Most of us hold on to certain beliefs that we think will make our relationships better and deeper without even realizing that these may actually be toxic for us. There are some common damaging relationships beliefs that turn your healthy relationship toxic and lead to an eventual breakup.
Love is in the air, love is everywhere.
Turn on your TV or scroll through your social media accounts and you’ll see how much attention romantic relationships receive. You’ll see blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcasts illuminating the virtues and dramas of love.
The popular story of Romeo and Juliet tells us about a love so “powerful” that within three days both partners take their own lives for “love.” Or how about the popular movie The Notebook:
It’s a story of a roller-coaster relationship. Not to mention an affair. And despite the toxicity of what we witness on the screen, this movie pulls on our heartstrings and gives hope for lasting love.
While sensational drama sells movie tickets, it doesn’t make love last.¹
According to observational research on 3,000 plus couples by Dr. Gottman, the keys to a healthy relationship are a lack of emotional drama during the conflict, a full commitment to the relationship, and partner’s cherishing one another during the daily grind of life.
With this research in mind, I started pondering, what messages are promoted that convince us to tolerate unhealthy relationships?
Below are nine typical Relationship Beliefs That Are Damaging and Toxic to Lasting Love
1. Love is All We Need
There are two arguments here.
1. The first is that love is enough to last us a lifetime.
However, the reality is that love is a choice that has to be made every single day, because in most marriages, especially after a new family member arrives, lovers stop romancing each other and stop making time for connection and fun. They lose touch with each other.
When the stress of a newborn enters a relationship, it’s not uncommon for a couple to neglect one another to focus on completing the never-ending to-do list. Sadly, over time these practical duties become all they talk about. Rather than being lovers, they turn into housemates.
Making love last a lifetime requires much more than a feeling. It requires intentional action to keep the friendship strong and the flames of romance burning bright.
2. The other issue with this Happily Ever After myth occurs with the most toxic relationship of all.
One partner becomes obsessed with the other partner as they lose themselves in the anxiety and insecurity of the relationship. They eagerly wait for text messages and become so preoccupied with making the relationship work, that they neglect their friendships, self-care, and personal interests. And despite all the red flags of an uncommitted romantic partner who is unpredictably available, we try to make things work.
Unfortunately, this myth embodies the relationship belief that everyone has the same capacity for closeness and intimacy, which is a mistaken belief. Research on adult attachment in romantic relationships highlights that people have different ways of recognizing and responding to intimacy in relationships.
- A secure person is comfortable with intimacy and is warm and loving.
- A clingy person craves closeness and deeply fears that their partner will not love them back, leading them to become obsessed with their romantic partner. Ironically, these individuals tend to be attracted to distancers.
- A distancer views intimacy as a loss of independence and therefore does their best to minimize closeness.
These attachment differences can lead to toxic battles over time together, conflicts that one partner wants to pursue and another wants to avoid, impersonal sex, not sharing or expressing feelings and needs, and a lack of commitment to one another.
Years and even decades later, these couples find themselves unhappily living parallel lives or in the process of separating if these mismatches do not get the attention or support they need in order to be navigated. Hint: Couple’s therapy.
2. Common Interest Makes Love Last
It doesn’t take a couple’s therapist to highlight that couples who have similar values and hobbies are most likely going to enjoy each other. Unfortunately, this is only half of the picture.
While many of us view compatibility as the glue the binds love for a lifetime, Dr. Gottman’s research discovered that when it comes to lasting love, compatibility doesn’t really matter.
That’s because our hobbies like, and dislikes change over the years.
What does matter is how you treat each other over time. This means that the stability and happiness of a relationship is less about how your personalities align or what you spend your time doing together and more about how you treat one another every single day.²
This includes how you respond to bids for connection, how you listen, how you show up for your partner when they are hurting.
“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are but how you deal with incompatibility.”
– Leo Tolstoy