5 Relationship Myths That Can Actually Do More Harm Than Good

The European Journal » 5 Relationship Myths That Can Actually Do More Harm Than Good

Nowadays, everyone’s an expert on dating — or so it can seem.

There are dating advice websites galore, forums, blogs. Sometimes you’ll see things that don’t quite match what you’ve previously read. They might even be downright contradictory.

Today we delve into some common dating and relationship myths that are becoming increasingly widespread. Whether you’re single and ready to mingle or you’re already in a committed partnership, you might be surprised at what common advice can actually do more harm than good.

Dating Myth #1: Withholding sex as punishment can be effective

Reality: Using sex strategically can damage your relationship

Sex in a committed relationship brings the two of you together in body and in mind. It is an amazing way of showing how much you love one another.

However, according to relationship expert Neil Rosenthal,

Withholding sex — or using sex as a weapon — is used in many intimate relationships to punish, win a power struggle or to get you to do things your partner’s way.

By weaponising the act, you risk tainting a fundamental part of your relationship, which can lead to unforeseen consequences down the line.

Sex should never be used as a bargaining tool. It isn’t something that is ‘earnt’ or ‘deserved’ — and it’s definitely not something to be used tactically in order to get a desired outcome.

By actively seeking to punish your partner by way of withholding sex, you can damage the deep-rooted dynamic of your relationship. Moreover, you make no steps towards addressing what the problem was in the first place.

Dating Myth #2: You need to lower your standards as you get older

Reality: Don’t downplay what you know you deserve

As a (very broad) rule of thumb, people are generally attracted to people their own age when it comes to finding a life partner. Individuals in our own age group have more relatable life experience, maturity, wisdom. This is your potential life partner we’re talking about, not a casual fling. Common ground and mutual experiences are imperative.

It’s not uncommon for down-on-their-luck singletons — particularly people in their 40s and 50s, according to Dr. Susan Sprecher and colleagues — to be told that their standards are just too high. This sentiment may well come from friends and family who do, of course, have their loved one’s best interests at heart — but this can actually be a damaging mindset to adopt.

If your dates just aren’t matching up to what you’re looking for, there’s no need to be hard on yourself. You can’t fake it. Perhaps you’ve been unlucky and endured a string of unsuccessful dates. Maybe you’re simply looking in the wrong places. Either way, you’re putting the effort in. That’s the first — and toughest — step to have taken.

It’s also very handy to be aware of your own standards. These will be based on your past experiences, your personality and your values. It’s not possible to shoehorn in attraction and compatibility if they simply don’t exist.

And lastly, who can really tell you what your standards should be? You know your own mind. You know what you want. You can go out and get it regardless of what anyone says — even if they’re saying it with sincerity.

Dating Myth #3: Discussing exclusivity will scare your partner off

Reality: Honesty filters out the commitment-phobes

The foundations of a healthy relationship are openness, honesty and communication. Lying to your partner about how you feel — even lying to yourself about it — is a surefire way of creating cracks in the dynamic. You don’t need to be spouting poetry from the rooftops declaring your undying love after two dates and a walk in the park, but it is important to acknowledge your true feelings about your partner.

At some point, you need to have The Conversation. You know the one. The one where you make it official.

But when The Conversation does happen, it should feel natural, effortless. You don’t need to overthink it; just say what you really think. If they feel the same, they’ll be touched that you’ve given it so much thought — and been brave enough to discuss it. If they’re a commitment-phobe — or even if they’re just not into you — then finding out in a transparent dialogue is for the best.

The Conversation doesn’t have to be weird. In fact, Zoosk have a fabulous guide outlining ways of ensuring you keep the dialogue meaningful and to-the-point.

Dating Myth #4: Don’t go to bed angry

Reality: You can’t put a timer on resolving an argument

Conflict is a natural part of any relationship. You’re sharing the most intimate and private parts of your life and character with another person, as well as physically sharing a space for extensive periods of time. It’s totally normal to disagree from time to time.

This myth stems from the misconception that putting an argument ‘to bed’ allows you to wake up fresh and renewed. Indeed, as far back as the Bible, Paul sagely advised

Do not let the sun go down on your anger. (Ephesians 4:26–27)

(And yes, we have no qualms about quoting the Old Testament if it helps drive the point home).

However, despite some fascinating counter-arguments, the scientific consensus appears to be that reaching an uneasy truce in which neither party is satisfied can lead to problems later on. What ideally needs to happen instead is the negative emotions be addressed and carefully considered, not just brushed off by bedtime.

As with any emotion, anger comes accompanied by a number of physiological changes, including increases in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and muscle tension. It takes time for these to revert back to their baseline. Approach conflict only when you have calmed down. You don’t want to say something you don’t mean and subsequently regret.

It’s important to discuss the argument, but don’t let the initial negativity and resentfulness hinder you from thinking objectively. Calming down can’t be rushed, and you need to do it at your own rate, not theirs.

It’s harder to stay angry at someone when they’re physically not there. Consider simply removing yourself from the situation. Get some air; go for a walk. (It’s not advisable to drive whilst angry, though, as heightened emotions can decrease mental acuity and reaction times). Come bedtime, a few hours’ alone time may have done you both a world of good — although if things haven’t improved, don’t force it, either.

Dating Myth #5: Going on the rebound is never a good idea

Reality: A casual fling can help you recover from a breakup

Coming out of a relationship can be immensely tough to deal with. You’ll probably find yourself craving some kind of comfort, intimacy, affection. You can’t just return to your ex — there was a reason you broke up. So you could go on the rebound, find someone to enjoy something casual with — but is that a good idea?

This is perhaps the most divisive of all 5 myths we’ve covered today, and the advice from relationship experts varies significantly. But when you’re not sure whom to turn to, science is often the best answer.

In a 2015 study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, psychologist Dr. Claudia Brumbaugh and colleagues found that individuals who had entered into a rebound relationship after a breakup had greater overall physical and mental health, increased confidence in their desirability and stronger resolution regarding their previous relationship.

As long as the understanding is mutual between you and your new partner that the dynamic is strictly casual, the fulfilment of your need for affection and sex can really benefit you. For one, you’ll be better able to loosen your attachment to your ex by allowing yourself to see that there are, indeed, plenty more fish in the sea.

Of course, going on the rebound can have the opposite effect as originally desired. If your new partner just doesn’t match up to your ex, you can be left longing for them even more. If you find yourself lowering your standards because you yearn for a distraction, you’ll likely end up feeling much worse.

A rebound relationship needs to have a clear-cut reason. Are they hotter than your ex? Funnier? Do you get to do fun or interesting things with them that you could never do with your ex? Whatever the novelty, it can rewire (literally!) the neural pathways in your brain and teach you that happiness can be found in more than one person.

A rebound isn’t always a good idea, but it can boost your morale and help you recover from the void of your previous relationship. As long as you enter into a casual relationship with a clear understanding why you are doing so, rebounding can be a step on the road to recovery.

Romance can be tough — but it’s worth it

Entering into, sustaining and maintaining a relationship might be one of the most difficult things you ever do. Being intimately connected with another human being makes you both uniquely vulnerable to one another. Encountering obstacles is natural.

Moreover, being single and ready to mingle can be tough going if you’ve got a lot of love to give but no way of channelling it. Luckily, we’re here to help.