13 "Taboo" Things That Can Actually Improve Your Relationship
To create a healthy relationship, you might think it's necessary to stick to the script, and follow all the common rules that we've accepted as necessary and "right" when it comes to being part of a couple. And yet, if you and your partner are a bit "out of the ordinary" with how you run your lives, you needn't worry about ruining your relationship. In fact, there are actually a few taboo ways to improve your relationship — despite the fact they might sound different from some of the old-fashioned rules you may be used to.
"If breaking old-fashioned relationship 'rules' makes you happy, then go for it," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. "Mindlessly following old-fashioned customs and advice never made any relationship successful." And that's because there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for being happy.
"There are so-called rules or guidelines about how to make a relationship work; behaviors that are or are not appropriate or acceptable. But truth be told, we are all so different as individuals," Colby Marie Z, a sex and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "We have different likes, desires, experiences, values, perspectives, baggage, needs.... which also means every relationship is unique. If the individuals in the relationship are happy, satisfied, safe, and fulfilled, it shouldn't matter what the rules are." The taboo things listed below may sound like a surefire way to create interesting situations between you and your partner, but experts say they can actually improve your relationship, so feel free to give them a try.
1. Sleeping In Separate Beds (Or Bedrooms)
It's popular opinion that, in order to have a healthy relationship, you have to spend the night spooning your partner in bed, especially if you live together. But the world is slowly discovering that that's actually not true. If you need some space at night to roll around, sleep like a starfish, or if you're bleary eyed from being kept awake all night by a snoring partner, then it makes perfect sense to sleep separately.
In fact, many couples are having what's jokingly referred to as a "sleep divorce," where they sleep in separate beds. For these folks, having that private space not only improves their relationship, but also their quality of sleep. So if this works for you and your partner, grab your pillows and go — and don't feel guilty about it.
Sleeping in separate beds or bedrooms is only a problem when it's due to something negative. "If you are sleeping in separate bedrooms because you don’t want to be close or intimate with your partner, for example, then you have a problem," clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow, host of The Web Radio Show, tells Bustle. "But what if it's mutually agreeable? Does sleeping separately make you both happy? If it's strengthening your relationship, then it's not taboo."
2. Going Out & Socializing Separately
If your partner arrives at a social event without you by their side (or vice versa) some eyebrows may collectively raise. But who cares? While many people think couples need to go everywhere together, it's actually healthy to do things separately every once in a while.
"Many people feel like they need to do 'couples activities' all the time. However, spending time apart can be beneficial to a relationship since it allows you to pursue hobbies and interests that your partner might not enjoy," Bennett says. "Plus, some independence is good in a relationship."
3. Having Different Hobbies
As with going out separately to social events and the like, it's also perfectly OK to have separate hobbies, if you choose to do so. "While all couples should share meaningful time together, there’s no shame in having separate interests and pursuing them," Bennett says. If you want to take a class, or to go out dancing, or see a concert all by your lonesome, that's perfectly acceptable. There's no need for your partner to tag along everywhere you go. And again, doing things separately can actually be healthy.
4. Ignoring Each Other Throughout The Day
Do people think it's strange that you don't text your partner on your lunch break? Does your family think it's weird that you go on business trips, and don't call your partner while you're away? If having little contact with your partner while you're apart works for your relationship, then don't let anyone make you feel bad about it.
"The concept of constantly texting another person throughout the day can be romantic. However, in practice, constant access to your partner can have downsides," Bennett says. "You don’t always need instant access to your partner or vice versa. If you’re busy with work or a hobby, you don’t need to constantly be texting your partner. In fact, it can be more meaningful to enjoy something in the present moment, then tell your partner about it later face to face."
5. Sharing & Talking About "Touchy" Subjects
If you don't want to share something with your partner because it makes you feel uncomfortable, that's perfectly OK. But if you have something that's weighing heavily on your mind, but you feel like you can't say it out loud because you're worried about your partner's reaction, it may be a good idea to spill the beans anyway, all in the name of a healthier relationship.
"You shouldn't have 'fear' or 'reticence' in bringing up something or someone in your relationship, and your partner shouldn't make you feel badly about doing so," psychologist Dr. Julie Gurner tells Bustle. "You have a great opportunity to become closer when you realize anything can be on the table, and it's OK to put out there: there is a freedom to that."
There's so many positives to being open, even if it feels difficult. "Feeling censored, like you cannot be yourself, or having to dance around topics is often far more damaging than putting them on the table," Gruner says. "For example, people often avoid ever discussing their ex (or exes). While certainly you don't want to overdo this, it's important that you have open communication because there is always something to be learned that makes your relationship better."
6. Keeping A Few Secrets
If you swing the pendulum the other way, however, it can also be considered taboo to keep secrets from your significant other. After all, you're best friends and partners, and therefore have to tell each other everything, right?
Well, if you don't want to, it's perfectly OK to keep a few things secret. "There is this belief that in order to have a strong romantic relationship we need to be complete open books with our [partner] — and I don't think that's the case," Colby says. "[It] may sound counterintuitive, but I think there are secrets you should keep from your [partner]."
