At On Your Mind Counselling, we believe that relationships are the cornerstone of a meaningful life.
Think about your favourite things to do. My guess is that you enjoy sharing meals with loved ones, engaging in meaningful conversations with those who know you best, and sharing new experiences with your partner.
It doesn’t matter if the meal is gourmet or from a drive-thru. It’s okay if the conversation is 15 minutes or an hour, or if you’re both equally enjoying the activity you’re partaking in. It’s the act of experiencing a shared moment where you’re truly present with another person that makes your relationships fulfilling and worthwhile.
If we know this, though, why do we tend to put so much pressure on our relationships?
In the comparison culture we live in, it’s easy to look at ourselves for ways to measure success – and our relationships aren’t spared from this either. There have never been so many sources to judge against and it’s easy to get swept up in the noise all around us.
We fantasize about how our connections to other people should be before we even enter into a relationship. Whether it’s through gossip magazines that line the checkout lanes at the grocery store or your friend’s take on what makes a couple work best, we get caught up in the chatter.
When it really comes down to it, we listen to the myths and misconceptions more than we care to admit. Rather than helping relationships flourish, they preoccupy couples and give way to doubt that distracts from growing a deeper connection.
Misconception #1: Partners Must Share The Exact Same Interests
At the start of a new relationship, it’s natural that you and your partner would likely have a handful of shared interests. After all, something drew you to them in the first place!
However, it’s not necessary that partners have all of the exact same interests. As you’re two individuals, you’re bound to disagree on something. You’ll find that you don’t enjoy all of the same things – and that’s okay!
Having differing interests can actually lead to a stronger relationship over time. When you are interacting with your partner in an activity they enjoy more than you, they get the opportunity to bring you into their world and share what’s important to them. Over time, as you both engage in the activity, you’ll get to know them better and grow closer to them because you’ve made the effort to appreciate their interests and the things that matter to them.
It also presents couples the chance to unwind separately. It’s healthy when partners have different interests and hobbies. The time apart gives them the opportunity to regroup, recharge and recenter themselves on their own. This benefits relationships because space creates room for healthy longing. It allows each person in the relationship to maintain their identity as an individual.
Misconception #2: “If you help me, I’ll help you” Mentality in Relationships
Relationships should not be based on ultimatums or what you can get out of the other person. If it feels like you have to help your partner in order for them to help you, something may be amiss in the relationship.
Partners in happy, loving relationships don’t help out of obligation or fear that the other person will leave them. Rather, they help their partner because they genuinely care about their significant other. Acts of service should come from an overflow of love and not a place of insecurity.
Similarly, keeping score or track of favours done can be detrimental to the relationship. Helping your partner doesn’t always have to be a 50/50 exchange. During some seasons of life, one person in the relationship may have a greater capacity to help than the other. You certainly don’t want to find that you’re in a one-sided relationship. It’s important to allow for an ebb and flow of assistance between you and your partner. Then both of your needs can be fulfilled in a way that works best for your unique relationship.
Misconception #3: The Biggest Reason for Divorce is Affairs
When you hear that someone is getting a divorce, your first thought is probably that someone got cheated on.
80% of divorces are actually a result of couples drifting apart and/or not feeling appreciated by their spouse, not infidelity.
While divorces certainly do happen as a result of cheating, it’s typically not the only problem. When partners stop making each other a priority or don’t tune the other into how they’re feeling about the state of the relationship, needs (both emotional and physical) go unmet and lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair, in turn resulting in the end of the marriage.
Misconception #4: Conflicts Will Work Themselves Out
It’s true that conflicts come in different levels of severity. Not all of them will work themselves out on their own. It can be uncomfortable to address things head-on. However, it not only resolves issues but strengthens the relationship in the long run.
It’s wishful thinking to believe that a couple will not experience any sort of disagreement in their relationship. The way they face their differences can be an indicator of the state of the partnership. As we get to know our partners, we find ourselves on a journey of discovering their wants, needs and dreams.
Though you may not always see eye to eye, making the effort to talk through conflicts shows the other person you care about them and are committed to understanding them and loving them.
Misconception #5: Couples Need to Have Lots of Sex in Order to be Happy in their Relationships
Intimacy is an important part of any romantic relationship. The amount of sex you and your partner have does not determine the quality of your relationship. It is a complete myth that couples need to have “a lot” of sex in order to be happy.
How does one even quantify what a lot means? The amount of sex that a couple chooses to have is unique in each relationship. The fact of the matter is that some couples don’t have to engage in extensive physical intimacy in order to feel connected to their partner.
At the end of the day, as long as the couple is happy with the amount of sex they are having, there is no standard amount they need to be having in order to be happy in their relationship.
Misconception #6: I Can Fulfill All of My Partner’s Needs
At the beginning of a relationship, it can be easy to think that we can be everything for our partner. When everything is new and exciting, we want to be able to help each other as much as possible and show how much we care about the other person.
While there’s nothing wrong with being eager to build bonds with your partner, it can be toxic to think that you can fulfill all of their needs. This isn’t fair to them or to you. Ultimately, as humans, we will disappoint or let down our significant other. We’re not perfect beings and we’re bound to fall short.
It’s not healthy to believe that we can be their only source for happiness, security or encouragement. While we can certainly provide those things for someone, it shouldn’t be your job in full. Couples should complement each other, not complete each other.
Misconception #7: Having a Baby Will Solve Problems in Relationships
This is a myth as old as time. Though we know it sounds absolutely backwards, we still somehow have convinced ourselves that babies can fix everything.
Babies are a beautiful gift and can certainly add joy to an already fulfilling relationship. However, they also add a layer of stress to even the healthiest couples. Being responsible for the life of a tiny human is no easy feat. No matter how loving a relationship may be before adding a child, the dynamic changes once another life is depending on the couple for survival.
In the long run, if having a baby with your partner is your only hope for reviving the relationship, you may find it makes the riffs more evident than they were before.
Misconception #8: Happy Couples Don’t Disagree
It’s easy for us to look at happy couples and think they couldn’t possibly argue. When a relationship looks perfect, whether it’s online or in real life, we tend to think that they have no flaws.
We couldn’t be farther from the truth, though.
All couples have disagreements, even happy ones. It’s the way that a conflict is resolved that really matters. When two people enter into a relationship with one another there’s bound to be bumps in the road. It’s human nature to not see eye to eye on everything. Rest assured that the happiest of couples do in fact disagree, they just handle their resolution with care and respect.
Empathy is key to making it through rough patches. Take the time to understand where your partner is coming from, and how events and values make them feel. You can start to accept that you’re not always going to be on the same page – and that’s okay!
When it comes down to it, no couple is perfect. Relationships are not a destination to another life. Rather, they are a journey we take with someone we choose to spend our lives with. When we accept our partner for who they are and resolve to work through conflict together, we find that our relationships make our lives meaningful.
By focusing on the other person we no longer need to believe in the misconceptions that skewed our view of what it means to be a couple and can instead be happy forging our own paths.
Let us know how we can help you. Contact us and speak with a professional counsellor.
For more information you can visit www.psychologytoday.com to read Tori’s full profile.
Written by Tori Mudie, MA, CCC, RP