Good love gone bad…it is something none of us wants and all of us fear when we think we have found the one. Learning how to have a Great Love takes conscious effort, it takes patience, it takes a willingness to withstand the harder stuff long enough to get through it and back out to the other side together. It takes commitment. And all of that is pretty darn easy to do when things are going well and you are happy. So, why the high divorce and break up rate going on in our society? Let’s take a look at some of they Love Myths that many people grow up taking as fact, which simply put, are not true and can hurt (if not destroy) your relationship.
For those of you who are blissfully happy and reading this, these might not seem like they apply to you, but please humor the rest of us and read on with an open mind and a wisdom beyond your experience. This is insidious stuff that we all have been taught and can creep its way in to our core beliefs if we aren’t careful (and conscious of them).
Love Myth #1: My partner makes me happy.
We were all raised on (or at least were romanticized by music, movies and stories) the idea of soul mates and finding “the One.” Once you find this magical connection ordained by the Gods themselves, you will be forever transformed into a happier state of being, right? I mean, if you are madly in love right now, you may even be experiencing something that seems close to this! I would love to talk about this more here, but that would take up all the space and I wouldn’t get to the other myths! I promise to cover the Bliss of Beginnings in a later post.
So, back to this broken belief that our partners job is to make us happy. I am sorry, but it just simply isn’t their job. It’s yours. This is not to say that a good, healthy relationship is not wonderful and doesn’t increase your happiness factor, but that is more of a wonderful perk of the relationship and all you both have put in together; not the responsibility of your partner to create or maintain on your behalf. Each side of your relationship has a personal responsibility to accept responsibility for your selves, your thoughts, your actions, your own feelings (good or bad). Your unhappiness belongs to you and while your happiness may be enhanced by a Great Love, it still belongs to you.
Okay, flip this one over and look at it again. Do you see the message? It says “Your partner’s happiness is not YOUR job either.” Why take responsibility for their happiness and not let them get really good at being happy themselves? Trust me on this one…being in a relationship with someone who knows how to be happy without my constant effort is SO MUCH BETTER.
Love Myth #2: What I don’t say won’t hurt them (or me)
Truth. Trust. Honesty. Integrity. Call it what you will, but your partner has to be able to be 100% confident that you are not hiding things from them in order to have the kind of trust in each other to make the kind of vulnerability possible that a lifetime of Great Love will require.
Keeping secrets, even little ones, undermines your relationship. It puts a barrier between you whether you mean to or not…whether it is well intentioned or not.
A good rule of thumb is “if you can’t tell your partner about this, perhaps you need to reconsider doing (or thinking or saying) it.”
This also goes back to how to speak about your partner to others. If you are saying things to others that you don’t want your partner to hear, think hard about what you are doing. It isn’t helping you build a Great Love.
Yes, this even counts for buying stuff and then hiding it in the back of the closet, or keeping in your trunk until you can “sneak” it in the house. If you can’t say “hey, look at what I bought!” because it breaks an agreement between you to do so, then get your priorities back in alignment with your relationship and keep your agreement.
Intentionally leaving out information is the same as a lie. Hard, I know, but true.
Love Myth #3: Great relationships shouldn’t be hard
Let’s face it – living well with others is hard to do! Forever can sometimes feel like a very-very-very long time. Loving someone else doesn’t mean you always like what they do, what they say, how they smell, how they think, or a myriad of other things that make us delightfully different, and so hard to put up with at times. Like all things in life, relationships ebb and flow. We see cycles in all of life; the tides of bodies of water, the four seasons, we watch life cycles of other animals and know that this is how it is. Somehow it is too easy to look at the person we love and expect them to stay the same even though nothing else, no other life form, nothing else in nature stays the same. There will be change. There will be good times and hard times. Expect it and do not use the hard times as “evidence” of what is wrong. Life changes and we change along with it. Work together to support and love each other through it. Sometimes it is going to be hard work. Period.
Love Myth #4: There is always tomorrow
Through my years of divorce recovery counseling experience, I heard many times over couples who said “he/she just didn’t see me anymore” or “it was like I was a piece of furniture – you leave in the morning and come home at night and expect it to be right where you left it; no life of its own. Just a trusty old piece of furniture that is always just expected to be there at the end of the day.” Wow. Sad. Unnecessary.
There is no promise of tomorrow. There is a brilliant, funny, loving, caring human being that you are in love with and they are in your life today. See them. Recognize them TODAY. If you wait until the weekend, until next month, until you finally get to go on that vacation together next Summer before you stop and revel in the gift you have in each other today, then by the time your plan comes together (if you are lucky enough to still be here together), then you miss the opportunity to deepen a great relationship during special times that you built day by precious day along the way. Great Love doesn’t happen on a “we will spend time together later” kind of schedule. Don’t wait! Some experts suggest making time every week…but for a truly Great Love, make each other a priority and stop and really consciously see each other every day.
Your lifetime together won’t be what you are hoping for if your best memories were made with other people while you waited to spend time together.
Love Myth #5: Trust problems can’t be fixed
We all have that “deal breaker” list in the back of our heads…you know, the one that says “I could probably forgive this…but NEVER that.” Infidelity ranks high on this list for many people. It is so easy to make up rules in our heads to help us feel safe, in control and making sure we never feel too vulnerable or get taken advantage of.
*disclaimer: there are some things that I believe should be on a “deal breaker” list (abuse is never okay!).
Caution: sometimes you don’t know what your deal breakers are until you have to face one (or more) down in reality (yep, this will also be a future post in greater detail).
Trust problems are not easy to fix, but contrary to popular belief, nearly all of them can be fixed. Understanding this and lightening up on your pre-determined “deal breaker” list will help you deepen and strengthen your relationship in preparation for the possible time that someone might make a mistake. Mistakes that once were considered “deal breakers” happen in nearly every long-term relationship. This is the hardest part of choosing Great Love there is; it takes two of you to be willing to do whatever it takes to repair broken trust and face the patterns and belief systems that need to be rebuilt in a healthier way.
I will be very straightforward here and tell you that repairing broken trust is the hardest work there is in an intimate relationship. It hurts and it is hard not to give up; but if you can challenge your belief that it can’t be fixed and you both are willing, you can make it through.
In my work, I have seen many clients who chose not to continue and have seen others who have dug in and made the changes to their own beliefs, thoughts, behaviors and made it through the “deal breaker” to the other side; stronger and more authentically in relationship than they had ever been before. Neither is right or wrong and I place no prize or condemnation to either decision. I do still hold out the belief though when both people want to and are willing to do what it takes, trust problems can be resolved. There are very few true “deal breakers” and you won’t actually know what they are for you until you run smack into one.
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