9 Old-Fashioned Relationship Rules That Can Actually Increase Your Chances Of Divorce
While there may be a few old-fashioned relationship rules that have stood the test of time, you have to admit most of them are extremely outdated. Following them today might work for some couples, but it's important for others to realize these rules can be extremely unhealthy — and may even lead to a breakup.
"While many of the old-fashioned rules have value, not every piece of 'wisdom' applies in the present day," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "Many of them don’t reflect current realities or changing values." And if you follow them too closely, resentment, arguments, and a general sense of unhappiness can end up tearing you apart.
So take the time to think about these rules and expectations, and how they may (or may not) apply to you. "The best rules for a relationship are the ones that work for you and your partner," Bennett says. "One size doesn’t always fit all since all relationships are unique." It's perfectly fine to forgo old bits of advice in favor of creating your own rules, or tweaking them to better suit your lifestyle.
With that in mind, here are a few old-fashioned relationship rules that can actually do more harm than good, according to experts.
1. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
This super old-fashioned relationship rule claims that it's best to let problems go, so that you don't create more of them by bringing it up. But experts say this is far from helpful.
"Disagreeing (or even arguing) doesn’t harm relationships," licensed psychologist Heather Z. Lyons, PhD, owner of Baltimore Therapy Group, tells Bustle. "It’s the way couples argue that can harm relationships."
As long as you do it in a healthy way, arguing can be a good thing. "Disagreements can actually help couples right the course of their relationships and fine-tune," Dr. Lyons says. "Healthy couples fight. What healthy couples don’t do is criticize one another, get defensive during fighting, show contempt during fights, or shut down arguments in a controlling or one-sided manner."
So as long as you can keep the argument from becoming toxic, both of you should find a way to speak your minds, and get problems out in the open.
2. Keep Up With The Joneses
The idea that we all need to "keep up with the Joneses," or one-up our neighbors, is definitely an old one. Today, it can still be applied in the literal sense, by comparing yourself to the folks next door. But more likely, you'll find yourself comparing your relationship to ones you see on social media.
Either way, it's a recipe for disaster both romantically, emotionally, and financially. After all, "there isn’t one way to have a happy relationship," Dr. Lyons says. "Plenty of couples find satisfaction in many, diverse ways. Additionally, when you compare yourself to the pictures on [social media] you’re comparing your entire relationship to another couples’ highlight reel."
It's much healthier to appreciate your relationship — and life — for what it is. Sure, you can make improvements. But it should never be in an attempt to "keep up."
3. Never Go To Bed Angry
Despite what we've all heard, not allowing yourselves to go to bed angry can actually do more harm than good.
"The truth is, you can either be angry, or solve the problem, but you can't do both," relationship counselor Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Bustle. "So if you're angry at bedtime, that is not the time to try solving the problem."
It's much better to set it aside, and agree to talk the following day once you've both cooled off. "There is nothing wrong with sleeping on it — when you wake up in the morning you will inevitably be calmer than you were the night before, and therefore have a better chance of appropriately dealing with the matter at hand," Bilek says. "You'll both be better off in the long run."
4. Each Partner Should Have Certain Roles
Traditionally, many couples have fallen into roles in their relationship — usually based on gender. If a woman partnered with a man, for instance, it was commonly expected that the woman to do the housework, while the man did the yard work, etc.
If this works for your relationship, great. But do bear in mind how easily it can go downhill if it isn't the right choice for you. "By forcing you and your partner/spouse to conform to these roles, everyone can end up miserable by trying to behave in a way that does not fit who they are," relationship expert Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW, tells Bustle. "Instead, talk through the division of household chores, the purchasing of gifts/cards for loved ones, the scheduling of plans and events, and anything else that benefits you both."
Then, figure out together how your relationship should look. "Decide who prefers which jobs and who is better at which jobs and create an agreement that works for you," Shane says. "This minimizes feeling forced to conform and maximizes a happy relationship!"
5. Sex Has To Be Good All The Time
Believing that your sex life needs to be hot and steamy 100 percent of the time, or else it's a sign of a problem, is a totally antiquated idea. And one that will only set you up for disappointment.
"In long-term relationships sex is not always going to be mind-blowing," Dr. Lyons says. "Long-term couples shouldn’t compare sex early in a relationship to sex later in a relationship." Many couples go through sexual slumps, or feel the need to make more of an effort. And that's OK.
"To maintain connection and build overall sexual satisfaction, couples can benefit from 'maintenance sex' or sex that’s 'good enough,'" Dr. Lyons says. It can also help to try new things, as a way of keeping your spark alive.
6. Happy Wife, Happy Life
The old saying "happy wife, happy life," is definitely in need of an update, for a variety of reasons.
"This age-old saying is pretty common to hear. However, I think it should be 'happy house, happy spouse," therapist Jordan Madison, LGMFT, tells Bustle. Not only does that make it easier to apply to all couples, but it also takes both members into consideration.
This phrase often only prioritizes one person, while suggesting the other may need to neglect their own needs for a happy relationship, Madison says.
It can also set in place the idea that a couple shouldn't risk upsetting each other with an argument, "thus resulting in withholding emotions and having resentment," Madison says. "If we focus on 'happy spouse, happy house,' then both partners can aim to meet the other's needs."
7. Keep Your Problems To Yourselves
There used to be a belief that relationship problems should be kept between partners, instead of airing them for all the hear. And yet, we're now starting to see how truly unhealthy this can be.
"Conflicts in a relationship are inevitable. And yes, they are your and your [partner's] business — there are boundaries when it comes how much we share about our intimate relationships," Irina Baechle, LCSW, relationship therapist and dating coach, tells Bustle.
But experts say it's OK to vent occasionally as a way of de-stressing, or figuring out a major problem. "Talking about your challenges with a close friend or a therapist who specializes in relationships can help you think about problems in a different way," Baechle says. "Discussing your relationship issues with other people can help you and your partner process them together, rekindle closeness, and support each other's growth."
8. Always Forgive & Forget
While it may seem like a good idea to "forgive and forget," as the old adage says, you may want to rethink the saying in your own relationship.
"Forgiveness is usually a process and you might never truly be able to 'forget' what happened," Bennett says. "Trying to force resolution and then put it out of your mind can lead to frustration." And potentially even a resentment-fueled breakup down the road.
"The key is to work through your problems and continue to make strides in the relationship," Bennett says. "Simply expecting to 'forgive and forget' is unrealistic."
9. Sleep In The Same Bed
While sleeping together in the same bed definitely won't hurt your relationship, feeling like you have to might — especially if mismatched bedtimes or a partner's loud snoring is leading to disturbed sleep.
When one partner snores, for example, the other is left with a the lack of sleep that can trigger health issues, moodiness, and increased disagreements, licensed psychotherapist Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, tells Bustle.
So if you'd like to sleep in separate beds, or even in separate rooms, go ahead and do so. "Sleeping in separate bedrooms [can actually set the] stage for a much happier marriage," Mendoza says.
While some old-fashioned rules and relationship advice sticks around for a reasons, others need to go due to the fact they no longer apply to modern society, or are just straight up unhelpful. By allowing yourselves to forgo these "rules," and replace them with something that works better for you, you can have a healthier relationship.