12 Common Relationship Beliefs That Are Actually Toxic
Often, what you believe about a relationship is what you bring into it. So if you're caught up in toxic beliefs about love, you might end up hurting your relationship in the long run. But unpacking unhealthy preconceptions about relationships can protect you from these avoidable mistakes.
First, it's important to understand how toxic beliefs can injure relationships in the first place. "Whenever you have a general belief about relationships, it colors how you perceive them," board-certified psychiatrist and dating and relationship coach Dr. Susan Edelman tells Bustle. So if you hold onto a belief that is dangerous, you may be perceiving your relationship through a negative lens, even when the relationship is actually doing just fine.
"What you believe about relationships is going to impact how you act within them," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert with Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "All actions first start as beliefs, so if a person has toxic beliefs and assumptions about how a relationship should be, it will impact relationship quality and a person’s overall happiness." Even if you don't often talk about what you believe a relationship should be, it's important to start by thinking about it. And, according to relationship experts, a lot of the most common beliefs about relationships are actually pretty harmful in the long-run. Just by examining your preconceived notions, you may end up with more insight than you'd expect.
Here are 13 common relationship beliefs you didn't realize were toxic, according to experts.
1. Your Partner Should Be Your Best Friend
Obviously, you should enjoy spending time with your partner, and be able to confide in them. The idea that they need to be your best friend, however, can end up being pretty toxic.
"While it is true that partners should get along well, in many cases people abandon actual, established friends when they get into relationships (in fact, research shows people lose an average of two friends from marriage)," Bennett says. "It’s actually toxic to turn your romantic partner into your only source of connection and support; the healthier option is to have other close friends in your life, including a 'best friend' whom you aren’t attracted to and who will be there if your romantic relationship fizzles." If you don't realize the importance of outside support, you can be left feeling really alone when your relationship inevitably goes through rough patches. Balancing friendships can help prevent this.
2. “If You Can’t Handle Me At My Worst, You Don’t Deserve Me At My Best”
While Marilyn Monroe is an icon for sure, it's important not to take her longer quote out of context, just to apply it to bad behavior.
"It is important to be patient and empathetic in a relationship, but nobody has to put up with someone whose 'worst' is dramatic, abusive, and toxic," Bennett says. "If you can’t 'handle' your partner at 'their worst' it may be because you’re a well-adjusted, mature person who understands you deserve better." So while you might need to ride through some hard times in a relationship, you absolutely don't need to put up with the worst in someone if it's harmful.
3. The Idea Of Losing Yourself When You Become Comfortable
You should be able to settle into comfort with your partner. You should not, however, fall into the toxic notion that a relationship is a pass to forget yourself. Becoming someone's partner does not mean a full stop on the rest of the aspects of your life.
"Some clients assume that once they are in a relationship, they can stop caring about their ... personality development, as if a commitment is license to stop caring about the very things that made you an attractive partner to begin with," Bennett says. Your relationship should be one of the things that makes your life exciting, not the only thing holding you up.
4. The Ride Or Die Mentality/Standing By Your Partner No Matter What
If your partner makes a mistake that you don't feel you can forgive, that's perfectly warranted. Any belief that tells you that you need to stay in a relationship can be really toxic.
"While it is good to stand by your partner when it’s the right and just thing to do, you are under no obligation to stand by your partner if your partner is doing the wrong thing," Bennett says. By "standing by" your partner when they don't deserve it, you can put yourself in harm's way. Forgiveness is one thing, but you should make sure to put yourself first.
5. The Idea That A Relationship Will Make You Truly Happy
Being single can be really rough. But life can also be rough when you're in a relationship. So if you're going around with the belief that a relationship will solve all your problems, you might be in for a surprise.
"Your partner, and your relationship, can bring a lot to your life, but neither is responsible for making you happy," Lesli Doares, couples consultant and coach, tells Bustle. "Happiness is always an inside job. Putting that pressure on your partner is unfair, not to mention impossible for them to succeed at. The more you look to them for your happiness, the more likely they will fail, and that will ensure you won’t be happy." A relationship can be one of the many parts of your life that bring you joy, but it's dangerous to think that it can create it from scratch.
6. Relationships Aren't Hard Work
Relationship experts agree that couples should be more open to admitting that relationships do actually involve a good amount of effort.
