Love. Countless poems, novels, films and songs have been dedicated to celebrating and exploring the mystery of this experience. From almost as early as birth, we are bombarded with messages about what love and relationships should be — messages that, unfortunately, are often inaccurate and unhelpful. In his book ACT with Love, Russ Harris discusses four big myths of relationships.
Combined, there is one big myth many people believe: “My goal is to find the right partner — then we will be complete and whole together, and will remain deeply in love for the rest of our life without any effort.” This belief is detrimental to a real and healthy relationship. We cannot stop these myths from perpetuating, but by identifying them and understanding the truths beyond them, we can successfully navigate through some of the pitfalls of relationship and learn about ourselves in the process.
1. The Perfect Partner: Somewhere, there is a person who is the answer to all our needs, desires, and fantasies.
Of course no one is perfect, and when we compare our partners to this ideal, we are inevitably disappointed. Then we make the mistake of thinking he or she is the wrong partner and throw away a relationship too early as a result. Even the best of partners will have qualities that we don’t like, and will be missing some of the qualities that we would prefer to have. In reality, what we need to find is not a “perfect’” partner, but rather a good enough partner. For each of us, there are certain qualities that we consider to be absolutely necessary. We must determine what these essential qualities are, establish that our partner has these qualities, and then the rest becomes negotiable.
2. You Complete Me: A couple is two puzzles pieces coming together to become whole. Without our other half, we are incomplete.
The trouble with this myth is that when we buy into this, we begin looking to our partner to make us feel complete, rather than looking to ourselves to fulfill this task. We blame our partners, thinking, “if only I had the right partner, I would be happier, richer, more relaxed, more in shape, more successful…”
The truth is that no partner is going to complete us. Relationship is not about finding someone who is a perfect fit, but rather learning about each other — identifying and accepting differences, and finding ways to work through those differences and support each other. A good partner can help us learn about ourselves, and then together we can grow towards a greater sense of wholeness.
3. True Love Is Easy: The power of true love is so strong that it will sweep you past any difficulties.
Many couples get stuck in this idea that love should just flow. If there’s difficulty or conflict, it means there’s something wrong with the relationship and we need to find a new partner. In actuality, being in a long-term relationship is challenging. You’re with someone who has different needs and expectations, and when two people spend a lot of time together over a length of time, those differences bump and rub against each other, creating conflict, arguments, and complications.
Just know that this is a normal part of any relationship. In the beginning, things go very easily because we’re all on our best behavior. Then the relationship continues and when conflict and difficulties arise, the real adventure begins — because now we are becoming more “ourselves” with each other. We discover bumps and currents underneath the surface of our relationship, and with flexibility and heightened awareness we can learn how to navigate through this.
4. Everlasting Love: Our love will bring ever-exciting, endlessly passionate, butterfly-in-the-belly happiness forevermore.
Often we have the expectation that if we feel love, that it’s always going to stay that way — and if it doesn’t, then maybe it wasn’t true love. Yet love is not a static experience; it has ebb and flow. There are times when you feel close to your partner and times when you feel distance. Sometimes these distances aren’t in sync with one another, which can engender feelings of anxiety, pain, and sadness.
Keep in mind that while your initial passion will subside over time, a good relationship is about where you go from that beginning, rather than trying to return to the place you began. How you nurture feelings of intimacy and love and how you work through conflict with your partner will determine the strength, depth and longevity of your relationship.
There they are — four sneaky myths that get us into a lot of trouble in our relationships. If you and your partner are experiencing dissatisfaction with your relationship, stop for a moment and ask yourselves: are you responding to something that is real, or are you caught up in one of these myths? If you’re falling victim to a myth, try to instead identify for yourselves what needs are most important to you. Once you do that, you can work with your partner to make sure those needs are met and then accept the smaller imperfections of your relationship with maturity and grace.
If you are serious about your relationship, rather than relying on faith, it’s better to go together with your partner for a premarital counseling program. In our premarital counseling program in San Francisco we teach couples the four areas of relationship success — transforming conflict, deepening connection, building awareness, aligning vision, and values. Learn more about it here.