We are constantly being bombarded with messages about love and relationships in our culture. Whether it’s on TV, the radio, a magazine, or social media, we are always hearing about dating, relationships, and marriage and what is “normal” and “healthy”. It can be difficult to weed through what is not only helpful, but also what is appropriate and relevant for our own lives and relationships. Some input may be helpful for one couple but can be extremely damaging for another. Every person and relationship is unique, and it can be harmful to internalize relationship advice that’s not catered to your specific needs and values. As a couples and sex therapist, I hear a lot of unhelpful myths about relationships that come up in therapy sessions. Here are three myths about “healthy” relationships:
1. “You should just know.” I will often hear a partner say to the other in session, “You should just know.” This mentality can be unhelpful and detrimental to your relationship because you are setting unrealistic expectations of your partner. To have someone “just know” what you need, what you’re thinking, or what you want is implying that he or she can read your mind. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together or how well you know each other, it is important to be assertive about communicating your thoughts and feelings and not expecting your partner to read your mind or make assumptions.
2. “Don’t go to bed angry.” A common myth passed down from generations about how to have a healthy relationship is to not go to bed angry. While it’s preferable to have some resolve or resolution from a conflict before bed, that can often be unrealistic. This myth also implies that we have full control over our emotional state, which often times, we don’t. Mindfulness practice teaches us that it is healthier and more productive to acknowledge, name, and allow our emotions to be there rather than to push them away or pretend they’re not there. Also, depending on our processing or communication style, we may need to “sleep on it” or allow ourselves time and space to reflect on how we’re feeling, rather than rush through a conversation we’re not ready for. If you’re the type of person who needs more time to reflect on your feelings and what you want to say, it’s important to vocalize this to your partner, and let them know what you’d like to come back to the conversation once you’ve had some time to reflect and process.
3. “The sex is the first thing to go.” More than any other topic, sex and its impact and importance in a relationship is often the most misunderstood and judged from the media and our culture. When I hear an individual or couple discuss their fears and anxieties about sex in their relationship, or a decrease in sex, it is vital that we investigate the how’s and why’s before jumping to conclusions. Many of us internalize the idea that once sex starts to slow down in a relationship, which is inevitable, then there must be something wrong with the relationship or it’s somehow “doomed”. While sex is a very important aspect of intimate and romantic relationships, there are a variety of factors that can impact libido, such as stress, medical issues, anxiety and depression, body image, and trauma. Just because sex has slowed down or even stopped in your relationship, it doesn’t mean there is something deeply wrong with the relationship that cannot be recovered from. It is very common for couples to experience an ebb and flow in their libido throughout their relationship and adulthood.
If you are having trouble navigating your relationship or understanding your unique and authentic needs in a relationship, it would be helpful to consult an individual or couples therapist to explore and process your specific needs. Contact Symmetry Counseling to be matched with one of our relationship specialists and begin couples or individual therapy treatment.