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5 Relationship Myths To Avoid

5 Relationship Myths To Avoid

Any long-term relationship that’s successful is really a myth that two people create together.” – Dan Savage

Writing this article was a wake up call for me in regards to looking at my relationship with my husband of 22 years. It is a wonder that we have survived. I had expectations about what I thought our relationship should be, and when things didn’t turn out how I expected them to I would feel frustrated and angry, especially in the early years of our marriage.

Now I know why there was so much frustration and anger. My expectations were based on beliefs from relationship myths that existed for the sole purpose of being myths. If I had known then what I now know about the fallacy of relationship myths, I would have saved myself a lot of grief!

I have chosen these five relationship myths because I believe you should avoid these at all costs. If you go into a relationship believing in these five relationship myths, your relationship is pretty much doomed.

Myth 1: Happy Couples Stay Together Forever

This myth is a dangerous one, as it creates the belief that happiness will last forever. The reality is that happiness at the beginning of the relationship is very different to the happiness couples experience at, say, 50 years of marriage.

Believing in this myth means that you are not going to be prepared for the minefield of dangers that couples have to manoeuvre their way through in order to stay together. Some happy couples don’t even make it through and sadly, their relationships end.

At the start of your relationship you are in an ecstatic state where you want to be with your partner 24/7. You love being around them, you love what they say and you love the feeling of being in love. Why wouldn’t you want that to last forever?

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You need to get real and understand that the state of love and happiness changes and it will never be the same as it was when you first were together. To maintain love and happiness in your relationship, you both have to work hard to sustain your happiness and your love for each other.

Get to know the minefield of dangers that you have to work through as a couple and be prepared to go to battle together to overcome these dangers.

Myth 2: He Is My Soul Mate, My World, My One And Only Love

I have always struggled with this myth, as I have never really believed it. I chose this myth because it has now become one that has an unbelievable following. The reason this myth has become so ingrained into people’s belief systems is because society leads us to believe that love, happiness and living a fulfilled life comes only from experiencing the passionate love of another.

This person – your soul mate – is the only person you will truly and deeply love and your whole being is based around their love for you. Without them, you are no one. I don’t mean to be harsh here, but if you truly believe that then you are in trouble.

In today’s society, we are constantly in the “pursuit of happiness and love” and have been brainwashed to believe that the source of love and happiness is found from external sources like, for example, our “soul mate”. We are nothing without this love. Well, I don’t believe this to be so.

Happiness and love comes from within us and the love of another person is really the icing on the cake. If we are disconnected from our own happiness and source of love within us, then no matter how fantastic our partner is, we will always feel dissatisfied with who we are.

Accept who you are, know that your happiness and fulfilment comes from within you and do what ever it takes to be the happy and loving person you desire to be. Once you have achieved this, then you will find that there is no limit to how wonderful and loving all your relationships can be.

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Myth 3: Romance and Passion Will Last Forever

Being passionately in love with someone is not enough to make a relationship last. The reality is that this glow of romance and passion fades overtime, and it can either disappear or. if you get it right, grow into a deeper more mature love.

The problem for us is, we make big decisions about committing to the relationship when we are in the throes of passion, lust and love. This person we are choosing to commit to at this point of the relationship can do no wrong and anything they do that does annoy us we accept because we love them so much.

When romance and passion disappear, we can end up believing that we are no longer in love and we are with the wrong person. The relationship sours and eventually disintegrates. When this happens, for many couples what was once a loving passionate relationship becomes a very painful and “unloving” one.

If love survives the passionate and romantic stage, it is still not enough to keep the relationship going. It is at this point, where a couple who want to be together, they should take the time to sort out what they need to do to “invest” in their relationship to keep it strong, loving and sustainable.

Staying together forever in a loving relationship takes hard work, commitment and a lot of compromise. The arguments, the conflict and the disagreements continue. However a couple who are realistic and love each other are not afraid of these challenges.

Happy couples know how to work through their challenges together. They have strategies that ensure their relationship survives. The romance and passion is still there but it is simply older and much wiser.

Myth 4: Having Children Will Bring Even More Happiness To Our Relationship

This myth is absolutely a load of rubbish. I have two young adult children and I love them dearly, however being a parent has been one of the most challenging things I have done in my life.

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I had no idea how tough it was to be a parent and to co-parent with my husband, who has a very different parenting approach than I do. When you put two different parenting approaches together, it takes hard work, huge compromise (yet again!) and a great deal of effort to keep the relationship strong and loving.

Having children also brings a different dynamic to your relationship and if you both are not vigilant, this can destroy your relationship and the love you have for each other. I don’t mean to be harsh, but don’t let this myth lead you to believe that just by having children, your relationship will miraculously be even more happy and loving.

Having children is really the “test” of the sustainability and strength of a relationship. Parenting challenges your beliefs, values, ability to compromise, ability to love, your ego, your fears, your anxieties and your differences.

If the both of you don’t keep on top of these huge challenges, then the chances of you having the happy loving relationship you desire are very slim. Although children bring us great joy and happiness they also create a distraction away from “investing” in keeping your relationship with each other intact.

Your children will always be to you both your number one priority, however you will find that if you let it, your relationship with your partner will slip away until it becomes forgotten. You will wake up one day and discover that you no longer love this person and then the painful journey of separation begins.

Myth 5: Love Will Conquer All

The phrase comes from the Latin phrase from Eclogue X by Virgil, although the myth originates from Greek Mythology. Love was a favourite topic for the Greeks and they wrote many love stories, and many of them were actually very tragic. In fact, I am sure if you went deep enough into Greek mythology, you would find a love story that relates to each of these five myths.

‘Love Conquers All’ is a common theme in many of the Greek love stories. Read the story of Alcyone and Ceyx and you will see what I mean – even though Alcyone and Ceyx were a loving and devoted couple, their story doesn’t end well.

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This myth about love being the end all be all has been kept alive in both song and in films. The band Deep Purple released in 1992 a song titled “Love Conquers All”. In 2006, a movie was released by Tan Chui Mui with the title “Love Conquers All”. So with love stories, songs and movies all promoting the belief that “Love Conquers All”, it is then no surprise that we believe this myth to be true.

The reality is, love alone doesn’t conquer all the challenges and obstacles a relationship faces. Love alone will not help you to overcome your partner’s imperfections, their annoying habits, their selfish ways or the unreasonable demands of their family.

Constant dialogue and conversation, respect for each other, the ability to say sorry, being personally accountable and responsible for your actions, being able to speak your truth without fear of reprisal or shame, celebration, appreciation, fun, lots of date nights and the ability to resolve disputes and conflicts quickly and in agreement are just some of the factors that, along with love, are the key ingredients to having a happy relationship.

Life is complicated and full of uncertainties. Likewise, relationships can be messy and are never perfect. If you believe these five relationship myths to be true, when reality sets in and the pressures of life present themselves to you and your partner, the chances of survival together are poor.

Paired with love, putting these key ingredients into action will ensure without a doubt that your relationships will be strong, loving and will likely last forever.

“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.” – John Lennon

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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