You would think we'd know a lot about relationships because information is literally all around us.
Movies, tv shows, advice columns, magazines...and let's not forget our dear friends and family who are always eager to share their advice.
But since I've been studying relationships and examining the research out there, I've come to learn that a lot of the messages we've received in our lives about how relationships work aren't all that accurate.
Which can lead us down a dangerous path... one full of disappointment and disillusion when we find that our relationship isn't the happy-ever-after romcom scenario we've been trained to look for.
So it's no wonder we then we find ourselves full of anxiety and frustration about the state of our relationship when we compare ours to some unattainable ideal. Which of course only leads to more resentment/frustration/anxiety/anger/etc.
So let's take a look at a few of the most common ones:
1. Conflict is a sign that you're in a bad relationship.
Conflict is inevitable in ANY relationship. Two separate, individual people are sharing their lives with one another, it's a pretty tall order to expect they'll agree on everything.
In fact, I actually get worried when I encounter a couple without conflict because to me it's a sign that they are either avoiding having some tough, but important conversations about the relationship, or they are so checked out and distant that there is zero opportunity for conflict.
Disagreements, disappointments, misunderstandings are going to happen. It's about being able to handle the moments of conflict in a way that will ultimately improve your understanding of your partner and bring you closer together.
2. All You Need is Love, Love is All You Need
I love this song and I'm a huge Beatles fan. But the feeling of love just isn't enough when it comes to maintaining long-term romantic relationships.
First of all, those feelings of "being in love" are fueled by romance, desire, spontaneity, fun, and adventure. Easy to come by in the dating phase, but if you want to keep those feelings going (on a less intense level of course, there's no way we could possibly maintain that "in love high" forever), you have to intentionally make these parts of the relationship a priority. You can't hope they will magically reappear.
Which I know is a challenge in day-to-day life, especially when kids enter the picture. So this is where other aspects of the relationship play a role in keeping people together and happy- compatibility, mutual trust and respect, good communication, shared dreams and values, friendship.
3. All Conflict Can and Should Be Resolved
Actually research shows that 69% of relationship problems are perpetual. That means that they will show up over and over again, and are usually related to some fundamental differences in personality or lifestyle.
He always wants to get places early. She is always late.
He loves going out, she would rather stay in.
We're taught that we need to negotiate, compromise, figure it out so both people are happy. But it doesn't work that way for most problems. And that's okay!
When we let go of seeing these differences as a problem to be fixed, we're letting go of feeling like we need to control the situation. We can accept them as differences like we would with anyone else in our lives!
The key with unresolvable problems is being able to have a dialogue about them in a way that shows you accept (you don't have to like) your partner's differences. It's talking about them with humor and affection to bring us together versus meeting these issues with criticism and contempt.
4. If You Have to Work at Communication, Then You and Your Partner are Not Meant to Be
It surprises me that even though people intellectually know that relationships take work, they still expect things to just naturally work well!
And if they don't, or they don't like how much effort it actually takes, they assume that they made a mistake and are just with the "wrong" person for them.
That's like saying you bought the wrong car because you have to keep filling it up with gas.
Doesn't make sense right?
Even if you've been with the same person for decades, it's still going to require effort to be present, to express yourself effectively, to actively listen, to respond to their needs. It doesn't mean there's something inherently wrong with you, your partner, or the relationship.
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Let's get to work!
Couples counseling will help you and your partner do this important work in a more personalized way, focusing on the unique areas of growth in your relationship.