If you don't want to share something private about your past, then don't. If you're mulling over an issue and aren't ready to share, that's fine. It's all about deciding what's right for your relationship, and going with your gut when it comes to sharing secrets. In doing so, you'll be creating the the type of relationship that's right for you.
7. Going On Vacation Alone
It might seem completely taboo to go on vacation without your partner and it may even seem odd to some if you spend the weekend apart. But having moments away from each other can actually improve your relationship, in a pretty significant way.
"If you’re in a committed, trusting relationship, this time apart can actually bring more to your relationship than one might expect— new conversations, how much they appreciate you and all you do, time to miss each other, etc.," McBain says. While you certainly want to do things together, and create bonds in that way, you shouldn't be afraid to go it alone occasionally, if that's what you both want to do.
8. Getting Real About Money
OK, so you might not want to talk finances on your first few dates, but it is important for couples to openly communicate about money once they're committed — however taboo it may seem. We feel weird about it, because talking about money is often viewed as impolite. And yet doing so is actually necessarily for the health of your relationship.
"I have talked to a lot of couples about money, communication, and their relationships, and I’ve also reviewed/conducted surveys on the same topic. Based on my experience and research, I can say that talking about money is definitely taboo, but [doing so] will make you closer," Sam Schultz, co-founder and CAO of the money app Honeyfi, tells Bustle. "So many couples avoid discussing money, but the research is clear that talking about finances is good for your relationship." When you finally make the leap to discuss your finances, you can help avoid any conflict regarding mismatched spending habits in the future, especially if you plan to eventually share a bank account.
9. Trying Out Some Dirty Talk
If you're sex life needs a little spark, there are definitely some ways to do have more fun, such as talking dirty whilst doing the deed. "Dirty talk can improve your sexual experience when you ... let go of your inhibitions by telling your partner exactly what you want to do to them, and what you want your partner to do to you," Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist, tells Bustle.
Just be sure that you're both on board. "You need to know your partner well," Dr. Walfish says. "Some folks love dirty talk while others find it a turnoff, or even offensive. Anything you try to incorporate into your sexual and relationship activities requires two willing participants." But once you get the go ahead, dirty talk — even if you start it via text, while you're both at work — can definitely make things exciting again.
10. Experimenting Sexually In Other Ways
Dirty talk isn't the only sexy, and experimental thing that can be beneficial for a relationship. "Couples have many ways in which they can experiment with toys and other things," psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport tells Bustle. "Depending upon their comfort level and boundaries, they can try many different things that can be considered taboo or kinky that can keep their relationship and sex life hot and exciting. As long as the couple is in agreement about how far to go and when to stop, almost anything is permissible in a relationship as long as both partner are in agreement and set boundaries for comfort level." And if you and your partner are new to kink, there are plenty of resources for ways to get started.
11. Ignoring Each Other While At Home
While it's certainly healthy to reconvene after a long day, and catch up, eat dinner together, and cuddle before bed — all things that can help you bond, btw — it's not imperative that you do so every single night.
As mentioned above, "having your own life, including seeing friends and doing activities you love will keep you from losing your identity," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. And if that means one of you is at home relaxing, while the other is out with friends or taking a class or going to work, that's more than OK. Your relationship will not fall to pieces, just because you have separate schedules.
But this separation can also occur while you're both at home. It may feel strange or "rude" to sit in one room while your partner's in the other. And yet, if it works for you both, then it's OK. The evening hours are the perfect time to relax and recharge, and it's not always necessary that you do so together.
12. Letting Any And All Emotions Be OK
While you'd think it would be considered OK to show emotions in front of your significant other, it's still slightly taboo for some people — especially identifying males — to share their feelings, whether that means crying or admitting that they feel depressed. And yet, it's so important to create a relationship where both partners feel comfortable opening up, regardless of gender.
"Research has shown that relationships in which the man 'stone walls' (i.e. producing no emotional response to a female partner's concern) have a significantly higher break-up likelihood," Andy Duggan, a lecturer of psychology at Middlesbrough College in the UK, tells Bustle. "The same is shown when either partner fails to take responsibility for their own actions, or makes excuses. Therefore it is important for men to discuss their thoughts, feelings and emotions with their partner and break the mould of what it is to be a 'man' in society." Of course, not all identifying males have difficulty opening up and expressing their emotions, but in any relationship, both partners need to be able to communicate and get vulnerable to feel connected, and cared for.
13. Being In A Long Distance Relationship
Whether you're doing so on purpose or not, long distance relationships can actually be a good thing — despite what people say. "Having a successful long distance relationship is more than achievable; it's beneficial," dating expert Heather Ebert tells Bustle. "When you lack the sense of touch and are only left to hear and see each other through the phone or computer screen, you're forced to express yourself with words, in turn strengthening your communication skills and becoming more articulate about everything, including your love for each other." The long distance part of the relationship may not last forever, once you choose to or are able to live closer together. But the benefits of that distance will certainly be long-lasting.
There are definitely some standard-issue "rules" that, when applied to a relationship, can help make it healthier — things like eating dinner together, spending quality time together, etc. But if something isn't working for you and your partner, don't be afraid to toss the rules out the window. Sometimes, things that seem "taboo" may be just what your relationship needs.