Relationships can be tough to define. With so many ideas floating around, there are only a few things that are clear: relationship definitions are determined by conversations, connections are constantly changing and every partnership relies heavily on an individual’s level of self-awareness. Romantic relationships can be especially confusing. We’re talking about what’s real, what’s not and debunking relationship myths that everyone thinks are true in western civilization.
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Relationship myth: Love, sex and relationships are the same thing
Being in a relationship means you’re in love with a person. Sex is an expression of love and only happens when you’re in a relationship with someone you’re deeply in love with.
The realty:Relationships are complicated — and no two relationships are exactly the same. Relationships are about commitment and negotiated terms between consenting individuals — you can certainly be in relationships where love is dying, where love is dead or where love never existed at all (think Prince Charles and Princess Diana). On the other hand, you can be in a situation where love is blooming — but a relationship has not yet been agreed upon. And let’s be real, you can be in a relationship and not be sexually active — and you can have have sex without being in love. But yes, sex with love tends to be better (sexy intimacy and all that).
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Relationship myth: Throuples are just an excuse for a threesome and don’t count as a real relationship
Bringing a third into the mix is just an excuse for men to live out their sexual fantasies.
The realty:Romantic relationships these days are reflecting the diversity of the people who are in them. This means that there is no single “right way” to relationship. It’s really comes down to what’s right for you and your partner(s). While the history of human monogamy has a sketchy record as is, an increasing number of people are are committing to throuples — a three-way play at the word couple. Like it’s more conventional counterpart, throuples too have boundaries and are about the intimate, romantic bonds that exist between people (in this case a trio). Whereas threesomes are solely about what happens beneath the sheets, throuples take their bond and interdependence outside the bedroom as well. And no they’re not only driven by heteronormative male desire. They can consist of all genders, in any number of combinations.
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Relationship myth: If you’re in love, you’re in a relationship
Film, television and sweet love songs too often suggest that happy endings are made of love and forever-together situations. The popcorn selling dream suggests you’ll fall in love and magically be in a relationship — in happily-ever-after form.
The reality:Unrequited love is a thing — and it’s possible to love someone who doesn’t love you. In fact, it’s the above harmful narrative that stalkers and real-life villains genuinely believe that lead us to a true crime mess. While it’s a nice idea and healthy hope that you’ll be able to find love in the right relationship — everyone has the right to say no to a relationship.
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Relationship myth: Polyamory is a product of cults
Polyamomorous people are trying hard to convert monogamous people into their unconventional lifestyle. People are meant to be monogamous — polyamory is the product of cults!
The reality:In a very heteronormative world where mainstream narratives suggest mongamy is the way to be, it’s amazing how much media attention polyamory has been receiving recently. Thing is, adultery has been around since the beginning of civilization (cheaters gonna cheat), history of swingers dates back to the 1700s (Paris, obvs) and polyamory as an identity is fairly new. But the trend of consensual, non-monogamous relationships is a thing that was born from modern humans given the opportunity to navigate relationships on their own (read: women stopped getting traded for cattle). But no, cults were not responsible for this one — people probably are confusing polyamory with polygamy.
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Relationship myth: Connections stay the same
Once you’re in a relationship, that connection is there — it’s strong — and it never fades. This is the work of the cosmos, fate and sweet destiny!
The reality:If only. As people constantly evolve, shift vantage points, regress or whatever individuals tend to do — environments, circumstances and more change. It’s impossible for a relationship to stay exactly the same. It’s possible, of course, for two people to grow together — to remain committed to each other — and to maintain a long-term sustainable relationship. But let’s face it, the connection isn’t the same. Some may argue it’s stronger.
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Myth: Opposites attract
It’s only natural that we are drawn to others’ needs and desires that aren’t fulfilled in our own lives. Plus relationships with opposites are full of sexy tension, which adds passion.
The realty:There can certainly be excitement and intrigue in a partner who seems our exact opposite emotionally and behaviourally (i.e. an impulsive vs. slow and steady personalities). But despite what these celebrity couples show, research suggests that over the long haul, couples with similar values and upbringing have higher chances of success. This means that you will be on similar (if not the same) pages when you inevitably encounter conflict. Which brings us to the next myth...
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Myth: All you need is love
'The Beatles' sang about it. Love will persevere. And everything else will naturally fall into place.
