Relationship Myths

Because I hang out in unsavory places like Facebook, Twitter and social media, I see a lot of misinformation about what healthy marriage and relationships are like, so I thought I’d correct the most prevalent ones.

Myth: Happy couples don’t argue
Facts: There is a pervasive Myth that somehow happy couples just agree on everything automatically all the time. Believing this Myth, we enter relationships convinced that whatever problems or differences we have with our partners will be easy to solve. But, in reality, the individuals who make up a partnership will disagree frequently, and often struggle over even minor issues. In the course of building and sustaining a lifetime relationship, every couple encounters many problems. Different backgrounds and experience, discordant perception of each other and events, unequal rates of education and growth, conflicting needs for self-expression and contact, and differing values and beliefs about relationships complicate and often block attempts at creating partnership together. Discussion is valuable; fighting and yelling, however, is destructive. Learning to discuss these differences calmly and even agreeing to disagree, will keep your relationship interesting and dynamic.

Myth: We don’t need to talk about the relationship
Facts: People who like to avoid conflict love this Myth, but it’s just not true. In fact, the best way to avoid conflict is to discuss things openly. No two people are the same, like the same things, want to do the same things or even understand things the same. You and your partner are bound to have differences you need to discuss. When you have a regular chance to talk about what’s going on in the relationship, problems, resentment and frustration don’t get a chance to build.

I often recommend couples increase their mutual respect and appreciation by having a regular “State of the Union” meeting, to enhance your cooperation, tolerance and rationality, and to defuse conflict as soon as it arises. Whether you are single, dating, married or have a family, this meeting date will make a tremendous difference in the emotional tenor of the relationship. If you’re blending a family from previous situations, it will make a huge difference in your success.

If you set a pattern of doing this early in a relationship, it will be easy to expand the group to include children if you have them. For relationships and families that are already established, it might feel a bit awkward to begin the meetings at first, but if you follow the steps below, everyone will soon experience the value of having an appropriate time and place to talk about issues and plans. As you clear the air, everyone will relax, problems will be minor, and the couple or whole family can use the time for bonding, sharing stories and experiences, and creating quality time together.

Myth: Spouses don’t need to court each other; once you’re committed you can relax
Facts: In fact, relaxing too much can lead to boredom and feeling taken for granted. The relationships depicted in the media, and perhaps relationships you see around you, do not model kind, loving and considerate behavior very well. Although the press may be bored by politeness, kindness and happiness, those traits will make your partner and your relationship flourish and blossom. Consider kindness to be the lubricant of your communication and expressing love to be the fertilizer that makes the relationship bloom.

Remembering to court each other regularly during the course of the relationship will keep the excitement alive. Remember all the fun ways you first drew each other into your lives, and be sure to keep up that effort. You’ll both be glad you did, and your relationship will be much stronger for it.

Myth: It’s normal to be bored with your spouse
Facts: Boredom is a sign that spouses are taking each other and your relationship for granted. Pay attention to feelings of boredom, they are an important indicator. If your activities have become too routine, you can counter the boredom by taking necessary risks. For example, have that scary discussion about intimacy, aging, your in-laws, or dare to suggest a change in your routine. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s different and can be shared. Try these three simple, but key actions to help avoid boredom in your relationship: Celebrate, play, and laugh together, as much as possible.

Myth: It’s weird to have individual social interests or take separate vacations
Facts: It seems logical that like would attract like, but in my private practice as a relationship counselor and psychotherapist, I often see people drawn to their opposite; because it’s new and exciting.

But if there isn’t a certain degree of similarity between you and your partner, it will be too stressful to last. The excitement and challenge of your relationship comes from your differences; the security and ease of your relationship comes from your similarities. Some separate activities honor the individual in a relationship. Having your own social scene and taking trips without your spouse actually promotes your sense of self worth and giving each other the space to be yourselves and keep that unique appeal you each once had actually helps strengthen your relationship, not hurt it.

Myth: You don’t need to be polite and considerate all the time with your partner
Facts: Couples may lapse into disrespectful or uncaring behavior with each other, not taking the trouble to be polite and kind, but your relationship deserves the same level of consideration as any other relationship, if not more. Paying attention to how you speak to each other, including how polite and considerate your tone and manner is with your sweetheart, will help keep you both happier.

Let your partner know you appreciate what he or she does, personality traits, (i.e.: his sense of humor, her generosity, his practicality, her hard work) and companionship. The more you praise what you like, the more you’ll get of it. We all want to be appreciated. Celebration + appreciation = motivation.

Myth: There’s no time for fun in a relationship, especially with kids
Facts: A key ingredient for success for any long term relationship is having fun together. Taking time to enjoy each other, no matter how busy you are at work or with kids, is crucial to keeping both spouses feeling connected and happy, throughout decades of relationship.

Finding new ways to have fun together can also be an exciting challenge. Consider going to unexplored places (a coffee shop or museum), or just branching out and watching a different comedy show together when the kids are asleep. When you do have time alone as a couple, do some of the things you did when you were first together. You are more than just parents. You began as lovers, and you need to keep that in mind.

Myth: Someone has to be in charge in the relationship
Facts: The belief that someone has to be in charge of the relationship causes couples to compete for power rather than cooperate. Partners who are otherwise loving can find themselves struggling because they believe it’s the way to get their needs met. Between partners in intimate relationships, competition becomes stressful, counter-productive and toxic, poisoning the relationship by turning us into adversaries, and undermining the mutual support and encouragement vital to satisfactory relationships.

Myth: A relationship requires a lot of sacrifice
Facts: Your responsibilities include both caring for yourself and for your partner, and it works both ways. Guard against sacrificing too much by making sure you care about yourself, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Guard against narcissism and selfishness by caring about your partner in the same four areas. Achieving balance in these areas is the best way to ensure that your relationship will thrive, and no one will carry too much resentment, which is the only emotion that can destroy love.

Myth: If you let your partner know you’re angry, you’ll start a fight
Facts: Holding a grudge means there’s no chance to solve the problem. Instead, talk about what’s bothering you in a rational way. Ask clearly for what you want, and let your partner know why it’s important to you. If you can’t find a way to agree, go for a counseling session. Resentment will destroy your relationship. For the price of one session, before the problem gets too large, you can save it.

Busting these Myths, and correcting the corresponding habits and behaviors will set the tone and create an atmosphere where your relationship can thrive. They’re like the water, sun and fertilizer to a plant: the natural necessities of relationships.

© Tina B. Tessina. Adapted from: Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences (Kindle and Paperback)


Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, Dr. Romance’s Guide to Dating in the Digital Age; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences and her newest, The Real 13th Step.  She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance.” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video  and podcasts

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