Healthy relationships don’t happen by chance. They take months and years of growth, communication in a relationship, and implementing what you’ve learned. One particular way you can see significant growth as a couple is by investigating myths you’re buying into and then changing how you interact with your partner about them. We all have these blind spots and many of them are strongly engrained since they often come from our upbringing and unique backgrounds.
These myths generally are caught instead of taught in our families of origin, are challenging to identify, and therefore doubly tough to overcome. But conquering these relationship myths is well worth the effort. It can easily be the difference between an unhappy relationship and a thriving one.
Regardless of your history as a couple, you can continually improve your relationship by learning what doesn’t work in romantic relationships that you previously thought did.
Much of this discovery happens after making decisions in a relationship we wish we hadn’t. Despite our best efforts, we all have plenty of those! Of course, if you can learn what doesn’t work from someone else before you have to repeat a mistake, that’s all the better.
With relationship myths, we think we’re doing what’s best to maintain a healthy relationship, but we accomplish just the opposite. Talk about frustrating! In light of that, here’s a sample of some relationship myths to consider and avoid.
Myth # 1: “Infatuation Should Lead the Way in Romantic Relationships”
No one would disagree that infatuation or that in-love experience feels good—immensely good when things are going well, in fact. But the druglike high it brings can lead to poor relationship choices. You may decide to hastily enter a serious relationship because it feels good for the moment while ignoring the reality that you and your mate are largely incompatible, minus the present emotional surges.
Conversely, you could discard an otherwise healthy and satisfying relationship that took years or decades to build because “you’ve lost that loving feeling.” There’s also the danger of mistaking the exciting newness of a relationship outside of your committed one as “proof” that something was wrong with your long-term one. Instead, it may indicate that “new” is exciting and that there are ways to experience novelty without abandoning your committed relationship.
The point is, to have the best chances of becoming (and staying) a happy couple, you must be the master of infatuation. Letting infatuation lead the way can set you up for big-time problems. Just because a relationship begins with a crush certainly doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to last. It can deceive in so many ways if you fail to proceed with caution. Be very careful about what relationship advice or relationship tips you follow when it comes to this one because there’s plenty of confusion to go around.
Myth # 2: “Forgiving and Forgetting is the Best Strategy in Intimate Relationships”
“Forgive and forget” is often suggested by someone in a relationship after they have hurt their partner somehow. While at this may seem like the best strategy at face value, it doesn’t generally work so well in practice.
The main reason this is a bad strategy is that it doesn’t get to the root of a problem. And some of those struggles can be very serious. This is especially true if someone repeatedly hurts their partner and then encourages them to simply forgive and forget without a noticeable desire to change for the better. But this can also be the case when someone badly hurts their partner just once or twice such as infidelity.
Telling a partner to forgive and forget can minimize the depth of how much they were wronged. It can also lead to the idea that a partner has a blank check to do what they want and that it doesn’t matter. Then, if the wronged partner doesn’t immediately forgive, they are considered at fault instead of the one who initially caused the harm. These are sizeable red flags in relationships to avoid.
In her Psychology Today article entitled, 8 Common Myths About Intimate Relationships, Randi Gunther Ph.D. shares a more successful strategy:
“A much better plan is to change the expectation of “forgive and forget” to “remember and let go.” That way a couple can use what they’ve learned to understand and evolve, paving the way for better resolution of future potential disappointments.”
And as Gunther later shares, genuine remorse must exist for the “letting go” process to work correctly. Otherwise, it can become nothing more than an ongoing abuse cycle masquerading as a helpful relationship strategy. Therefore, healthy communication in relationships regarding this is essential.
Myth # 3: “I’ll Be Able to Change Them Later On”
Another significant myth is the idea that you’ll be able to change your partner down the road. Perhaps you see your partner as a “good deal”—an “affordable fixer-upper.” The reality is that we’re all fixer-uppers and works in progress. Still, no one likes to be viewed that way by their partner if it means feeling demeaned or put down!
Imagine the future turmoil if you view your partner as a renovation project but think of yourself as the finished project. That unequal idea of control and power can quickly become unbearable to the other partner and even abusive, not to mention exasperating for the one setting the expectations.
Also, it’s critical to remember we can change no one but ourselves. Don’t settle for a partner with different values and goals than you because you think your commitment will change them—it likely won’t.
At the same time, we all learn and grow throughout life and a good relationship certainly can help with that process. You can encourage your partner to be their best version of themselves by consistently loving them and treating them like you want to be treated. But nagging, bullying or setting drill-sergeant standards will accomplish just the opposite.
Counseling Can Help to Encourage Healthy Relationships
Sometimes the myths we buy into are deeply entrenched and can lead to relationship anxiety. They can be challenging to see and work through without the help of a trained professional. But the good news is that you can eventually resolve these setbacks and see a drastic improvement in your relationship.
If you’d like to learn more about how our counseling services can help, please feel free to get in touch. You can also schedule an appointment with the OC Relationship Center