Today I want to cover some of the most common and insidious myths about relationships that I’ve seen circulating—both in my relationship, from couples I work with and in the relationship culture at large. These myths, despite being so prevalent, are incredibly undermining and can wreak havoc on the viability of your long term relationship.
The biggest way these myths undermine relationships is that they force the couple to exist outside the reality of their particular relationship. They end up thinking there is something inherently wrong with their relationship. The reality is that every relationship is so profoundly particular. It’s kind of a paradox; there’s a lot of universalities across relationships, and there’s also so many particularities that make each one unique. It’s important for a couple to do their best not to compare their relationship to any other’s, or to any “ideal” relationship out there. Some relationships may be inspiring, or can provide a model for mature relating but despite what they may look like on the surface, all couples battle with the core human relational challenges of communication and collaboration.
Myth #1: Relationships Are Supposed to be Easy
This is so ubiquitous, and one of the ways relationships can be tanked before they even have the opportunity to get their legs. We all have visions of a relationship in which the other person gets what we say all the time, the sex is amazing, there’s no fights, and the other person never says the wrong thing.
We grow up indulging in these fantasies, and it’s natural to create an ideal partner in our minds that we then seek out in our real lives.
The reality is, when you come into a relationship, at a certain point you realize that the other person is indeed flawed. They have pain, and they project that pain onto you sometimes. They have faults, and at times they have a difficult time empathizing with you or understanding you. It’s not easy.
This is normal, and something we have to learn to grow with. We have to understand that it’s just part of the human condition.
Myth #2: You Need Someone Who’s “Done Their Work”
This myth is another very prevalent one, and always worded as if it’s actually cut and dry like that: either you’ve done the work or you haven’t.
It’s actually so much more nuanced than that.
I see a lot of people who think they’ve already done their work, but then they get in a relationship and it brings up other shit that still hasn’t been dealt with or they didn’t even know was there. It’s a setup, in a way, to expect that the person you’re with has done all their personal work already.
Don’t get me wrong; it is important to choose someone who is committed to “doing their work”. This person is committed to looking at themselves and their responsibilities in any given interaction. They are willing to repair their inadvertent hurt or miscommunications, and willing to learn how to be a better expert on you. They are someone with humility and curiosity.
However, they can still be working through this process of becoming a better, more whole, and healthier person. I often see people dismiss somebody prematurely when they find out that they haven’t completed all their work, and that they still have flaws.
I want to support you and encourage you to work with that person, provided they are interested in continuing to work on themselves. I encourage you to ask yourself how you can be with them despite their unfinished work, rather than writing them off too quickly.
Myth #3: You Should be Having Regular Sex
I see a lot of couples finding themselves in a tense, anxiety-ridden space about this. And it’s a bit of a vicious cycle, because the tenseness and the anxiety only perpetuates the problem and makes sex less frequent than it already was. This puts a lot of pressure on the situation.
I like to encourage couples to take some time, and put themselvese in a space where the expectation is that they aren’t having sex. They need to allow themselves to focus on other things with the pressure of sex taken completely off the table. Of course, if this starts to drag into several months, or if it’s related to a generalized lack of intimacy, then that needs to be addressed. But a little bit of a lessening of the preoccupation and obsession with other couples that is so prevalent in many relationships might be beneficial to you both.
Myth #4: You’re Not Responsible for Your Partners Wounding
This is always a difficult one to communicate, because we have a difficult time as humans holding an idea that incorporates a “both and”. We don’t want to feel like we’re responsible for our partner’s projections, past woundings and traumas, because that feels onerous. We want to push that back onto our partner’s plate.
Both partners are always going to have some form of wounding, so the middle path here is that both partners need to be doing some self healing. Whatever they need to do to take responsibility for their own wounding and their own pain, should be done individually. However, the “and” part of this is that it’s important for each partner to know about their partner’s wounding, to understand it and be able to be a supportive ally for their partner’s healing process.
It’s important not to push that all away, and instead to want to learn about your partner’s pain. There’s a benefit to being able to understand their pain and their emotions when they arise, and this understanding leads to security, confidence, and empowerment in your relationship.
Myth #5: You Have to Live With Your Partner
I love seeing all the creative arrangements out there. I’m inspired by it. I see so many couples who have different living arrangements, and how they come together and make their families work can be really great. In highlighting this myth, I really just want to normalize creative living arrangements; they might just be the key to a really thriving relationship. At the end of the day, there’s no right way to do it.
Myth #6: You should share a lot of similar interests with your partner
I believe there is huge value in two partners having divergent interests. This allows each of you to learn from the other partner’s curiosities and interests. Hopefully, it brings a lot more diversity into the organism of the relationship.
Of course, having overlapping interests can be wonderful in so many ways, so again, this is a case of “both and”. Maybe you can look at it as an opportunity to step into areas that you might not have done without that kind of invitation or introduction from your partner.
Myth #7: If you’re doubting the relationship, you have to talk about it ad nauseum
I see this a lot in relationships where the partners are still not sure about whether or not this is the relationship for them. They spend hours talking about it, and it’s exhausting. It can be responsible for the end of the relationship, because the relationship itself stops being fun and instead starts to become associated with all of this endless processing and thinking and talking.
I invite you to try putting a cap on these conversations. Don’t start them at night, when our systems want to shut down and our tired state is driving our perception, therefore preventing us from seeing things from a really optimistic or creative place. Staying aware of how much time you actually spend talking about the future of your relationship is important. They’re important conversations to have, but be strategic and intentional with them.
Myth #8: You have to be best friends with your partner
I have recently seen more and more people becoming aware of the fact that it’s important to have wonderful friendships both within and external to their relationships. It’s so true. You can’t have a thriving relationship if your partner is the only person to talk to about important things, and the only person you hang out with. Your friendships can even be brought into the relationship to become both of the partners’ friends.
It is incredibly healthy when each partner brings their own existing friends into the other’s life, and when you can hang out with each other’s friends as individuals and as a couple.
Myth #9: If you’re fantasizing, it means there’s something wrong with the relationship.
This myth is absolutely not true. We have amazing, imaginative minds, and it’s normal to fantasize about what it would be like to do other things. It’s not wrong, and it’s not proof that you’re done with your current relationship. It’s just natural.
This is especially true – and pertinent – when you’re years into a relationship, when it starts to lose its novelty. Our brains and nervous systems start to crave a certain amount of novelty, but our relationships have become much more familiar, so we turn to fantasies. While it’s completely normal and okay, it’s still important to acknowledge this shift. To keep a long term relationship healthy, you have to actively work to turn your intention with fantasies back to your relationship, to consider how you can bring more novelty into your existing situation rather than seeking an external source of that novelty.
Myth #10: Relationships can’t begin again or be resurrected.
Sometimes, things happen that change the course of relationships. One partner cheats, or there is an illness that persists for a long time, or something happens with one of your children, and the relationship in its current form begins to collapse. Maybe the partners separate for a period of time as a result.
The key phrase here is that it affects the “current form” of the relationship. At this stage, there are often a lot of unresolved feelings, and the (understandable) inclination to just give up on the relationship may arise. My point here is that, it’s totally possible to press reset on the relationship, to put to rest a lot of past wounds, and to re-vision what this relationship could be now, and what you want it to be now. Its current form is not really what’s being asked for any longer, so a new form wants to be created.
There’s a lot to be said about what this process looks like; I’ll leave that for another article.
These 10 myths are really just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many more myths that pervade our relationships that don’t really need to be there. If you want to discuss any of this in more depth, reach out to me here.