We get a lot of ideas about relationships that may not be healthy for us from movies, advertising, books and people. Romantic relationships in particular are often portrayed in ways that are outdated, harmful or just plain wrong. We need to be constantly talking about relationships with our children, especially as they reach adolescence and start developing crushes and begin dating.
Myth: There’s only one person out there for you (like a ‘soul mate’)
Fact: Ahhh, yeah, no. And thank goodness it’s ‘no’. Imagine the difficulty and pressure if we all had to find that ‘one’ person in a world of seven billion? Just like how most of us have more than one friend, there are also many, many people out there who we are likely to feel romantic and/or sexual attraction towards and who may make good partners.
Myth: Conflict is a sign of a bad relationship
Fact: Conflict is unavoidable; it will always arise in any close relationship, romantic or otherwise. The sign of a healthy relationship is not the amount of conflict, but how the conflict is handled. Clear, calm and non-accusatory communication is key here. Trying not to be defensive and communicating emotions without spite. If fights get heated, that can be okay – just so long as they’re resolved peacefully afterwards. That being said, it’s important to know the difference between regular bickering and unhealthy patterns or emotional abuse.
Myth: Partners should just ‘know’ each other’s needs and feelings
Fact: None of us are mind readers. We might see someone every day, but we still don’t know what’s really going on inside their heads. And we can’t expect our partners to know what’s going on in ours. Feelings and needs have to be communicated before they can be addressed. It’s not fair to expect someone to just ‘know’.
Myth: If you truly love someone, you won’t feel attraction to other people
Fact: Loving someone doesn’t cancel out all feelings for other people. Humans simply aren’t built this way. This is a particularly pervasive and often damaging myth, one that might lead people to throw away perfectly happy relationships just because of a crush or Instagram ‘likes’ for someone else. Even if you have thoughts about someone else, or your partner does, it doesn’t mean your or their love isn’t real or is diminished in some way.
Myth: Jealousy is a sign of love and caring
Fact: Jealously doesn’t stem from love, it stems from insecurity – and it can be very unhealthy. While almost everyone experiences jealously at some point, excessive jealously and controlling behaviour should not be tolerated. For minor jealousies, it’s fine to offer or ask for a little extra love and reassurance. But at the end of the day, jealousy isn’t something to be ‘solved’ by another person; we need to work on our own insecurities.
Myth: If they’re ‘the one’, the relationship should be easy
Fact: Okay, so we already debunked the idea of ‘the one’ above. But besides that, all relationships need work. It doesn’t matter how well suited the pair; all couples will experience bumpy patches. And communicating or caring for someone’s needs, compromising, and getting around conflict can be challenging and tiring. But for good, healthy relationships – the extra demands will be worth it.
Myth: You should only talk about your problems and feelings with your partner
Fact: No one person should be your entire support network. Talk with friends, talk with family, talk with professionals. Having a range of people to turn to for a sympathetic ear will help provide different perspectives. It also means that if things ever sour with your partner, there will be a number of others to fall back on for support.
Myth: You and your partner should share everything (including all your time)
Fact: Having interests, hobbies, friends and periods of time just for you is actually healthy in a relationship! While some couples will be more co-dependant than others, ensuring some time and space for yourself will help maintain healthy boundaries and make the both of you better partners. And no person you’re dating should ever pressure or force you to share a bedroom, a bank account, a hobby or anything else if you don’t want to.
Myth: If a relationship ends, it means it’s failed
Fact: If the both of you have learnt and grown from the relationship, and not left each other in significantly worse working order than when you met, then congratulations – you’ve been in a successful relationship! Why does this myth continue to plague us? Why is death the only acceptable end marker of a relationship? Some people might have rewarding relationships that last as little as a night! There are many factors for judging the success of a relationship, and time is just one of them.
Myth: Once you’re in a committed relationship, you no longer need to use protection
Fact: Okay, this might not be the case for every couple in history – but it is good practise to use protection. For heterosexual couples, pregnancy might be an issue and will need protection to prevent. But for couples of all genders, STIs (sexually transmissible infections) are a reality and you might want to still use protective barriers like condoms for either penises or vulvas. No matter how much you trust your partner – it’s better to be safe than sorry.