Connected relationships enhance our mental health and wellbeing. As a relationship coach, I work with individuals who are single and coupled. I notice the more couples become aware of their behaviour in relationships, the more they notice the frequency they disconnect from their partner and why. One reason couples can “disconnect” or turn away rather than towards their partner is when they believe common relationship myths. Three popular myths that can challenge the health or connectedness of any relationship are as follows.
Myth 1: My partner should be able to instinctively anticipate my every need, desire and wish.
Truth: You need to clearly communicate your needs, desires and wishes if you want your partner to fulfil them.
This myth can prevail if you learned that having expectations did not serve you growing up. Maybe in the past you had an expectation that you could rely on others but they continuously let you down. To prevent feeling the pain of disappointment you may have decided to protect yourself by not expecting anything from anyone.
Healthy relationships require expectations and a shared commitment to fulfil them. Therefore, you must identify your needs and share what you expect from your partner. If you clearly express your needs and they are continuously unmet it may signal that your relationship is not developing in a healthy way. It is not uncommon to find it difficult to identify and express your needs. I work with a number of clients to discover the limiting beliefs that block them from realising their self-worth. It can also be challenging to identify what a reasonable expectation is. However, bringing awareness to your expectations offers the power to change them and decipher whether it is yours or your partner’s responsibility to meet them.
Myth 2: My partner and I should never argue or criticise.
Truth: In reality couples occasionally argue and criticise each other’s behaviour.
Although you may be aware it is unrealistic to expect you would never argue with your partner, this is what you want emotionally. You may have learned that expressing anger did not serve you growing up and you acquired ways to repress it. Repressed anger, no longer containable will show up in the form of rage. My clients often refer to “the straw that broke the camel’s back” as the moment they express how they feel. This may suggest they are avoiding their feelings until they can do so no more. Most people avoid conflict because they are afraid of damaging their relationship and fear disconnection. The desire to maintain close connections is not a weakness but a central need in all human beings.
Healthy relationships require the resolving of conflict without pointing the finger of blame. This may sound easy but I run 6-week workshops on this topic. When we are not experienced at expressing anger, it can feel overwhelming and there can be a lot of fear associated with it. You can become more effective at getting what you need by learning to become more assertive and self-confident. When you develop these skills you can notice a huge difference in how you communicate in all of your relationships.
Myth 3: Being vulnerable always produces negative results.
Truth: Being vulnerable may produce negative or positive results but it is required to build intimacy.
Somewhere on the course of life you learned that you were the only one in charge of your feelings. What does being vulnerable mean to you? Some of my clients describe it as losing control of their life. They feel that by being vulnerable someone else would take control of their life and do them damage. Have you ever avoided asking your partner for help or support? Or, do you avoid bringing up an issue for fear that you may appear inadequate or unlovable? These fears prevent you from being vulnerable. It is the avoidance of being vulnerable that can maintain these feelings. Oftentimes, the actual practice of being vulnerable is far easier than the thought of being vulnerable.
To participate in a healthy relationship you need to share your feelings with your partner. Those of you who would like to learn more about this topic may consider signing up for my Connectedness workshop. Or, if you would like to read more on vulnerability, refer to the author and researcher Brené Brown who has extensively written on this topic.
It is important to mention that domestic abuse differs from a “bad, unhealthy or disconnected relationship”. In a healthy relationship or even one going badly or ending – neither individual fears the other or is controlled by the other. Domestic abuse doesn’t always have to mean physical violence but it can be part of the abuse. Contact Women's Aid if you feel unsafe or confused in your relationship. 1800 341 900 National Freephone Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.