign that the relationship is doomed and will not survive.
Conflict is a normal and healthy part of all relationships. Think of conflict as growth trying to happen. It is an opportunity to look at your differences and understand a perspective other than your own. It is also a time when you can look at your own values and beliefs and understand your partner’s values and beliefs. When conflict is used as an opportunity for you to grow as a couple, it can actually facilitate a greater emotional intimacy between you.
MYTH # 3: ROMANTIC LOVE LASTS FOREVER
This is one of the most common relationship myths. Hollywood movies have a lot to answer to for sustaining this myth for so long.
In most relationships, it is a normal part of couple development that when you fall in love you often experience a symbiosis. This means that you and your lover will feel like ‘one’. The brain releases chemicals that facilitate this process and help in the bonding between two people. However, it is a stage of couple development and not one that can be sustained indefinitely.
Romantic love and the ‘honeymoon stage’ does not and cannot last forever. Thinking in this way can actually cause you distress and place your relationship under enormous stress.
MYTH # 4: MY PARTNER SHOULD THINK THE SAME AS ME
Again, this relationship myth seems to relate to the magical thinking of the symbiotic or bonding stage of couple development. Sometimes the thinking is ‘if my partner and I are one, then we must think, feel, want and need the same things.’
When you consider that a couple in this stage are feeling euphoric feelings towards each other, it makes sense that they might think this. However, this is a dangerous myth to believe. It is important to accept that your partner is a separate individual to you with different likes, dislikes, wants, needs and interests.
MYTH # 5: IT’S GOOD TO VENT ALL MY FEELINGS IN MY RELATIONSHIP
This myth is a dangerous one because you may think it is OK to vent all your feelings and thoughts, positive and negative, on to your partner. Taking such an approach to your relationship is potentially destructive and will impair the longevity of your connection.
It is important to consider what you share and how you share with your partner. Think about how you treat your best friend. That will give you some indication of the attitude you will want to bring to your relationship. When you aspire to be your best and treat your partner in a similar way, the dividends will be high and long-lasting.
MYTH # 6: MY CHILDHOOD WON’T AFFECT MY RELATIONSHIP
Some people believe that whatever kind of childhood they had, it has no bearing on the relationships they form in adulthood.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is impossible to not bring the influences of your childhood into your relationship. It is in childhood that we develop a ‘blueprint’ for relating. We learn and internalise what we perceive love is and how it is expressed. This then plays out in our adult relationships.
If you find you keep repeating the same relationship mistakes over and over again, you may benefit from working with a trained counsellor to understand what your blueprint is and how it gets in the way of you forming a loving a respectful relationship.
MYTH # 7: A GREAT RELATIONSHIP MEANS WE HAVE NO UNRESOLVED ISSUES
Interestingly, research says that over 80% of all issues that couples have never get resolved. When you consider this statistic, it puts into perspective all the time and energy you may have put into trying to resolve issues that never shift. You may also recognise that you have expended a lot of energy trying to change your partner!
Often, I think the question is not how you deal with difference, but what are your differences in dealing. When you look at how you go about working with differences in your relationship, then new possibilities for change and relating can emerge.
MYTH # 8: SEX HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH A GOOD RELATIONSHIP
Sex has everything to do with a good relationship!
I think of sex as the melting pot of all the relationship issues. If you are distancing from each other, living parallel lives and working or raising kids with no time to invest in the relationship, it makes sense that the last thing you would want is to connect sexually.
If you struggle to be open and vulnerable with your partner and express your needs and longings, then it is very unlikely that you will be open and vulnerable in sex.
Have a look at what is happening between you in the way you connect and relate and then see how that connects to your sexual life. It may be an illuminating experience.
MYTH # 9: THE RELATIONSHIP WON’T IMPROVE UNTIL MY PARTNER DOES
Most couples come into couples therapy thinking that it is their partner that is the problem and that the partner needs to change. This attitude will keep you stuck and unable to improve or deepen your relationship in any way.
Rather than focusing on your partner, think about how can you change. What do you aspire to be at the worst of times, or when you are not feeling your best? How do you want to be in the face of your partner not being his or her best? A principle of systems theory is that when one element in a system changes, the whole system is affected. This means when you change yourself, the relationship changes.
MYTH # 10: MY PARTNER SHOULD LOVE ME UNCONDITIONALLY AT ALL TIMES
Again, I think this myth is related to the symbiotic nature of romantic love. Just like a baby who bonds with it’s mother and feels as one, we sometimes think that one person should be everything for us and meet all our needs. In the distant past, we had a whole village of people to connect with and meet our needs. Often today we expect one person to meet all our needs and love us and accept us unconditionally.
When you are aware of this belief, ask yourself, what do I need to give myself? How can I love myself more in this moment? What other relationships in my life can I go to and have this need met?
WHAT MYTHS ARE YOU AWARE OF?
I hope you have found the top 10 relationship myths helpful in clarifying some of the negative beliefs that we are taught or internalize as we develop in our lives. These are the most common myths that I encounter in my clinical practice and are by no means the only ones.