Maintaining a marriage is hard enough without having to adhere to certain "rules" or "truths"about relationships from magazines and people you know.
With that in mind, we asked relationship experts to share a few myths about relationships that get under their skin. See what they had to say below.
Myth #1: Never go to bed angry.
The big problem with this time-honored advice? It's based on the premise that marital discord of any kind is unsustainable and unhealthy, when the truth is, hashing out your problems and clearing the air can lead to a stronger relationship, said Amanda Deverich, a Williamsburg, Virginia-based marriage and family therapist. Go to bed if you don't have the mental energy to talk; you'll probably be better equipped to discuss your problems in the AM once you've slept, she added.
"Never going to bed angry could elevate a fight and reduce the ability for a couple to resolve the issue -- and it could be particularly harmful when couples have a 'pursue and withdraw' dynamic; In other words, one person is the pursuer who's driven to re-establish connection and resolve the fight while the other partner withdraws from the argument because they are emotionally flooded and tired,"she explained. "In this case, go to bed angry. A partner who tends to withdraw needs time and distance to calm down to be able to reengage in the discussion."
Myth #2: Marriage changes people at their core.
If you hate the way he handles his meddling mother or you can't stand how hot tempered she gets, that's still going to drive you up the wall once you say "I do." Face the facts: Marriage isn't going to miraculously change who your partner is, said Jennifer Gauvain, a licensed clinical social worker and the co-author of How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He "The One" Or Should You Run?
"The cold hard truth is that most people don't change because you want them to," she said. "If you are in a relationship with someone who's hot-tempered, those same angry outbursts aren't going to subside just because you put a ring on it. What you see is what you get. It should come as no surprise when those same behaviors show up again and again once you're married."
Myth #3: Love heals all.
There's no question that spouses can play a big part in healing wounds from your past -- but their love can't possibly solve all your problems, said Abby Rodman, psychotherapist and the author of Without This Ring: A Woman's Guide To Successfully Living Through and Beyond Midlife Divorce.
"The problem is, your spouse can tap into those wounds as well," she said. "That's because we often unwittingly choose partners who draw out emotional responses we're familiar with -- even unhealthy ones. Your best bet is to acknowledge your problems and ask your spouse to do the same. Once you're aware of what those wounds are and what triggers them, you can support each other in a healthier, more loving way and avoid each other's emotional landmines."
Myth #4: The same old gender roles apply.
Why adhere to gender expectations in your modern, nuanced relationship when they don't suit you as a couple? Just because he's a dude doesn't mean he's more cut out for yardwork and finances than looking after your toddler, Deverich suggested.
"The gender role myth is dangerous because it is limiting to the individuals and the couple as a whole," she said. "Some men are more natural parents, better cooks or more emotionally aware than their other gendered partners. Some women are better at earning and managing money, fixing things around the house or laying down mulch. Assigning tasks by default gender role not only misses maximizing the true talents of one partner, but can set the couple up for frustration and failure.
Myth #5: When you've been together for a certain amount of time, marriage is the next logical step.
Sorry, high school and college sweethearts: Agreeing to marry someone just because you've invested so much time in the relationship is a recipe for disaster, said Gauvain.
"Many people I've talked to say this myth more than anything else kept them in a relationship that should have come to an end long before walking down the aisle," she said. One woman Gauvain interviewed who married her college sweetheart explained her inclination to "just get married already!" this way:
He wasn't a bad guy but I didn't really love him the way I thought you should love someone. He was smart, got a good job after college but we were more like roommates than soulmates. When he asked me to marry him shortly after graduation, it seemed like the logical next step -- kind of like taking a job promotion. I didn't want to disappoint anyone and didn't want to hurt my fiancé's feelings, but deep down I knew I was making a huge mistake. I felt like a complete actress on our wedding day. Three years later we filed for divorce.
Myth #6: No relationship can survive an affair.
Many subscribe to the belief that no marriage or long-term relationship can survive infidelity -- and that once a cheater, always a cheater. But marriage therapist Deverich is more inclined to agree with sex expert Dan Savage: A single act of infidelity does not have to be "a relationship-extinction-level event."
"The 'I could never forgive an affair' myth is sustained by people who have never experienced one and those who are too ashamed to talk about surviving one," she said. "Clinging to the myth is poisonous. Forgiveness and relationship repair is a long, difficult process but it can result in a marriage that is even better than before. The reality is that many couples survive affairs, sometimes even improving the marriage."
Myth #7: Your partner should know what you want and how you're feeling.
Your spouse is not a mind reader, Rodman said.
"I see this often when I work with couples: Partner 1 assumes they know exactly how the other one is feeling about a certain situation or person, then gets angry or upset when Partner 2 responds to that situation in a way that contradicts their assumption," she said. "This one is easily remedied by simply communicating effectively. Don't assume your partner will know how you're feeling telepathically."
Myth #8: Your relationship is fail-proof because you're married.
Don't fall into a false sense of security just because you went and put a ring on it, said Rodman. All relationships are vulnerable and could always use a little TLC.
"Just because you had a wedding doesn't mean you have a marriage. Your marriage needs attention," she said. "It requires your time, commitment and focus. As I tell my sons when they're in relationships, "Treat her well, or somebody else will."
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