In order to lead a truly healthy, fulfilling love life, it’s important to understand some of the toxic ideas about relationships that are floating around out there — because not everything you’ve heard about love and relationships is necessarily true, or good advice to follow. One serious side effect of unwittingly believing some of these myths? If you’re unaware of some of the harmful yet common beliefs about relationships, you might be more likely to have a hard time spotting unhealthy behavior or patterns in your own relationships.
“[Unhealthy relationships are often] the result of lack of self-awareness of one’s self and/or a lack of awareness of one’s own worth,” Cheryl M. Bradshaw, RP, B.Ed., MA, tells Bustle. “Has it been bad luck? Have you invited people into your life that maybe were not the best choices, because you are generous of heart and spirit and then get hurt? We all hold some responsibility even in the most obviously one-sided situations, so we need to check in with ourselves and reflect and learn and try to find our patterns. You might find that you have things that you are doing that are causing problems, friction, or challenges in the relationships as well.”
There isn’t just one type of unhealthy relationship, and it’s not always easy to recognize if something is off in your own relationship — but learning which untrue, harmful relationship cliches to ignore can be a great starting point. Here are nine common relationship beliefs that are actually toxic, according to experts.
1.You Need To Share *Everything* With Your Partner
In a relationship, you’re going to share a lot with your partner: experiences, memories, a home, finances… the list goes on. However, you should still have your own sense of self, which means it’s OK to keep some things — like a hobby or some time with friends — separate from your partner.
“You need to keep some things separate, and feel like an individual,” Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. “This does not mean you should lie and avoid the truth, but there is certainly some information you can — and should — keep to yourself. If your partner asks you point blank about something, that can be a judgement call depending on the situation. But there is certainly room for individuality, and rightly so!”
2.You Always Have To Compromise
Disagreements will come up in any relationship, and it’s important to know not just how, but when to compromise — because you shouldn’t be a doormat anytime there’s a confrontation.
“Relationships are about negotiation which may result in a compromise,” Backe says. “The trouble with the compromise line is that it may encourage some people to forsake their argument from the beginning and not verbalize themselves, all for the sake of compromising. This type of thinking is incredibly toxic in some relationships, and can lead to some major codependent behavior. Voice your opinion first, then work out a compromise.”
3.You Should Always Put Your Partner First
Part of being in a relationship is, of course, means that you’re taking your partner’s feelings into account. However, you shouldn’t always put your partner first — especially if that means your own needs and wants are neglected.
“It’s all about you,” Backe says. “I don’t mean that in a selfish or egocentric way. I mean that you should have goals and dreams that are independent of the relationship. You can hang a lot of hopes and dreams on love and intimacy, but you never know when they will turn on you, destroy your life, and reduce you to ashes and dust. Your partner is important, to be sure, and your love is something worth living and dying for — but don’t make the mistake of sacrificing your true self or your integrity.”
4.Couples Shouldn’t Fight
If you think that being in a healthy, happy relationship means you and your partner should never fight, you couldn’t be more mistaken: having confrontation is normal, but only if you and your partner are fighting in a healthy way.
“Couples most certainly should fight, but they should also learn how to fight,” Backe says. “Conflicts are part of the process of growing up. Human beings learn and develop primarily through pain and suffering. Sad but true. Pain teaches us lessons about ourselves and others. Things we would have otherwise remained woefully ignorant about. Embrace the fights by establishing rules of engagement and by fighting fair. And most of all, make sure you grow from those fights, or else you are doomed to repeat them.”
5.Your Partner Should Be Your Best — Or Only — Friend
It’s great if you and your partner are BFFs, but if you feel like you’re betraying them by having other close friendships, that’s a very unhealthy line of thinking.
“It is a falsehood that romantic partners should fulfill the need for outside friendships or platonic relationships,” Shawna Orwoll, officiant at Away We Go Weddings and relationship coach at Very Married, tells Bustle. “When [you] become too ensconced in a romantic relationship, it can be difficult to avoid codependency and objectivity about the health of the relationship.”
6.Being In A Relationship Will Make You Happy
There’s a lot of societal pressure to be in a relationship, but the truth is that your worth isn’t defined by your relationship status. Having a partner can be wonderful, but it’s not guaranteed to make you happy — and it’s totally OK to be single.
“Being in a relationship, especially in the early stages can be a fun distraction but that’s all it is: a distraction from your problems,” Gwendolyn Nelson-Terry, MA, LMFT, tells Bustle. “Once the honeymoon period ends, those same problems that you had will still be there. People who enter into a relationship with the belief that they will now be complete and happy because of this relationship are frequently disappointed and as such they tend to experience more arguments and report a lower level of relationship satisfaction.”
7.If You Love Your Partner, It’s OK To Give And Get Nothing In Return
Relationships are all about give and take, and even if you consider yourself a “giving” person, it’s toxic to let yourself get trapped in a relationship where you’re always giving, giving, giving but never getting anything in return from your partner.
“It is wonderful to be a giver but it is also important that you know how to ask for what you need in your relationship,” Nelson-Terry says. “A healthy relationship has moments where you will be a giver and moments where you will need support, attention or to be heard. When your needs are constantly not being met because you aren’t speaking up and asking for what you need with in the context of your relationship, you are setting yourself up for some disappointment.”
8.Monogamy Is The Only Option
One myth that’s especially toxic? That there’s only one kind of relationship — a monogamous one — that’s “right” or worthwhile, because that’s simply not the case for many, many individuals.
“The assumption that monogamy is always the right choice makes it hard for those of us that it doesn’t work for,” Kirsten Schultz, a Sex Educator at Chronic Sex, which focuses on the intersections of queerness, disability, and sexuality, tells Bustle. “Every relationship will be and look different — and that’s a good thing… People participate in consensual non-monogamy in a variety of ways, and that doesn’t mean each of those relationships means less than another.”
9.You Should Never Go To Bed Angry
You’ve probably heard the cliche that couples should never go to bed angry — but if you want to resolve conflict in a healthy, productive way, staying up all night to hash things out when tensions are high isn’t the best way.
“Staying up extra hours to resolve conflict when you are both exhausted often leads to further escalation,” Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, tells Bustle. “Sometimes all you need is a good night’s sleep. Once you wake up refreshed in the morning, you’ll often have a clearer perspective on the topic of contention and be able to deal with it in a more reasonable way.”
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember about relationships is that there isn’t just one way to do things right. By learning what’s not true of healthy relationships, you can get one step closer to making sure that yours is happy and fulfilling — and most importantly, full of mutual love and respect.