Fairy tales, Hollywood movies and shows, as well as countless of romantic songs are filled with myths about relationships - particularly around falling in love and living happily ever after. Seldom the parts are portrayed about the real challenges of remaining in a long-term relationship.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) expert, Russ Harris, in his book ACT with Love talks about four common relationship myths. It's worth checking whether you have fallen prey to these, and how in doing that it can sabotage your relationship.
The perfect partner - this is the idea that somewhere out there in the world there is one perfect match for you (who is just patiently waiting for you to meet them). If we hold on to this idea we might be comparing our partner to this 'magical' other who will fulfil all our needs. and how our partner or relationship 'should' be. This can cause much frustration if our partner falls short of these 'shoulds'.
Russ Harris summarises it as follows:
Find the right partner, then you will be whole and complete, and remain deeply in love for the rest of your life without any effort. For short, Russ Harris refers to this story as Mission Impossible. If you believe this stuff, you are setting yourself up for a struggle with reality.
2. You complete me - from the Jerry Maguire move where he tells his girlfriend 'you complete me', this is an unhelpful idea which plays on the notion that you are incomplete and need someone else to be enough. This will make you feel needy, dependent and worried about being alone. You are already complete - whether you have a partner or not.
3. Love should be easy - should it? Living intimately with another completely different person who has different thoughts, feelings, ideas, communication styles, preferences, standards, habits, friends and family members should be easy...? We might like to think that if our partner was more compatible with us, life and love would be smooth sailing. Here's the truth - relationships are not easy. They require hard work, communication, negotiating, compromise and acceptance of differences, as well as a good understanding of your own values and placing importance on your wellbeing. By accepting differences we can start to enjoy the pleasures a healthy relationship can give.
4. Everlasting love - the early heady feelings of falling in love (in the honeymoon phase of relationships) can make us think that if that is gone, then our relationship is over - we are not feeling in love anymore. The honeymoon phase typically lasts for 6-18 months, and rarely longer than 3 years. Russ Harris recommends to not think of love as a feeling, but rather as an action. Feelings come and go. Actions you can control - this is something you can do, regardless of how you are feeling. You can act with love, even if you don't feel love - this is very empowering because you can take actions to implement it. Then, when we use love as a verb - doing it - the feelings of love can come along with it.
Which of these do you think is true or partly true for you?
Disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as counselling/therapy advice or used as a substitute for such. You should always speak to your own counsellor.