Don’t let yourself be mislead and disappointed in your relationship by myths about happy couples’ do’s and don’ts.
Your relationship might be more “normal” than you recognize.love is not always roses and chocolates. It can get messy and complicated at times. Giving up fairytale fantasies means you won’t be constantly dismayed when inevitably love’s reality shows itself to be different than your internalized fantasy.
Myth #1: Happy couples want to have sex all of the time.
Fact: Happy couples don’t want to have sex all of the time, but they do gear up for sex.
The reality is the very hot feelings early on in a romance eventually wane, simply because familiarity creeps in. It’s inevitable that your partner won’t seem as new and exciting to you at some point in your relationship. This means you are likely not going to constantly desire sex, like perhaps you did early on. What it doesn’t’t mean is that you stop having sex and that you don’t still have those exciting, sexually charged moments together. Healthy couples work to have sex, even when the initial desire is absent. Gearing up and having sex keeps couples connected in more ways than merely interacting around the chores, plans and logistics of life. But, quality not quantity is what’s important. You don’t need to be having sex all of the time to have a healthy relationship. And feeling burdened by your partner’s sexual demands is also problematic. Healthy couples keep a good balanced sex life where quality and mutuality trumps frequency.
Myth #2: Happy couples don’t fight.
Fact: Happy couples fight, but they do forgive.
So often we hear popular wisdom espouse that couples should “never go to bed angry” and seemingly happy couples who brag: “we never fight.” Yet, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard a teenager say how confused they are because their divorcing parents never fought. Arguing and conflict are normal parts of intimate relationships. If it never happens in your union, then you are not two separate, self actuating beings and you may find eventually one or the other of you becomes claustrophobic. Happy couples do fight , but what keep them happy is they have tools to work through their conflicts. Most importantly, they have well-tuned abilities to soothe each other and to make each other feel better and secure.
Myth #3: Happy couples tell each other everything and enjoy doing the same things.
Fact: Happy couples have a separate life, outside of their relationship.
It’s an absolute myth that happy couples share ever detail of their existence and do all of the same activities together. In fact, sharing EVERYTHING can lead to less intimacy as you may begin to feel as if you are your partner’s therapist and not their lover. Or, if you are doing EVERYTHING together, you start to feel as if your partner is an extension of you, not a separate person. Happy couples have multiple ways to feel supported and to enjoy their lives. They may not enjoy the same specific interests and activities as their partner, but they do agree to try new things together. They indulge one another’s interests and, at the same time, support each other in pursuing their own separate goals. Even if it’s not a traditional hobby, happy couples have tried and true ways of enjoying time together and laughing— it could be something as simple as just watching reality TV on the couch.
Myth #4: Happy couples love unconditionally.
Fact: Tension and challenge is always present.
Happy couples are not complacent couples. They don’t always say “I love everything about you and I love everything you do!” There’s tension between fully accepting your partner as is, but allowing for growth and change. What is life without growth and change? For happy couples, the tension between these polarities means unconditional love is not always possible. At the same time, the tension between what we are and what we are becoming means the relationship remains vital—as opposed to stagnation and ennui.
Myth #5: Happy couples are entirely emotionally healthy.
Fact: Everyone has issues.
So often I talk to people in my practice who say they feel “crazy” or “weird’ for whatever issue they are facing. I have come to see that most people struggle with something. The question is– are you aware of what you struggle with? Can you acknowledge it to yourself and to your partner and can they do the same? Happy couples recognize their own shortcomings and can even laugh about their foibles from time to time. The problem is when a member of the relationship has no ability to admit fault, apologize, forgive or hold themselves accountable, when that is the case relationships become stuck and eventually toxic.
If you find yourself often frustrated that your relationship isn’t closer to “perfect” or that you and your partner are not more enamored by one another and cherishing of your time together, consider that your relationship might be more “normal” than you recognize.
Jill Weber is a clinical psychologist in Washington, DC and author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy—Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships(link is external).