Perhaps the most pervasive relationship myth, the concept that happy couples don’t argue couldn’t be more wrong. It’s impossible that two individuals can navigate a relationship of any consequential length without disagreeing on something. It’s unlikely that these inevitable disagreements will never evolve into an argument.
According to Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D and expert on relationships, all couples fight and relationship success is dependent on how they fight. Being able to keep open body language towards your partner and remain respectful during an argument is much more indicative of a successful relationship than not fighting at all.
That said, there are three types of argument-styles: conflict avoiders, validators and volatiles. Conflict avoiders prefer to avoid conflicts at all cost and validators tend to take a more conciliatory tack during arguments. Volatiles, on the other hand, almost require a heated argument to feel secure in the relationship – for them an argument is mostly about gauging the amount of commitment to the relationship by seeing how much their partner is willing to engage.
These three types of people are very distinct and do not all mix well. Volatiles may pair with other volatiles, or find relationship success with a validator. Conflict avoiders do best with volatiles, and will rarely succeed with a volatile partner. Validators are the most flexible of the three and can pair with other validators or with either of the other two types. In saying that though, here’s some myths that may have had you fooled.
You Should Never Go To Bed Angry
While somewhat related to the above point, this is a common myth that needs to be addressed. Just like there are different fighting styles, there are different styles of decompression. Men, in particular, are prone to what John Gottman calls “flooding”, a state in which they literally start to shut down and cannot continue to engage in the argument. At this point, a break is required, and taking the night to sleep on it and reset may be for the best.
Even in less extreme arguments, deciding to let the situation rest overnight can be helpful. You may find that neither of you is as invested in the argument the following day – or that the reasons for the argument now seem silly to you. If you find that there are unresolved issues, be respectful of timing and make a point of inviting your partner to have a conversation with you when they’re ready later in the day.
All Relationship Conflicts Should Be Resolved
Dr. John Gottman also debunks this myth: not all relationship conflicts can be resolved. In fact 69% of fights over the span of a couple’s relationship will be about the same issue. Couples that are successful over the long run find ways to handle the recurring issue with some lightness and humor.
You Should Be Having Sex X Number Of Times Per Week
This is perhaps the second most pervasive relationship myth: that there is a set amount of times that happy couples should engage in sex each week. The majority of couples engage in the most sex during the beginning phases of their relationship, known as the ‘honeymoon’ period.
During this time period, you’re literally high on your partner and experience a surge of feel good neurotransmitters, hormones and what’s known as ‘nerve growth factor’. Combined, this results in a sense of euphoria and fosters intense connection between you and your partner. But, it’s not intended to last.
Following this stage, the frequency of sex is determined by the sex drive of each individual in the partnership, as well as the opportunity to engage (most often prevented by the presence of children in long-term arrangements!).
There’s no right amount of sex to be having. If you’re feeling unsatisfied by the current frequency, or even the quality, of your sex life, the best thing to do is to gently bring it up with your partner and to have an open and honest conversation about what you want. As unsexy as it sounds, you may find that scheduling a regular time to connect in private is just the ticket to more frequent romps in the sheets.
People In Happy Relationships Don’t Flirt With Others
According to sex and relationship expert Esther Perel, flirting outside of a relationship is not something that should be taken seriously. As long as it’s not done with the intention to take it further, it’s simply an act of conversation. In fact, it can actually be good for the relationship by boosting the individual’s confidence. That said, if your partner flirts with others in front of you, or shows any other signs of disrespect towards you, then this is something that should be addressed.
Your Partner Should Be Your Best Friend.
Research shows that relationships are more successful when the two individuals involved do consider themselves to be close friends. That said, to have your partner as your only best friend places a lot of undue pressure on the relationship. It also limits your options of people you can speak to when you need to vent about your relationship! The verdict: being close to your partner is important, but don’t forsake your other friendships. You need them too.
If It’s Real Love, You Shouldn’t Have To Work At It
This basically sums up the rest of the myths. Long term relationships, and marriages in particular, take work. In order to maintain a consistent connection, to allow for personal growth and for the growth of the relationship, and to tackle obstacles as small as negotiating taking out the trash to overcoming major life events together, you need to allow space for things to be difficult sometimes.
Relationships are about negotiating boundaries, and creating functional interdependence more than anything else. Successful relationships require open communication about anything and everything that comes up over the course of a lifetime. There’s a reason why they call it a ‘commitment’!
At the end of the day, there is no right way to have a relationship, so pay attention to what feels right to you, remain attentive to your partner’s needs and trust the old saying that ‘nothing good gets away’. So, were you believing any of these myths?
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