Think you should always tell your partner exactly how you’re feeling? Or that you’re selling yourself short if you don’t marry your soulmate? Don’t be so quick to subscribe to either piece of advice, relationship experts say.
Below, marriage therapists and other experts take to task these and other beliefs about love that should be taken with a grain of salt.
“Face it: Couples have fights. Sometimes those fights happen in the morning, when there’s plenty of time before bed to work things out. Sometimes they happen at night, when you’re already tired — a state that may well have contributed to you being snappish or unreasonable in the first place. Why in the world would it seem wise to stay up and fight? It’s OK — better, even — to put your conflict on hold and catch some Zs. Your feelings on the issue are likely to have lightened up overnight. If not, by morning, you’ll be clear-headed enough to address your differences effectively.” — Winifred M. Reilly, marriage and family therapist and the author of the relationship advice blog Speaking of Marriage
“This is only true if both couples are equally invested in saving the marriage. I work with a lot of post-divorce clients who tried counseling as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage and so often, it’s too little, too late. It turns out that one spouse drags the other one there when he or she has already emotionally and mentally checked out of the relationship.” — Deb Besinger, life and relationship coach based in Raleigh, North Carolina
“The one that bugs me the most is ‘share your feelings.’ The problem is, too often people share their feelings as a form of blame, saying things like, ‘I’m angry with you’ or ‘I’m hurt by what you said.’ Then when the other person gets defensive, they say, ‘I’m just sharing my feelings’ or ‘I have a right to my feelings.’ If your intent is to learn rather than blame, you would say, ‘I’m angry with you and I’d like to talk about it and understand what’s happening between us’ or ‘I’m hurt by what you said and I’d like to understand why you said it.’ You’re far less likely to receive a defensive response and far more likely to resolve conflict when your intent is to learn rather than to attack and blame.” — Margaret Paul, psychotherapist and co-author of Do I Have to Give Up Me To Be Loved by You?
“It gets under my skin when people say married people don’t have sex. I know tons of married people that don’t ever have sex and of course, tons that do. Don’t believe this advice. Many couples say it’s something they do before they go to bed every night, just like brushing their teeth.” — Carly Spindel, dating and relationship expert based in New York City
“To me, one of the most irksome pieces of relationship advice is that there’s a ‘soulmate’ out there for each of us. You know, the ideal partner we perfectly connect with and who instantly completes us. That simply doesn’t exist. A great relationship isn’t an effortless thing. Rather, it’s something that’s built over time. It takes work. When we experience disconnected moments in our relationships, this idea can leave us in deep discontentment, wondering if maybe we married the wrong person and perhaps our soulmate is still out there. The thing is, in marriage, your mate has become your soulmate — imperfections, disconnected moments, and all. Period. End of story.” — Ashleigh Slater, relationship columnist and author of Team Us: Marriage Together
“One annoyance I have around treating couples is the idea that verbal and direct communication solves everything. This often works for women but it is not in favor of most men. Some men process information slower and short circuit when verbally barraged. It’s wise for women to step back, give him time to process and then let him start a verbal dialogue. With men, patience is wisdom and realizing that can help women get the resolution and understanding they want.” — Sherrie Campbell, psychologist based in Southern California
“The truth is, some people experience more anxiety in the beginning of a new relationship or in the dating process than others. It’s natural to want reassurance, connection and attention from a partner and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are insecure, afraid of being alone or unhealthy if you seek that. Knowing you have this tendency can help you find a partner who can provide reassurance and calm the brain into a less anxious state.” — Chelli Pumphrey, therapist and dating coach based in Denver, Colorado
“Often when I’m working with a couple in a stagnant relationship, I ask, ‘When did you stop trying to change your husband or wife?’ This question is almost always greeted with a huge protest, ‘I would never try to change him or her’ or ‘You can’t change anyone else’ — to which I reply, ‘Nonsense!’ or some variation thereof. I challenge the idea that we can’t or shouldn’t change our partner. In fact, we always change our partners, with or without realizing it. This ‘change’ process involves not their personality or character, which is pretty much established by adulthood. Instead, partners help guide each other into particular relationship patterns, a nearly invisible process intrinsic to the intimate duet. We all know people — maybe ourselves — who say, referring to a past relationship, ‘I don’t like the person I became with him or her.’ That’s RP — relationship physics — in action. In fact, most of us have more power in relationships than we realize.” — Amy Begel, marriage and family therapist based in New York City
“While I do believe that everything happens for a reason, it doesn’t help someone who just found out his or her spouse cheated, or whose spouse just brought up divorce. While there are countless things in life we can’t control, and while there is a larger plan that we usually know nothing about, no one should forget that we have so much control over our happiness and how we choose to live our lives.” — Jackie Pilossoph, relationship columnist and author of Divorced Girl Smiling
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