Finding love, getting married and settling down are milestones that many of us take as a given. Of course we’ll end up married in the end! And of course we’ll be with our partner until we’re old and gray! Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple—but the media would have us believe otherwise.
Even when films take into account that couples fight and people grow apart, the prevailing theme is that everyone ends up coupled in the end. Breakups tend to be a means to new relationships. Couples live happily ever after. Soulmates break up, only to be reunited by the forces of fate in the end. There’s one special person for everyone, and life with that person is always positive, fulfilling and predestined.
Talk to a relationship expert, though, and you’ll begin to learn that things aren’t so black and white. Here are a few things movies get wrong about romantic relationships.
That Your Partner Will Always Treat You The Way You Want Them To
While you should never accept violence or abuse (physical or emotional) from a partner, expecting that your partner will always put you before him or herself is sure to lead to disappointment. Human beings are, well, only human. Part of a long-term, loving relationship is accepting the other person’s flaws. Obviously, your partner should take your feelings into account, but failing to act lovingly once in awhile is inevitable.
And besides, asking your partner to change simply for your benefit can be a selfish request on your part.
“Partners who work together to strengthen their relationships with trust and communication will many times notice healthy, natural changes that come as products of cooperation instead of co-opting one another,” says New York Life Coaching.
That “Soul Mates” Exist
We’re all familiar with the storyline: Two people love each other, then hate each other, then love each other again, over the course of years, giving off a strong soulmate vibe. These kinds of relationships, though, actually tend to be pretty toxic in real life.
Besides, the idea of soulmates has been proven to make people in otherwise happy, healthy relationships second-guess their own connection. And couples who consider themselves soul mates are more likely to break up than those who simply think of themselves as a couple in love that works hard at their relationship, according to a study put forth by the University of Toronto.
“… people who implicitly think of relationships as perfect unity between soulmates have worse relationships than people who implicitly think of relationships as a journey of growing and working things out,” says Professor Spike Lee, who led the study.
That “Hard Work” Only Looks Like Putting on Lingerie
Hard work can take a lot of different forms. It might mean making sure to clean up the dishes every night before bed because you know that leaving them in the sink will offend your partner. It might mean turning down the potential to find a “soul mate” when you sense a connection with another individual. It might mean moving across the country for your partner’s new job. Hard work doesn’t just mean keeping things hot and passionate.
That One Conversation Can Solve A Problem
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could talk about a marital issue once, reach a resolution and have that be the end of it? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Marital issues require extended thought beyond the actual fight. They require making changes to long-term habits, sifting through emotional issues that can date back to childhood and seeking the help of a relationship counselor when necessary.
That Relationships Have to Last Forever
About half of marriages end in divorce. We often quote that statistic as a sad, depressing portrayal of modern relationships, but in fact, divorce isn’t the worst thing in the world. Yes, it’s difficult and sad, but personal growth sometimes requires us to move on when a relationship is no longer healthy. Happily ever after isn’t the only path to a happy, successful life.
That Jealousy Isn’t Healthy
While possessive behavior is obviously not healthy, a little jealousy can do a marriage good, according to Esther Perel, the relationship expert and author of “Mating in Captivity.” She advises that “You can’t desire what you have.” Desire is, of course, the wish to obtain something. A little healthy jealousy, which can only arise when partners maintain active social lives and identities apart from each other, can add a little spark.
“When you and your spouse have been married for a period of time, and your original desire has waned, sometimes a drop of jealousy can remind you that you’re not completely safe,” says Complete Wellbeing. “Jealousy can remind us of the value of what we have.”
That Marriage Has to Be Boring
Just like human beings, relationships have highs and lows. That’s part of what makes them exciting. If you and your partner are invested in and mindful about your relationship and your lives, it’s likely that you’ll both experience a lot of personal growth over the course of your time together—and that is hardly boring.
Traveling together, supporting each other on new career ventures, spicing things up in the bedroom, raising kids together … these are all adventures that you and your partner can choose to view as fun and exciting challenges.
That Men Always Want More Sex than Women Do
The stereotype goes that men in heterosexual marriages constantly desire sex from their wives, while women have no primal desires of their own. Although modern women have many societal and financial stressors to deal with, which can detract from their sex drives, the truth is that women have just as many sexual needs as men do, which may be why up to 25 percent of women in heterosexual relationships will cheat on their primary partner at least once. Which brings us to the next point …
That Cheating Never Happens in Loving Relationships
Up to 25 percent of women cheat, and up to one third of men will do the same. With cheating being such a common occurrence, does that mean all these couples simply don’t love each other?
Of course not. Esther Perel examines monogamy and cheating in her popular TED talk, but cheating happens for reasons other than a lack of marital love. A full 42 percent of cheated-on spouses decide to work things out with their partner. The fact is, sometimes cheating happens, even in loving partnerships. Ideally, couples who decide to work through the issue should get help from a relationship counselor and re-invest their time and energy in their own relationship.
That Your Partner will be your Ultimate Source of Fulfillment
Finally, it’s irrational to think that your partner will be able to satisfy every aspect of your being. People who enter romantic relationships looking for a best friend, business partner, travel buddy, co-parent, nurturing mother figure/protective father figure, spiritual guru and passionate sex partner are likely to be disappointed.
It’s healthy to derive some of your life fulfillment from other sources, such as friends, parents, siblings, children and hobbies. People shouldn’t expect their partners to be their perfect match in every arena of their lives.