Long-term relationship myths that can damage your love life
A long-term relationship is not everyone’s goal or preference. And, it doesn’t have to be. But if you are in a long-term relationship or contemplating being in one, it can be helpful to have realistic expectations and dispel some of the myths about them. We’ve all heard narratives ranging from “happily ever after” to “I’ve wasted my life on this person.”
So, let’s take a realistic look:
Myth #1: A long-term relationship should be easy. Long-term relationships may look idyllic to an observer that comes to your eighth-anniversary party or hears you reminisce about how you met back in the day when you had chunky highlights. But there is no such thing as a perfect relationship – even if the relationship lasts a long time. Every relationship requires effort. In every relationship, mistakes will be made and forgiveness is needed. In every relationship, there will be parts of the dynamic that we tolerate more than enjoy.
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Myth #2: A long-term relationship will always stay the same. It’s unrealistic to expect the relationship not to change over time. For starters, as people we change. Our context, goals, ambitions, friends, work, preferences, and so much more can – and usually does – change over time. Maintaining a long-term relationship requires curiosity, awareness and a degree of flexibility. If the relationship becomes too rigid, we or our partner may feel trapped to maintain a dynamic that no longer resonates.
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Myth #3: Long-term relationships have to last forever. Long-term relationships have value even if “long” doesn’t become “forever.” If you have been in a relationship for months, years or even decades, it doesn’t mean that you have to get married or stay in the relationship if you don’t want to. People may feel that it’s “too late” to experience something different, but that’s just not true. You can appreciate what you had and be ready for a different relationship. A healthy relationship lasts only as long as both individuals want it to be in it.
Myth #4: You won’t be tempted. Even if you’re in a relationship, you’re still human. You may find other people attractive, you may develop a crush on someone else, and you may even encounter moments of doubt if you should be exploring a relationship with other people. The issue is not whether or not you are tempted, but how you handle your temptation.
Myth #5: You can stop trying so hard. This is a very common myth. I’ve noticed many couples that have been together for a while stop paying attention to each other. They are no longer as intentional about spending time together. They stop complimenting one another. They don’t spontaneously dance in the kitchen. They don’t put in the effort of wearing that one shirt that their partner loves. In long term relationships, people often become comfortable knowing the other person won’t leave them and, as a result, it can become less of a priority.
Arguably, couples that are together for a long time need to try even harder to keep the romance, desire and relationship alive! Short-term relationships have the benefit of infatuation, excitement and desire which are fueled by the unknowns.
Myth #6: High expectations ruin long-term relationships. A lot of people are anti-expectations, but I think expectations are healthy. It’s good for us to know what we expect (so we don’t settle for less) and it’s good for our partner to know what our expectations are (so that they can respect our boundaries and meet our needs if they choose to). It’s OK to have expectations as long as they are realistic, and realistic expectations don’t mean “low expectations.” It’s OK to expect more than just the bare minimum. It’s OK to decide how you want to be treated (the same is true for your partner).
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Myth #7: A long-term relationship inevitably goes downhill. People assume that after a while, every relationship goes downhill (probably because it can becomes easy to take it for granted). However, that’s not always the case. With time we also build more trust, safety, understanding and intimacy –– all of which can lead to highly satisfying relationships. Of course, a 10-year relationship will look different than a 2-month relationship, but the difference doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
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Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at SKuburic@gannett.com.