And honestly, who can blame us. Many of us first learn about relationships from movies, songs and TV shows. Very little of what we are shown in any way resembles reality. Love is portrayed as the end destination, something we should all strive for and once we reach it and find ‘the one’ everything just suddenly makes sense and we become whole, fulfilled and physically satiated.

The problem with this narrative is that it sets up unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be and what ‘the one’ should do for us. This often leads us to fall victim to ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome. Even when we are in a loving relationship, one eye may desperately seek to recreate the fireworks that Hollywood promised would last forever. Others feel incredibly guilty or confused when unexpected feelings arise in their otherwise healthy relationships; feelings and realities that the movies never warned us about.

I want to shed some light on these realities and to let you know that you are not alone if you’ve experienced them. The following points are all things I’ve felt and discussions that my boyfriend Nick and I have had.  Here are the relationship myths that need debunking:

 

You’ll never feel lonely

When I was younger I would see couples, and think; ‘it must be so great to be in a relationship, you’d never have to worry about feeling lonely again’. Well. Thirteen-year old Lisa was sadly mistaken. While it’s amazing to have one consistent person to turn to for support, fun, sex and friendship, the truth is, you can feel just as lonely in a relationship as when you are single. I’ve found, that the time when I felt most lonely in my relationship was not due to incompatibilities with my boyfriend like I initially feared, but rather from believing the lie that Nick could fulfil 100% of my emotional, physical and social needs. During the initial honeymoon stage of our relationship, I had wrapped my life completely around him, at the expense of myself and everyone else in my life. This led to a strange sort of loneliness that was only cured through some healthy separation. Loneliness still creeps in from time to time, but is now an indication that I’ve become disconnected, either in my relationship or in other parts of my life.  While feeling constantly lonely with your partner may be a red flag, it’s unrealistic to ever expect one person or thing to be enough to fill you up. It’s healthy and fulfilling to have more than one person in your life, and your relationship with another should never come at the expense of the one with yourself.

 

You’ll never be attracted to others

It makes me sad to see how much guilt and shame people hold onto, for having feelings for others while they are in a relationship. In my eyes there is no need for it to be a secret, or a big deal for that matter. Supressing these natural and normal feelings is what leads people to dwell on them, over analyse and, in the worst cases, act on them.  My boyfriend and I are open about the fact that we both flirt with other people sometimes. We are together but we are still ourselves. When big crushes arise, we discuss what it means for us as individuals and for our relationship. Often a crush is manifestation of a need that you are not receiving from your partner, so opening that discussion can build trust and strengthen the quality of the relationship. Rather than seeing it as a threat, being in a relationship where Nick and I afford each other the freedom to express what’s biologically inevitable, only solidifies the commitment and bond we already have.

 

You will always feel the love

If there is one myth I wish someone would have debunked earlier, it’s this one. The honeymoon stage, can’t get enough of each other love bubble is not reserved solely for the first few months, but can reoccur frequently throughout the years. However, these love bursts alone are not enough to sustain a relationship and they don’t last forever. To feel this all-consuming infatuation constantly for your partner is unrealistic, and frankly would be exhausting. This is where love gets a bit unsexy and your mind plays a role. There needs to be a conscious choice. A knowledge of who this person is at their core, why you chose them and why you are truly compatible as a couple. Without this, the relationship will lay dependent on something as fleeting as feelings. There will likely come a point where your heart can’t feel the love anymore. This is where many relationships break down in the early stages. When we can no longer feel it, we assume the spark is gone and often seek to recreate that spark elsewhere. That’s why it’s essential to know that you love the person. You can draw on that knowledge, that commitment and that choice to carry you through to the next stage when your heart can feel it again. Which, normally, is right around the corner.

 

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The one will heal/fix/complete me

I used to subconsciously play the victim and dream that a man would come and rescue me from myself and everything bad in life. This did nothing but hugely undermine my abilities to be my own knight in shining armour, which I later needed to become to attract my equal. Seeking someone to complete you implies that you are not already enough. The only one that can heal, save, complete or fix you is you. Putting that enormous burden on others makes the relationship conditional. i.e. ‘I am only with you as long as you make me feel desired, seen and worthy’. When we take responsibility for our own completion, we come from a place of wholeness and can attract another whole person to compliment everything we have to offer.

 

Love is enough

We’ve all heard the clichés; ‘love conquers all’, ‘if we love each other enough, we can overcome anything’. While these sentiments sound great, they are far from the reality. Love is not enough. There is one thing that is equally if not more important than love. One essential ingredient that ensures the relationship remains mutually beneficial and long-lasting. And that’s respect. I’ve been in love with someone that I later realized I didn’t fully respect and I’ve been with someone who I deeply respected but never truly loved. I’ve learned that the two must co-exist in a healthy, sustainable relationship. Respect to me means being able to look at the person objectively, separate from their role as your partner and to genuinely admire how they live their life, the choices they make, the people they surround themselves with and the values they hold dear. Without this authentic, deep respect for the other person and for yourself, true intimacy cannot exist.

 

It’s easy/It’s hard work

It’s neither and it’s both. The fairy-tale script tells us that we find Prince Charming, settle down and live happily ever after. And maybe to an extent that’s true. But that ‘happily ever after’ likely consists of facing your own demons, having a ton of uncomfortable conversations, choosing the other person when the easier option is to walk away and remembering to take 100% responsibility for your 50% of the relationship. Some people go the opposite way and affirm that relationships are supposed to be difficult, that they are meant to be hard work with a ton of sacrifice. This can often serve as a justification for two incompatible people forcing a dysfunctional relationship to function. When compromise becomes sacrifice, resentment often follows.  While finding the right person doesn’t mean that the work on yourself and your relationship is over, a soul-mate relationship tends to be drama-free and flow with ease and a feeling of ‘rightness’, that makes the occasional graft worth it.

 

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Love can be amazing. For me there are times when it still feels like a dream come true and that magical aspect that we are shown in the media actually does exists. But our failure to show the other side leads to major expectation hang ups; bewilderment, disappointment, needless arguments and a huge divorce rate. As cliché as it sounds, love is not just a noun, but a verb. It takes action and work.

I truly believe that a healthy relationship starts with two healthy people, who are not only committed to the relationship but also to their own individual growth. We cannot hide from our insecurity, pain, trauma or flaws in our relationship. In fact, they will be magnified and mirrored back to us constantly by our partner. If we are ready to face and work on all aspects of ourselves without blame or shame, then maybe we can fully experience the deeply satisfying magic of love, that the movies promised.

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Lots of love,

Lisa