The realty:While attraction and love are definitely the starting points (think of them as relationship lubricants), humans are far too complex as creatures to be carried on to some “happily ever after” with mere love alone. This means that at some point, you will encounter obstacles in your relationship. Abuse and neglect aside, relationships that encounter problems don’t necessarily mean that you immediately need to pull the chute, nor that “it just wasn’t meant to be.” Relationships are dynamic beautiful beasts and take work. Lots of work, and often. Especially as people are prone to change at least a little over time. This brings us to another myth you’ve likely internalized: happy couples never fight; well, research suggests the opposite is true, in fact. It’s less about whether you argue, and more about how you argue. And if you’ve gotten the “don’t go to bed angry” advice (chances are, you have), you may want to ditch that one too. Sometimes we need time apart to sift through our own complex feelings and thoughts before spewing them, half-formed, onto our partner(s). Especially when sleep-deprived. Nobody wins.
Related: 10 signs you’re falling out of love.
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Relationship myth: In a good relationship, you can read each other’s minds
When love is real and the relationship is right, you will be so connected that you will be able to read each other’s minds.
The reality:Here’s the thing — if you spend enough time with anyone, you’ll start thinking like them through osmosis (for better or for worse). The act of truly knowing someone’s thoughts and feelings is not a thing. But “empathetic accuracy” is a psychological concept that speaks to an ability to develop an intuition that helps “get someone” by reading cues in the form of words, behaviour, body language and emotion. This is common amongst family, close friends and romantic relationships. This ability relies on emotional intelligence and an ability to empathize. Sadly, there are people out there that can hardly understand themselves.
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Myth: You just need the right guy to come along
Having a boyfriend / girlfriend / baby will solve all your problems.
The realty:This knight in shining armour complex needs to be locked away for good. Sure, part of the allure of being in a relationship is that it (in the best of cases) makes lives richer and fuller (think of it as suddenly seeing everything in technicolour). But it is naive to expect that attaching yourself to another human will instantly solve all those problems you’ve been lugging around for many years prior. Instead, be your own knight, sit down and take stock of what areas of your life you need to work on, and start there, ticking things off step by step. This will not only give you confidence and a sense of control over your circumstances, it will make you a more desirable life partner to anyone who may eventually come along (and to yourself).
You may also like: Celeb engagements that never made it to the altar.
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Myth: Straight men don’t like or need to talk about feelings
They just do what needs to be done, and don’t need to spend a tonne of time mulling it over or discussing it.
The realty:Ah, while toxic masculinity has long idolized “the strong silent type,” research suggests suppression of feelings - especially when linked with trauma - is harmful to anyone, including males - straight or anywhere along the spectrum. Simple as that. Having a strong social network (or seeking out professional support), where it is safe to discuss personal thoughts, goals, desires, concerns and fears in an open way is good not only for our mental wellbeing, but for our relationships too.
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Myth: You can fix people once you’re in a relationship
Nobody is perfect and in order for a relationship to work, you’ll need to change your partner or their habits.
The realty:Stop raising them, they’re not your child. If someone wants to change, they will need to drive that bus. Otherwise, you’re wasting your precious time and effort (not to say risking endless disappointment) in trying to bring someone around to seeing things your way. Yes, nobody is perfect, but if you truly need to change major aspects of your partner’s character, maybe they’re not the right person for you or need to first tackle these challenges themselves before committing to a relationship.
Related: 10 signs your partner is a narcissist.
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Relationship myth: Us against the world
If a relationship is “meant to be” you shouldn’t need other people. Your partner should be your soulmate, your best friend, your everything.
The realty:While it might be romantic to think that all you need is each other, that puts way too much pressure on you and your partner to be everything, all at once and all the time. That’s just not realistic or sustainable over the long term. At its worst, your two-way bubble can become so tiny, that you lose all connection to the rest of the world, and other points of reference for how to be a part of a society that consists of many other individuals. Toxic relationships are a thing (Harley Quinn and Joker are one fictionalized example of this extreme). So, make sure you continue nurturing outside connections to friends and family. It can only enliven relationships to continue bringing fresh ideas and perspectives into them.
You may also like: Here’s how not to ghost someone.
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Relationship myth: It’s only cheating if you sleep with someone
Cheating is defined by sex.
The reality:Cheating is about breaking rules and terms. Since relationships are defined by conversations — negotiating expectations of monogamy and what that looks like to both of you will ultimate define what cheating is for your relationship. Communication is key here — and while it’s garbage that your partner is off slipping into DMs on Instagram — if you haven’t talked about what is and isn’t cheating and aligned on appropriate behaviours, they may genuinely not realize you think they’re emotionally cheating. In some relationships, sex isn’t cheating (as long as love isn’t there — good thing we’ve cleared up love/sex/relationships not being the same thing, eh?) Never forget: no sense is common.
Related: This is how all the zodiac signs cheat.