Updated: Apr 21, 2021
Over the winter break I had a long and awesome conversation with my partner about all the many strange, sad, and hilarious misconceptions that we used to believe about relationships. She told me about how strange it was for young kids to model the types of relationships they observed in their life; often mimicking these strong, monogamous, co-dependent types of partnerships. I told her about how I used to believe that being in a relationship was the ultimate goal a person, especially one socialized as female, could have. There are so many myths about relationships out there, especially because most of us have never had an education about how to be in relation to other people. We learn through observation of our parents, our friends, TV shows and movies, and stories we hear over and over again. Stories that tell us that people can never be happy without finding “the one,” movies that show us that perfect relationships fundamentally change your personality and require big sacrifices, and parents and friends that might be silently struggling in relationships that outwardly look fine because they too have fallen victim to the miseducation we all receive around romance, relationships, and the mythology of being in love.
Being in relation with other people, and seeking love or quality interactions are central to human nature. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with loving someone and wanting to be loved. However, when this instinct becomes clouded by the many social norms and mandates through which we operate as a species, the instinct might be hijacked. I think back to the preadolescent me who thought I would be miserable without a significant other, and how my mission at that point in my life was not to build a meaningful connection with another human, but rather to check off bullet points on an imaginary checklist that was implicitly handed to me. I think a lot of us are still trying to check off these bullet points, instead of using that energy to explore what brings us the most joy and fulfillment out of our relationships with others.
This week I got to work on creating a zine that explores common misconceptions in relationships. It was difficult to narrow it down to just 7, but I focused broadling on these categories: priority, boundaries, access, attraction, fulfillment, classification, and break-ups. I’m sure the list could go on, but let’s get into it.
Priority: You should want to be in a relationship.
We are taught from a very young age to aspire to be in monogamous, romantic relationships. Children start experimenting with dating as young as elementary school, and as they age into early adolescence, the kinds of relationships that children have together take on shapes that can begin to mimic the restrictive model based on compulsory monogamy, heteronormativity, and other societal norms.
Boundaries: You should spend most of your time with your partner
Alone time is a boundary that we’re rarely taught to protect. Although people are social creatures, time away from romantic partners can be important for self-development, recharging, and maintaining social support systems.
We are misled when we’re taught that relationships require us to sacrifice parts of ourselves or our life. This can lead to harmful cycles of codependency, neglect, and isolation.
Access: Your partner should get special, exclusive access to you (and vise versa)
Romantic relationships are often held to a different standard than non-romantic relationships. We’re taught that the romantic relationship should be the most important and central relationship in our lives.
This can lead to isolation from friends and family members. It can also lead to intense feelings of devastation when romantic relationships come to an end.
Attraction: You can’t be attracted to other people if you’re in a relationship
Human attraction doesn’t have an on and off switch. The idea that your partner should “be enough” for your romantic and sexual desires is a myth that reinforces compulsory monogamy.
Discussions about monogamy and boundaries are essential when it comes to expressing attraction outside the relationship, but the expectation that attraction should disappear entirely is often unattainable.
Fulfillment: Your partner should make you completely happy.
It’s difficult to find anyone who would admit to being completely happy. Being in a relationship with someone might bring your joy, but it won’t lead to total fulfillment. It’s important to have sources of happiness and fulfillment that come from outside of a romantic relationship, such as pursuing a passion or connecting with your community.
Classification: Romantic relationships are in a league of their own.
This myth might be so deeply embedded that we don’t even consider it a myth. Romantic relationships are often seen as entirely different from platonic relationships, like close friendships. In actuality, these types of relationships aren’t all that different. Behaviors like affection, physical touch, and quality time are often present in relationships, regardless of if the relationship is platonic or romantic. People in romantic relationships might have different negotiations of these behaviors, but romantic relationships are not in a separate classification from non-romantic relationships.
Break-ups: When you break up, you’re expected to hate your ex-partner
Although break-ups can often be complicated and painful, there is a common misconception that you must hate your ex-partner. In reality, many people choose to maintain platonic or even sexual relationships with a partner after they are no longer romantically involved. As long as clear communication is involved, there is no rule that you must despise and avoid your ex-partner after a break up.
(Got more myths you wanna breakdown? Contact us! We'd love to hear from you.)