It’s easy for us to compare ourselves to those others, especially when it comes to big aspects of our lives, like our relationships. It might seem couples you know have found a trick to being happy that you’ve yet to discover, but there are also many myths about happy relationships that could be unknowingly guiding you in the wrong direction. If you think you’re failing at your relationship just because some of the notions you’ve heard about happy couples don’t apply to you and your SO, think again. When it comes to being happy, as we’ll get to in this article, it’s about doing what’s right for you and your partner — not aiming to fit into a mold.
I recall a conversation with my mom, who's been with my dad since she was 16. I always had this vision that they were happy every second together, but she told me it took work every day to make it last. I think of this conversation often when I hear couples who’ve been together a short while saying, “It takes zero work to be happy!” Let’s discuss this and some of the other myths you and I might have been hearing throughout our lives that we should dismiss.
To get to the bottom of it, I spoke to a couple of experts in the field who provided their insight into some common myths about what it takes to be a happy couple. You might be surprised — as I was — to learn some of these notions have no backing whatsoever. Most importantly, it’s important to know there is no foolproof way to achieving happiness in a relationship.
Here are 11 myths about what it takes to have a happy relationship that you should disregard, according to experts.
1. You Have To Have The Same Interests As Your SO
In order to be in a happy relationship, both partners should have the same interests, right? Not necessarily. I spoke to psychologist Nicole Martinez Psy.D., LCPC, and asked her whether it’s possible for couples to be happy when interests don’t align 100 percent. “Absolutely they can. In fact, it is important to have a balance of alone time and togetherness, of unique interests and common ones. Taking this time apart, and having these interests that are individual can actually strengthen the relationship by providing opportunities for you to do something you love, and then come back and share it with your partner,” Martinez says.
I also got insight from Mara Opperman, relationship etiquette expert and co-founder of I Do Now I Don’t, who echoed Martinez’s sentiment. Rather, Opperman cites common core values as the key, noting, “While most believe it’s important to have [interests] in common in order to have a happy relationship, this is not necessarily true. As nice as it is to have shared hobbies in common, what you really need in common is core values that you both want your relationship to work.”
2. You Have To Sacrifice Yourself
Two become one when you’re in a happy relationship? No way. Similarly to how we want to maintain some of our own interests when we’re in a relationship, we should also feel comfortable sticking to our guns on who we are as an individual. Martinez says of those in happy relationships, “They are able to enjoy their time on their own with their friends and family, exploring their interests, and they are able to appreciate the time they have with their partner that much more.”
3. You Can Never Disagree With Your Partner
According to Opperman, one of the biggest myths about happy couples is that they do not fight. “Fighting can be healthy for your relationship and the difference between healthy and non-healthy fighting is the way in which you argue,” says Opperman.
Jill P. Weber, Ph.D., a psychologist and relationship expert wrote on this point in a Huffington Post piece, noting, “Happy couples do fight, but what keeps them happy is they have tools to work through their conflicts. Most importantly, they have well-tuned abilities to soothe each other and to make each other feel better and secure.”
4. You Must Be Fully In Tuned To Your Partner’s Feelings At All Times
We’re only human, so if this doesn’t sound practical it’s because it’s not. Lisa Blum, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena and Los Angeles told PsychCentral.com, “…as adults, we’re always responsible for communicating our feelings and needs.” This means not feeling as though our partner is responsible for knowing what we’re feeling at every turn, and vise versa. Being in a healthy and happy relationship means you’re able to openly communicate how you’re feeling instead of waiting for your partner to figure it out, the outlet noted.
5. You & Your SO Have To Do Everything Together
These types of couples admittedly annoy me more than anything — the ones who can’t do anything without each other... ever. Does it mean that couples who spend time apart are any less happy, though? Not by any means. When asked about this notion of happy couples having to do everything together, Martinez says, “This is a huge myth, and I am not sure where it got started. Couples who are not clingy — who are just as happy apart as they are together — are stronger for it.”
6. There Has To Be A Ton Of Romance In Your Relationship All The Time
I don’t know about you, but when I watch a romcom I tend to fool myself into believing happy relationships are filled with constant flowers, candies, and last-minute getaways. I know this isn’t reality, but a lot of times in the real world we’re convinced we can’t have a happy relationship if there isn’t a lot of romance all the time. According to Opperman, there's no truth to this. That “honeymoon” stage — it’s not really meant to last forever, but it doesn’t mean your relationship is unhappy because of it.
7. You Should Be Able To Read Your Partner’s Mind
Similarly to how you can’t expect or be expected to be constantly in tuned to your partner’s feeling at every moment, nor should you be expected to be able to read their mind — and this doesn’t mean your relationship is unhappy, it means you’re quite normal. Blum told PsychCentral.com, “It’s a set up to expect your partner to be able to read your mind.” Sure, you might be able to anticipate some of the things they’re thinking — like where they’d like to go out to dinner, or what they’ll want to watch on TV that night — but you’re not required to be a mind-reader.
8. Your Relationship Doesn’t Require Any Work
I’d love to imagine that if I was in the happiest relationship ever, I would glide by every day on cloud nine without having to put in any work to make things good with my partner. Problem is — this is a dream world scenario. In actuality, happy couples do need to put some blood, sweat, and tears (figuratively, not literally) into the relationship. Opperman adds, “The strongest, long lasting relationships require effort and work.”
9. You Can't Be In A Long Distance Relationship
Myth, myth, myth. While Martinez says being long distance can present its challenges for certain couples — those who can’t handle distance because of trust issues, the need of immediate attention, etc. — but it doesn’t mean this kind of relationship can’t flourish for others.
“Some couples thrive in this type of relationship. One where they are focused on career, school, interests, and their social life when apart, but really appreciate the time they get together when they are able to get it," Martinez says.
10. Regular, Constructive Criticism Is Necessary
This one is a bit tricky, as according to the experts at Canyon Ranch, constructive criticism can help build a relationship and make it stronger. However, they also noted that taking this to the extreme might be detrimental — so if you’re regularly criticizing your partner and your relationship as a whole, it can quickly go from being helpful to harmful. According to the Canyon Ranch experts, happy couples are able are able to be truthful and open with each other, but don’t compulsively pick the relationship apart.
11. You Have To Fit A Certain Mold
I’ve done this a million times — looked at a couple I thought to be perfect together, and thought, “If only my relationship could be exactly like that, than we’d be really happy.” The thing is, not all happy couples fit the same mold. Martinez says that, in her opinion, “The number one myth about happy relationships is that there is a one size fits all correct formula for them. Each and every relationship, and couple, is so unique, that none can hold them to a standard of what is ‘normal.’ They have to hold themselves to the standards and promises they have made that work for them as a couple.”
Next time you’re fearful that your relationship is slacking because you don’t fit into some of the notions you hear about happy couples, stop right in your tracks. Then consider the myths discussed above, and remember there is no foolproof equation for achieving a great relationship.