And they lived happily ever after.
It’s no wonder why many of us—whether new to a partnership or not—hold on to common relationship myths like this one. It’s easy to script “the fairytale” and put sole focus on all the wonderful things that come with being part of a pair. You and your significant other may indeed look back on the decision to get together as one of the best of your life—one that has brought you fulfillment, contentment and a sense of home that you can’t quite put into words. And though that may very well be, and your happy days may far outweigh those to the contrary, that doesn’t mean that ‘sailing off into the sunset’ doesn’t come with some choppy seas every now and again—or that that isn’t completely healthy and normal.
Misconceptions about what defines a good relationship, resolving conflict, intimacy concerns and more can cause us to question our partnerships. Remember that every couple is unique. The truth behind these common myths may help you see your relationship in a new light:
Myth #1: You should be able to read your partner’s mind—and vice versa. While spending enough time with the person you love may sometimes help you anticipate his or her thoughts or needs, being part of a couple doesn’t make you (or your partner) a mind reader. It’s important to regularly express what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling, and encourage the same in return. This type of healthy communication helps avoid feelings of disappointment, anger and sadness.
Myth #2: Relationships must be 50/50. Splitting a line down the middle in an effort to create perfectly even circumstances is pretty tough. Keeping score (“I did more housework than you do this week!”) can introduce an air of competitiveness that can push you and your other half apart. When you feel yourself tallying up wins and losses, remember that you’re a team and with that comes give and take. Acknowledge your partner’s contributions and remain open to his or her needs, while being communicative about your own, and work together.
Myth #3: Romance should come naturally forever. After some time, the thrill of falling in love can wear off and romantic gestures may seem fewer and far between. But comfort shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of chemistry. While it may take a little effort to re-create the romance that came naturally in the beginning, a little thought can stir things up again. Visit the coffee shop where you met, spontaneously dance around the kitchen table—it doesn’t have to be a big ordeal, just a meaningful moment.
Myth #4: Your relationship will mirror your parents’. Though you may be quite similar to your mom and dad on many fronts, the way you behave in an intimate relationship can be very different. How you engage with your partner depends on many factors, and while examples in your life can influence some behavior, they don’t define you. If your parents’ relationship could be better, know that you’re not destined for that fate.
Myth #5: Stress will inevitably affect intimacy. An overwhelming day may not leave you particularly in the mood for a gentle caress, and that’s OK. A demanding job or other life burden doesn’t have to permanently impact closeness with your partner, however. For your mate and your overall health, make an effort to manage your stress. With practice, you can learn to reduce what seems like all-consuming tension and enjoy more vulnerable moments with the one you love.
Myth #6: No one will love you just as you are. Feelings of unworthiness, which often stem from unresolved experiences from the past, can lead you to believe that the only way to form a relationship is to change. On the contrary, the strongest, truest bonds come with transparency and honesty. You’ll feel most comfortable when you know the other person is seeing—and accepting—who you really are. It’s that which brings the intimacy, closeness and unconditional love we all crave.
Myth #7: Constructive criticism helps the relationship grow. Honesty is essential, yes, but constant criticism can begin to build a wall between you two. The person being critiqued might start to feel inadequate and could become distant. While being open and truthful is healthy, a compulsive need to point out ‘a better way’ can make it difficult to grow as a couple—even if your intentions are good.
Myth #8: Conflict will tear you apart. Whether the issue is finances, careers, kids or something else, arguments are bound to happen. Though conflict is never pleasant, it can actually strengthen your relationship by giving you the opportunity to face—and solve—a problem together. You may agree to disagree—and that’s fine, too. It’s better to have a confrontation than to avoid one, which only builds tension.
Myth #9: Sex should be spontaneous. Loving someone and being attracted to them doesn’t mean sex will always blow you away or happen in an exciting way. Sometimes being intimate involves a little planning so you can feel relaxed and focused in the moment. When you and your partner both have busy lives, it’s important to set time aside to be together.
Myth #10: If you have a strong relationship, you should feel happy all the time. This is unrealistic, no matter how little you fight or how much you enjoy each other’s company. Your emotional wellness involves more than just a healthy relationship—it’s about achieving a balance between all aspects of your life to find long-term happiness. While a strong relationship contributes to contentment, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.