Aren’t we all enamored with the power couples on Instagram, you know the ones that seem to be on a constant honeymoon? Yet we know that these picture-perfect moments probably don’t represent the true nature of these relationships. ven. Still, when a friend tells you she and a guy she just met a few days ago have been talking “24/7,” or the couple dating only half the length of time you and your partner have been together are already engaged, it’s hard not to wonder if you are doing something wrong. Making comparisons can lead to us buying into some myths that can deprive us of meaningful connections. Here are three myths that come up time and time again with both friends and clients:
1. There needs to be an immediate spark
Couples examine whether they had that spark during all stages of a relationship, but it is particularly problematic when we rule out potential partners out before we get the chance to know them. We’ve all met people who felt immediate butterflies when they met their significant other, or seen rhapsodizing poetically about love at first sight. You may have even had a first date like this at some point, so now when you date and aren’t immediately smitten they get filed away as “no chemistry.”
An emotional connection is certainly exciting, but it is not a barometer as to whether a person is a suitable long-term partner. If people don’t have similar values, goals, and communication skills, sparks eventually fizzle out. On the flip side, someone who has similar interests, values, and a sense of humor may seem more attractive and appealing over time. Dating is hard enough without putting pressure on yourself to make sweeping decisions about someone in two hours. While there may be some dates where it is clear you do not jive well with a person, if your feelings are lukewarm ask yourself whether there is a disadvantage of agreeing to a second or third date. More time will all
2. “The one that got away”
It’s normal to miss an old relationship, or to wonder what would have happened if your high school crush and you were to reunite. You might be right that it was bad timing, poor judgment, or even geography that prevented you from being together; however, viewing this personas the magical antidote to unhappiness is unlikely to serve you. I’m as happy as the next Friends fan that Ross and Rachel ended up together, but if Rachel was my client and Ross was getting married to someone else, I would have gently suggested she try and focus her attention elsewhere. When you daydream about what a relationship with that person would look like in the present day, try not to view it through the viewpoint that you were meant to be together. Telling yourself it’s okay to feel sad about this past relationship, rather than seeing it as something you need to take action about, can allow you to make space for someone who is both available and compatible for you in the present.
3. You can’t move on until you get closure
When grieving a relationship, it is important to take time to process what happened. Things like exercising, journaling, or talking with a therapist are likely to be helpful in this process. Telling yourself you need to feel an abstract sense of closure is a lot of pressure. Often times people think that if they hear their ex tell them exactly what went wrong or what was missing in the relationship, they will be able to let things go forever. Maybe this works sometimes, but it usually opens old wounds and does just do the opposite. If you end up missing your ex more after you see or speak to them you can end up convincing yourself that you should not date yet. This is why the idea of closure is an example of black and white thinking. It can lead one to conclude that you have to be 100% over an ex before even considering dating again.
It is perfectly normal to still feel affected and confused by a past relationship. So before you meet up with that ex for that drink, really consider why you are doing it. Ask yourself how you would know you were getting closure? Is there really a concrete thing the other person would say that would give you permission to move on? If there is, great. Go for it! However, you may think you are seeking information from another person, but in reality, you are seeking an answer that can only come from yourself. What if the piece of you that mourns your past relationship could co-exist with the part that is excited to meet someone new? While we often think that some kind of conversation with another person can provide us with closure, in reality sometimes this keeps us from accepting it is ok to hold a degree of ambiguity and to move on with our lives.
There are so many destructive tropes out there that are meant to help us find the right person but in reality end up keeping us apart. While none of these myths are inherently incorrect, they can still hold us back. . You might feel like you’re walking on air after the first date, or find a conversation with an ex very healing. The problem is that these myths support the idea that there is one “correct” way to be in a relationship. There is no objectively correct number of dates before you should sleep together, length of time to wait before you should meet each other’s family, ways a couple should split finances-the list goes on forever! Dating and relationships are hard enough without the expectations of others and outdated myths influencing our actions. Allowing oneself to approach the process with flexibility and openness can help make those less than picture perfect moments of the process worth it.