When it comes to relationships, the world is ripe with societal expectations.
This could be anything from the idea that spending time with in-laws you can’t stand is a prerequisite if you don’t want to push your partner away, or that you can only go on vacation with your spouse. The reasoning is that if you take separate holidays, you’ll also be living separate lives before long.
It can also be stereotypes between the sexes. If you’re a woman for example, you might be expected to bear the burden of household chores because “that’s just how it is”.
But the truth is that every couple has a different dynamic. They learn what works for them and what doesn’t.
If you want a truly healthy relationship, then be prepared to let go of these five societal misconceptions.
1) Opposite personalities will eventually be in opposition
We’ve all heard that like attracts like.
While it’s true that many couples are drawn to people who are like them—their interests, their spiritual beliefs—there are others who can work well (long term!) with people who are the opposite of them.
Take my parents for example.
My mother is a social butterfly who can talk up a storm with even a stranger walking down the street. My dad, on the other hand, was an introverted, reserved man who preferred the quiet and the calm.
But their relationship worked and they marveled in each other’s differences. My mom showed my dad a different, more fun way to be, while my dad grounded my mother’s high-strung personality and showed her how serene the calm can be.
It can be a wonderful thing to realize the greatness in those unlike yourself, says Lifehack writer Matt Duczeminski.
“Although you most likely will hold on to your beliefs, being with someone opposite of you teaches you to respect other people’s point of view, and give your own ideas a second.”
This can be a great way to grow and evolve—something every fulfilling relationship should help you achieve.
2) All you need is love
We might think that the societal idea that love conquers all is an outdated one, but many people still believe in this theory.
International keynote speaker Linda Larson CSP says that we would be surprised how many people think that if you love someone enough, that everything will be fine and all the difficulties will work themselves out.
“Relationships take work!” My former man friend hated talking about our relationship. So, in our life together, if something wasn’t working for me, I had two options,” she says.
“I could repress my frustration, ignore it and pretend like it didn’t bother me, which ultimately would kill our relationship, or I could continue to try to discuss issues, which did aggravate him and DID ultimately lead to the demise of our relationship.”
Larson says it’s imperative to make an agreement that when issues come up for either partner that they will lovingly and supportingly discuss them before they become too large to tackle.
3) No one wants to be with someone who is needy
John Gottman PhD, of The Gottman Institute, disputes the idea that better relationships are the ones in which people are more independent of and less needy of one another.
“Interdependence is what relationships are all about,” he says. “In a great relationship, people try to meet each other’s needs. They adopt the motto, ‘When you’re hurting, baby, the world stops and I listen.’”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s okay for us to be dependent on our partner for our happiness and for every little thing. We have to be able to have our own independence and passions while they have theirs.
The point is, when you need them, or they need you, you’re both there for one another.
4) Conflict can only mean that you’re in the wrong relationship
Conflict isn’t something we should avoid for fear it means we’re in the wrong relationship.
It’s actually a good thing.
“Conflict is there for a reason,” stresses Gottman. “[It’s there] to improve our understanding of our partner.”
Gottman says that conflict usually happens from a missed attempt at communication, especially if one person is trying to get emotionally closer to the other.
“Conflict also emerges from discrepancies between partners in expectations. These are worth talking about.”
What matters is how you deal with miscommunications and differences as they come up, says Gottman.
“In healthy relationships, these points of conflict help the couple feel more connected and understood because they are able to talk about the issue, hear one another, and repair when needed.”
5) If you need relationship counseling, then you’re already on the road to breaking up
Couples therapy is not a last-ditch effort to save a relationship like many people leave.
Sandra Espinoza, who is a marriage and family therapist, and Harel Papikan, a doctor of psychology say that happy couples can (and should!) go to therapy.
“You don’t need to wait until you’re about to break up.”
Espinoza encourages even people who are pretty satisfied in their relationships to seek out therapy.
“But I think it might be helpful for them to come with certain goals.”
She says those can be things like wanting to have a better sex life, or wanting to argue less, or to have more productive conversations about money—really, anything that’s causing friction or that is difficult to talk about is a good place to start.
“Therapy provides a space for folks to feel safe enough to express those things that they usually wouldn’t express otherwise.”
Why does love so often start out with such potential, only sometimes to profoundly let us down?
And what’s the secret to having a fulfilling and meaningful relationship?
The answer lives in the relationship we have with ourselves.
Acclaimed shame Rudá Iandê says that we can cut through the untruths we tell ourselves and invoke a greater self-concept—something that can be empowering, especially in relationships.
As Rudá explains in this illuminating free video, love is not what many of us have been taught it is. It is something much bigger, deeper, but also something that is our birthright to have.
The problem is that many of us can subconsciously be self-sabotaging in our love lives. Putting a significant other on a pedestal—and giving away our own power—is usually the main culprit.
Far too often we fall into codependent cycles thinking we have to make over our partner. When this doesn’t work, we can fall into a deep depression and feel disillusioned about love.
When we don’t embody a healthy sense of self, this can lead us to be easily swayed by others’ opinions of how we should be in a relationship—and in life.
Rudá’s teachings can give a whole new way of understanding relationships.
While watching, you’ll see that a desire to find fulfilling love is your divine inheritance—and that societal expectations can be discarded.
If you’re done catering to what the world thinks you should do with your love life, then you’ll appreciate the sage wisdom from this video.