Common Myths about Healthy and Happy Relationships

By Eleanor Parkins, AMFT

Healthy relationships don’t require a lot of work.

Many of us grow up around the notion of “happily ever after” where two people fall in love and everything just falls into place. If you run into problems, something must be wrong, right? This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s important to recognize that relationships are highly romanticized in the media. The reality is that relationships require hard work from beginning to end, and research shows that individuals who lay back and hope it all comes naturally could be heading into a real danger zone. So, the next time you find yourself in the trap of thinking that your relationship should “come more naturally” … think again!

My partner and I don’t have much conflict. We must be doing great!

Maybe… but, maybe not. In this case, I think it’s important to ask yourself if the absence of conflict is because you’re avoiding talking about the issues in the first place. This can come into play when individuals think their problems might go away if they avoid talking about them. Quite the opposite is true, however. When we avoid our problems, they only grow larger and have the potential to blow up in our face later on. When in doubt -- talk about it!!

If my partner truly cared about me, he/she should already know what my needs are.

Not even close! If humans could read each other’s minds, maybe this idea would be more accurate. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case, and even the most attuned partners cannot know what your needs are all the time. Communicating your feelings and needs in a relationship is truly key!

If I want my relationship to improve, my partner needs to change first

Careful with this one. First, it’s important to recognize that the more you push your partner to change, the less he or she is going to want to do so. While it is certainly normal to recognize areas in the relationship where you’d like your partner to make some improvements, it’s even more important to recognize the areas where YOU can make changes. Self-awareness and the ability to take responsibility for your own change in a relationship is crucial. Don’t lose sight of your part. As they say, it takes two to tango!

Talking about my past emotional hurts will only make them worse. Why would I want to put myself through that?

Although it’s not always an easy process, exploring one’s past emotional hurts is important to gain clarity about the ways you relate and interact in your current relationship. In addition, being vulnerable with your partner often leads to a deeper connection, and can give individuals an even greater sense of security within themselves and their relationship.

The more I can deal with my emotions on my own, the better.

Nope! While it might feel easier in the moment to deal with your own emotions, it can create distance between you and your partner. Emotional closeness and the way that partners turn towards one another (rather than away) is not only important for marital happiness and satisfaction, but it’s also important for your overall health! When you and your partner can be emotionally vulnerable with one another, there is a greater chance you will feel heard, valued, and accepted in your relationship. All of this can lead to a deeper and more intimate connection with your partner.

We should be having sex at least X times a month, right?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no “normal” when it comes to sex practices. This number is completely dependent on your needs as well as your partner’s needs. Actually, research has shown that one of the most common causes of sexual dissatisfaction is unrealistic expectations around sex. One’s sexual desire and “drive” often depends on many factors, some of which, you may not even be consciously aware of. So, what does this mean? It’s important for you to explore your feelings, needs, and experiences around sex and communicate about them with your partner.

Natalie Underway