Relationships are beautiful. Being able to love someone and be loved back is such a blessing. All of us have grown up fantasizing this amazing thing called ‘Love’ to be a huge part of our lives in a certain way. And when we are saying love/relationships, we are not just talking about romantic/sexual connections, but any form of connection between two people. Even a friendship is a relation!
We have our own ideas/beliefs about how love should look like or how people who love each other should be. We carry certain myths about relationships. And most often they come from our cultural belief systems deeply rooted in the society and the way the world functions. Also courtesy to movies and media which portray love in a specific/singular way- there’s no two ways about it! If a person loves you, they must understand you without you even saying anything. Just a look at you and boom! They can know what’s running in your head. Damn! I wish all of us had those powers. But in reality, unless you say/ask for things the opposite person will not have a clue about it. We are not mind readers to understand what the other person has in mind.
Here are some of the myths that we often hear about relationships:
1. LONG TERM RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE ONLY REAL RELATIONSHIPS.
People who believe this myth may feel that something is wrong with them if they aren’t in a committed twosome. If they discover themselves loving more than one person at a time, or if they have tried one or more traditional relationships that didn’t work out- instead of questioning the myth, they question themselves. Am I incomplete? Where is my other half? This belief teaches them that they are not good enough in and of themselves. Often people develop a very unrealistic view of couplehood- Mr., Ms., or Mx. Right will automatically solve all their problems, fill all the gaps, and make their lives complete.
But, we must ask ourselves if this is the only acceptable option. How many people in our society are consciously making that choice?
(You can read more along these lines, in our previous article- ‘Too many chefs don’t spoil the broth’)
2. IT’S SELFISH TO SAY ‘NO’ OR ASK FOR THINGS.
You may feel that it’s selfish to ask for things because of messages in your early family that said your needs didn’t count or that your needs were less important than the needs of others. When you examine it, is this really true? Is there something flawed or wrong with you that makes your needs relatively unimportant?
The truth is that everyone’s needs are valid, and equally important. It isn’t selfish to ask for things or set limits or say ‘No’. It’s normal. It’s healthy and necessary.
Our survival as individuals depends on knowing and saying what we want.
3. THE ONLY MORAL WAY TO HAVE SEX IS WITHIN A COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP.
An old saying has it that men agree to relationships to have sex, and women agree to sex to have relationships. Believing such things leads to the idea of sex as a currency exchanged for security both financial and physical, social acceptance, and the other perks traditionally granted to people who have achieved the culturally mandated state of lifelong pair-bonding. This myth makes you believe that the purpose of sex is only to cement two people together and any other purpose for sex- for fun, pleasure or exploration- is immoral and socially destructive.
4. LOVING SOMEONE MAKES IT OKAY TO CONTROL THEIR BEHAVIOUR.
Control is relative. You can’t control the behaviour of another functioning adult, even though some folks go nuts trying. This myth says that if a person loves you, they must not do what you don’t like or that you can tell them what to do. But telling a person what to do often makes them furious- and not secure.
The old “Awww, she’s jealous—she must really care about me” reasoning is symptomatic of a very disturbed set of personal boundaries.
5. IF I NEED SOMETHING, THEN THERE IS SOMETHING BAD OR WRONG ABOUT ME.
Every human being needs things from other human beings– whether it’s attention, support, love, help, or just plain kindness. We may not always be sufficient of ourselves, and might require the support of others to survive- physically and emotionally. So needing things can’t be shameful or wrong; it is basic to the human condition.
6. LOVE CONQUERS ALL.
Movies tell us that “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” and we, like fools sometimes, believe it. This myth has it that if you’re really in love with someone, you never have to argue, disagree, communicate, negotiate, or do any other kind of work.
Those who believe this myth may find themselves feeling that their love has failed every time they need to schedule a discussion or have a courteous (or not-so-courteous) disagreement.
But in reality, relationships take a lot of effort, time and commitment. Only love is not enough.
These are a few myths that we believe in, but there are many more like these that constrain us or cause us a great deal of unhappiness.
Often these myths/beliefs begin with, “Everybody knows…” or “Common sense tells us…” Questioning what “everybody knows” can be difficult, but it is always rewarding: questioning is the first step towards generating a new pattern, your own pattern of how you want to be. You don’t have to be or want what the world says!
This article was written by our Individual and Couples Therapist Varsha Vemula