The Un-Truths We’re Told About Coupling Up
The grass is always greener.
This age-old saying could not be more applicable to our modern-day relationships.
Think about it. When you’re single, you often long for a relationship—someone to cook dinner with in the evenings, to plan trips with and let your guard down. When you’re coupled up, you often long for your single freedom—the ability to come and go as you please, to decide what sofa you want to buy from IKEA and casual flirting.
And yet, society still tends to place far more weight on coupledom rather than singledom as the barometer for our happiness. Because as soon as we do couple up and meet our “person,” we’re suddenly told our lives will be infinitely better and that much more fulfilling.
In fact, not only will this “person” be our romantic partner, he or she will also be our best friend, our therapist, our confidante and our sexual match.
It’s no small wonder, then, why so many couples end up going their separate ways. The pressure on our partners to be our everything is enormous, and the stakes are incredibly high, especially when marriage or kids are involved.
Although I wholeheartedly believe in solid, happy relationships—that they exist, that they happen, and that they can last—I’m also acutely aware of just how fragile they can be.
It’s only when we start to unlearn these so-called “truths” about coupling up that the rose-tinted glasses can come off, revealing all those beautiful flaws that exist in real relationships.
Your Partner Will Be the Mirror Image of You
In the words of Alain de Botton, my favorite philosopher:
“The partner truly best suited to us is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste but the one who can negotiate differences to taste with intelligence and good grace.”
This is not meant to suggest that couples who are nearly identical in terms of their likes, dislikes, interests and habits won’t go the distance. Rather it’s that like-mindedness isn’t always the true indicator of romantic happiness or longevity.
In fact, according to Botton, “the capacity to tolerate dissimilarity is a true marker of the ‘right’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it shouldn’t be its precondition.”
While some might argue that dissimilarity breeds contempt, I beg to differ. My boyfriend is German and I’m American. Although we live in Germany together, we speak almost entirely in English. Truth be told, I often forget that I’m dating a non-native speaker (that’s how excellent his English is), but at the end of the day, we are from two different countries.
Do I sometimes find it annoying if he doesn’t immediately get a certain American reference of mine? Sure. But, the same goes for him, given I haven’t (yet) mastered his German language.
The key, I’ve found, is not to overly dramatize the differences. Just because we have our occasional “lost-in-translation” moments or that we prefer different movies (he’s into action-packed thrillers whereas I prefer indie films) doesn’t mean we’re suddenly incompatible as a couple. It just serves as a reminder that although we’re not the same person, we’re on the same page as a couple—and that’s what matters.
Your Partner Is the Only One For You
I actively try to avoid using the phrase, “The One.”
While in theory it’s a beautiful notion—this idea that there is one human being out there that’s meant to complete us—quite frankly, is rather limiting.
Esther Perel, the renowned couples’ therapist and author of Mating in Captivity and The State of Affairs, agrees. “There is ‘one’ that you choose and with whom you decide that you want to build something. But there could also have been others.”
Instead, I’m a firm believer in “The One with the Right Timing.” In my personal experience, timing is pretty much everything. Case in point: I met my now boyfriend on a three-week visit to Germany last year, through a mutual friend. Sparks flew and we fell head over heels in love (so much so that I ended up moving across the Atlantic Ocean two months later to be with him).
To illustrate this limited viewpoint of “The One,” let’s say I would have met my boyfriend six months prior to our actual meeting. At that time, he would have still been with his long-distance girlfriend of three years. This is not to say we wouldn’t have been attracted to each other if we were to have met then but it’s very doubtful anything would have transpired. The timing of our meeting worked perfectly in our favor and for that, I am beyond grateful. Could we have potentially met someone else, though, and been happy? Chances are, yes.
Now think about friends who get divorced or friends who split up after years of being together with their supposed “One.” Do you tell them that they’ll never be happy again with someone else? Of course not. You encourage them that they’ll find happiness again with someone new.
We do this to not only lessen the blow of a breakup but also to reaffirm what we believe to be true: that there is more than one person out there we can find love with. To think otherwise, I believe, is detrimental to our happiness.
Your Partner Will Always Make You Happy
Speaking of happiness, I’d be remiss not to mention another un-truth we’re told. The one that tells us our “person” will always make us sublimely happy. Unfortunately, social media (ahem, Instagram) only adds to this illusion.
Make no mistake—relationships are wonderful, in so many ways, and they can bring so much happiness to our lives. But when your individual happiness starts to become solely reliant on your partner, this is where trouble can begin to brew.
You’ve heard the saying before, “You can’t love someone if you don’t love yourself”? Well, the same goes for your happiness. If you’re not happy on your own, you’re certainly not going to be any happier with your partner.
Healthy relationships are built on you and your partner being aware of this happiness co-dependency, making sure that you both maintain a sense of independence outside the loving unit you’ve created together.
By engaging in activities independent of each other, whether that’s a trip with your girlfriends or taking that pottery class on your own, you’re more apt to maintain a sense of self—which is beneficial to every relationship.
Your Partner Will Always Satisfy You
Every couple is different but one thing most can agree on is that the honeymoon phase, aka the sexual fireworks, usually wanes.
The key here? Not to obsess and assume it’s a sign that you and your partner aren’t really right for each other.
Rachel Sussman, a relationship expert and marriage counselor, concurs. She explains that the decline of passion in a longer-term relationship is perfectly normal and that you can easily rekindle your initial passion with a little effort and some patience.
One strategy she suggests (and one that I personally recommend), is to schedule in time for physical intimacy. It may sound silly, but think of it like you would any other daily activity—brushing your teeth, eating dinner or exercising. After some time, it starts to feel like second nature. The bonus? It’s enjoyable for both parties involved.
Of course, all of this boils down to honest communication with your partner. What do you hope to have? By tempering your expectations with your partner and openly voicing your desires, you’re well on your way to maintaining a satisfying sex life.
While I certainly don’t consider myself a relationship expert, I’ve definitely learned a thing or two over the years and often, I find myself using this particular analogy with my girlfriends: Think of yourself as a delicious piece of cake, great and wonderful on its own. Now think of your relationship as the icing on top—making it all the more sweeter.
The best relationships, I think, are the ones where two individuals choose to be with one another. Where their happiness isn’t reliant on the other person; they’re just happier being together than they are apart.
Now that’s a truth worth telling.
Erin is a freelance writer with over 7 years of creative copywriting experience. A self-professed storyteller with a serious case of wanderlust, she has a penchant for all things fashion, beauty, food, and film.