When it comes to long-term relationships, we’re faced with all sorts of unrealistic expectations. So, what’s the reality?
Supportive, destructive, loving, hurtful, joyous, intimate. Long-term relationships can be the best thing that ever happened to you, or the worst – and finding a life partner is no mean feat.
In the chaotic world we live in, where online chats, dating apps, matchmaking, and blind dates are part of the norm, it can still prove a minefield to find the perfect one. But, when you do happen upon the love of your life, the path to happiness often still has its ups and downs.
I’m speaking from experience, I have been happily married for 25 years in December. I know how very lucky I am to have found, and kept, the one. Yet I am under no illusion that it hasn’t taken work and effort from both sides of the relationship to have such a solid one.
My husband and I have had so many small cracks along the way, but because we have such a strong foundation of love, we have managed to ride them out. And that is the most important part; knowing how to work through problems that arise. Conflict in relationships is totally normal, and misconceptions can make people feel like failures when they encounter normal setbacks.
There are some myths when it comes to long-term relationships that need to be debunked. Having had different opinions from my husband, queried our sex life, numerous arguments, and consulted relationship advice, I’m happy to share that realising all of the following has made us stronger. So, here are five myths about long-term relationships, debunked.
1. Having different beliefs will ruin your relationship
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, having different beliefs can open up conversations, get you to appreciate your other half more, and learn about differences of opinion.
Of course, working together as a team – when it comes to things like finances, health, family, and work – is important, but that’s not to say you can’t come at it with a different mindset from one another.
In my relationship, both my husband and I have had a difference of opinion on many things – from choosing a state school over a private one to what area to set up home in. If we always had the same beliefs, life would be boring.
By bouncing ideas off each other and not always having the same sense of reason, it has proven a positive experience for us to be able to listen, compromise, and fight out important issues.
2. Sex is the most important thing
Of course, a relationship can thrive on sex. But when your love life stops being as bang-on as it once was in the early days of dating, that’s not to say the spark has gone. In fact, the most wonderful thing I have learnt about marriage is that being physically close – by that, I mean holding hands, laughing together, and cuddling – is just as important to me.
The thing with a long-term relationship is that sex is not the be-all and end-all. It can be totally dependent on the circumstances. There is no exact amount of sex that a married couple should have in order to qualify as having a ‘healthy sex life’. What constitutes the right amount of sex depends entirely on the couple.
3. Having arguments is a red flag
Fights between two people can be very upsetting, but the most important thing here is not the arguments you have, but how you resolve them. Couples who never fight could be repressing their anger and resentment, which can lead to bigger problems down the road.
The key is to learn how to argue constructively. This means being respectful of each other, and trying to resolve the issue instead of just going on the attack. By managing to do this, it can actually strengthen your relationship – and although most people who argue want to ‘win’ the battle, trying to find a solution that works well for both sides is always the best outcome.
What I must add is how frustrated I get when people say “Don’t go to sleep on an argument.” I totally disagree! Of course you can go to bed angry. In my case, I always need some time to cool down, and can often have a better perspective in the morning.
4. Having a family will cement your relationship
When it comes to having children with your partner, it can throw all sorts of emotions out of the pram.
Of course, it can be the most magical and loving thing to bring a baby into the world, yet it is no surprise that many studies have shown that having a baby can bring lots of stress to a marriage, and even push couples apart.
Having a child means less time to focus on your relationship with your partner, so unless you have laid the foundations down before you have a baby, it’s almost certainly going to be a very challenging time.
With three of our own, I look back at the early years of parenthood – broken sleep, raging hormones, and endless changing of nappies – as perhaps the hardest part of our relationship.
Yes, it binds you together with your partner forever, but it can really add a strain to a relationship, so don’t jump into having a baby together unless it is something you are ready for.
5. Lasting relationships don’t require work, they are effortless
Too often, couples make the mistake of believing that a relationship will come naturally if they are meant to be together. But the truth is that all long-lasting relationships require work.
By this, I am not talking about lavishing your loved one with gifts, but continuous acts of kindness are a must. Just like you treat a best friend, your partner needs to be made to feel special – whether that is complimenting them on how they look, organising date nights, or cooking them their favourite meal.
We are creatures of habit and comfort. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and work to make your relationship thrive. Then, you’ll be on the right track to have a successful long-term relationship.