"Healthy relationships are constant work, ongoing and require lots of give and take," Camille Drachman, Clinical Director at Sierra Tusconland, tells Bustle. "Over time, it’s a continual evolution of how to connect and reconnect." So don't fret if you find yourself expending emotional energy or making compromises in your relationship; it's part of the drill.
7. Your Partner Should Know What You Need Without You Having To Say Anything
There should be some level of intuition and empathy in your relationship, but you should not expect your partner to ever actually read your mind. "We are not mind readers, regardless of how close the relationship is, and it is important to maintain healthy and open communication," Drachman says, So, while your partner may realize you're sad before you've even mentioned it, you should not expect them to figure out every single hint you drop.
"If you expect your partner to know how you're feeling or what you're thinking without having to communicate with them, your partner will definitely fail and disappoint you, which will then in turn causes anger and resentment for you," licensed professional counselor Julie Williamson, tells Bustle. Don't risk this kind of disappointment by being passive; honesty is the best bet.
8. The Idea Of Not Holding Back On Your Feelings... Ever
This belief is the opposite kind of issue than the one that expects your partner to be a mind reader. On the flip side, you should also not expect your relationship to be completely open, all the time.
"It is important to be honest, but giving in to harsh emotions and hurtful behaviors because you’re 'just being honest' is damaging," Doares says. "Sharing thoughts and feelings is necessary for a good relationship, but not modifying when and how you are truthful, or caring how it’s received, makes it toxic." So learn some skills of good communication, and try not to drop any harsh truths when feelings are already heightened.
9. You'll Never Get Bored If They're Your Soulmate
While relationships sometimes require work, they also sometimes require periods of dullness. It's the nature of being with someone for the long-term.
"[Avoid the toxic belief that says] 'When I am with my soulmate, there won’t be any challenges in the relationship and we’ll never get bored or complacent,'" Doares says, "... In every relationship, no matter how 'right,' there are going to be disagreements, since no two people will agree on everything. Ending a relationship that is experiencing normal stuff because of a false belief is damaging." So allow your relationship to go through it's natural stages. A good connection will ride through these stages with love.
10. You Need To Take Care Of Your Partner At All Costs
Of course, it's important to be there for your partner. In certain difficult situations, you may even become your partner's caretaker. Relationship experts, though, want you to know that taking care of your partner does not have to be your biggest goal.
"The most common relationship belief that most don't realize is toxic is that you need to take care of your partner at all costs, including making sure they are happy to the point of ignoring your own needs," Joyce M. Blue, Empowerment Coach and Relationship Expert, tells Bustle. "Many ... have been raised with this misconception that can actually lead to a codependent relationship. Yes, in a healthy relationship there is a time and a place to help care for your partner, but not at the cost of your own wellbeing." So, once again, unpack whether your relationship beliefs preclude putting yourself first. If they do, they might be toxic.
11. Conflict Is Always A Bad Thing
Just like dullness is actually just part of being in a long-term relationship, so is conflict. There are ways, of course, to argue in a healthy way, and ways that are unhelpful, but that doesn't mean that all conflict is a roadblock to finding your soulmate.
"Another toxic relationship belief is that conflict is a bad thing," Vironika Tugaleva, life coach and award-winning author of The Love Mindset and The Art of Talking to Yourself, tells Bustle. "People think having struggles in a relationship equates with failure, but the opposite is true ... Conflict is essential to growth. Avoiding it causes relationships to stagnate on tough issues and creates a perfect environment for explosive emotions and regrettable actions." So let there be a bit of a fight next time your partner hurts your feelings; it doesn't have to be a sign of the end of your relationship.
12. There's A "Perfect" Person Out There
You may find someone who you are excited to be with for your whole life. But, relationship experts agree, they're likely not going to be "perfect" in the way you may have anticipated.
"Some people believe that there is a perfect person out there for them," Tugaleva says. "The same people often try to become perfect. There are no perfect human beings, so these people get stuck objectifying themselves and others, frustrated about why nothing ever seems to work out." Let your soulmate have their flaws, just as you expect them to be OK with yours. It's part of the fun.
In the end, almost all beliefs about relationships are malleable. So before you let them become an unwelcome part of your relationship, try to examine what they are and why you believe them. Unpacking these notions can be an important step in either finding the right relationship, or really settling down with the one you love.