We’re constantly bombarded by social media, TV and movies showing us what romantic relationships “should” look like.
It can create doubt and confusion as if there is some formula out there for the “perfect” relationship, or if your relationship doesn’t look like what you see on TV, it isn’t a “good” relationship. These fairytale story arcs aren’t necessarily a realistic or honest representation of intimate relationships, and can end up being a toxic influence on your expectations.
Let’s break down a few of the most common relationship myths so that you can approach them more realistically and feel more confident in your relationships!
A healthy and happy relationship requires teamwork and equal effort by both partners. This myth can be incredibly damaging when entering into a relationship and will often leave you feeling disappointed, as it creates unrealistic expectations. Even the best and healthiest relationships require work and dedication from both partners in order to keep it afloat long-term.
Healthy relationships require compromise and management of expectations of yourself, of your partner, and the relationship as a whole. Don’t forget that you are two separate individuals with your own pasts, values, perspectives, traumas, etc, and that this largely impacts the ways in which we behave and communicate in our relationships. When two different people come together in a partnership, it is unrealistic to think that things will always be simple and easy-breezy. Life can also come at you fast and throw hurdles in your path. As compatible as you might think you are with your partner, this does not mean that you will never clash or have disagreements. Putting in the mutual effort to work through differences and disputes can actually lead to a stronger and more trusting relationship.
If one or both partners enter into a relationship and are not willing to put in the work, discuss issues openly, or make compromises, then there is a higher likelihood of unhappiness and resentment that can cause the relationship to suffer long-term. However, just because there may be arguments or disagreements does not mean that your relationship is not healthy, or that you are with the wrong person; rather, it just means that each person in the relationship needs to be committed to working through challenges as a team, with open and honest communication. When this happens, relationships can truly flourish. Partners who are dedicated and committed to the relationship actively CHOOSE each other every day, and this requires work.
This myth may be true for some, and yes, there is some research suggesting more frequent sex leads to happier relationships. BUT, this does not consider the many other factors that contribute to satisfaction and fulfillment in relationships!
When it comes to the topic of sex frequency, this again comes down to open and honest communication about what each partner is looking to get out of the relationship when it comes to physical intimacy. Some partners may be totally happy being sexually intimate every day, while others may be content with a couple of times per week or month. There is no formula here in terms of how much sex equals a healthy and happy relationship. There is no right or wrong number. As long as each partner is communicating their needs effectively and consistently to make sure all parties are on the same page, then the relationship will move in a healthy direction.
Remember: each relationship has different and unique needs, so try not to get in your head regarding what others, or the media, may be telling you “should” be happening in your relationship. YOU and YOUR partner know your relationship best, and what works best for it at the end of the day. What matters most is the mutual fulfillment, not the frequency. Nonetheless, if you feel like you and/or your partner may be struggling to communicate these needs and have honest conversations about sex and expectations of intimacy, consider couples therapy, where effective communication can be facilitated and explored in a safe and non-judgmental space.
For some, there is a common misconception that entering into a relationship will automatically improve one’s sense of self-esteem, worth, or general well-being. While falling in love, being in love, and receiving emotional support from your partner can certainly increase positive feelings and emotions, and contribute to comfort and safety, the idea of a relationship completely transforming one’s mental health is simply a Band-Aid solution that does not address the underlying issues, and again, sets us up for disappointment.
Thinking like this may cause some to expect their partner to improve their well-being. This can be damaging to the relationship as it often leads to resentment and blame. People may become dependent on their partner for positive reinforcement and validation, and therefore not know how to achieve this on their own. This ends up tying the concept of their worth to their partner, and ultimately losing themselves in it.
Even in a partnership, it is necessary to continue your own path of self-development, and not place pressure on the relationship, or your partner, to do this for you. It’s integral to understand that just because you may be struggling with your mental health or confidence, it does not mean you are not worthy and capable of having a successful and loving relationship. You can still strive to work on yourself and find your own happiness on an individual level while being in a healthy relationship. One thing does not negate the other.
If you are someone who struggles with this perspective, I encourage you to consider your unique interests and what sets you apart as an individual from your partner. Is there anything outside of your partner that brings you happiness, joy, or fulfillment? What are you proud of about yourself and who you are as a person? What can you work on about yourself on your own time? At the end of the day, you are one part of your partnership and bring a lot to the table individually, while being part of a team.
Many people in relationships start to panic when they feel like their initial attraction to their partner is fading, but this does not necessarily mean your relationship is doomed, that you no longer love your partner, or that they are not right for you. When in a long-term relationship, whether that is for months, years, or decades, it is normal for your attraction to your partner to change and fluctuate over time. Maybe it means that the initial spark is fading and you need to spend more quality time together, actively make plans to be intimate, try something new, or find ways to spice things up. However, if the lack of attraction towards your partner stems from building resentment, disgust, contempt, anger, frustration, etc., then this might be an indication of something more serious that needs to be communicated and worked out in the relationship. All in all, try to remember that losing attraction for your partner is a normal experience for many, and that it doesn’t mean you can never get it back. I encourage you and your partner to reflect, both together and apart, on what you both appreciate about one another, and what you are grateful for about your relationship. Sometimes a trip down memory lane is all it takes to reignite the flame, learn something new and exciting about your partner, or reflect on positive shared moments. This can lead to further bonding and connection that will ultimately strengthen what makes you attracted to the person your partner is, and remind you of why you love them. Remember, it is normal to lose track of this sometimes, and it does not mean you are a horrible person. You are HUMAN. This leads me to my next point… .
I am sure we have all heard this one before, whether on TV, or from a friend or family member. However, this myth sets unrealistic expectations and parameters for romantic relationships. It is a fact that there are over 7 billion people on this planet. So, is it really realistic to think that you would only find one person attractive at a given time? NO! Is it realistic to think that when you find someone you love, care about, and commit to, others are automatically no longer attractive to you? NO! Does it mean you are a shallow and horrible person? NO!
We come across a plethora of people on a daily basis, and it is normal to feel a sense of curiosity and attraction towards something new. It is even normal to fantasize from time to time about another person whom you find attractive. Again, this doesn't mean that you no longer love your partner or find them attractive. It’s harmless to experience attraction outside of our relationships — so long as one does not purposefully act on it.
If one partner's attraction to others starts to seriously impede their ability to remain committed to the relationship, or creates extreme jealousy or distrust, then this can become problematic for the relationship and might require each partner to reconsider their priorities, expectations, and boundaries, especially if in a monogamous relationship.
If you and your partner have mutually agreed upon being in an open or polyamorous relationship, then as long as open and honest communication is maintained between all parties, indulging in your attractions is not likely to negatively impact your relationship.
Remember that whenever you may find yourself starting to doubt, or criticize yourself, that feeling attraction for more than one person is a normal human experience, and it doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t love you anymore, or your relationship is destined for failure, so long as you continue to check in with your partner(s).
I hope this has been helpful at debunking those pesky myths.
I encourage you to continue reflecting on what myths may be holding back your definition of relationship success! When all's said and done, Hollywood doesn’t call the shots on what constitutes a happy and healthy relationship: you and your partner(s) do.
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