You can’t believe everything you hear when it comes to relationship rules. Some come with lofty expectations for the boys while others leave lonely girls sitting by the phone on a Friday night. It’s no secret—we like to play by our own rules. But for whatever reason, we let friends, family, and the latest TV-drama series tell us what our relationships should look like. And if and when they don’t, we feel disappointed.
False ideas about love and relationships can get in the way of actually falling in love and having a relationship. Sorting out the facts isn’t always easy to do.
It’s time to take a relationship reality check and look at what the experts have to say about these five (mostly false) relationship rules.
1. You’ll know when you’ve met The One.
If you’ve ever asked—how do you know if you’ve met The One?—only to hear, “You’ll just know,” this one’s for you.
“There are many people who you will come in contact with in your life who could be ‘the one.’ Sometimes ‘the one’ may only be ‘the one for now,’” says Julie Spira, cyber dating expert. “The instant-relationship very often crashes and burns. It ends up being an affair; you will feel the romantic euphoria created by the flow of your hormones. Instant chemistry doesn’t always mean instant relationship.”
Looking for The One is right up there with looking for Mr. Right. Sometimes you stumble across Mr. Right Now instead. But whether you’re looking for The One or Mr. Right, you won’t always know if you’ve met him right away. If you trust your intuition, maybe you’ll know. But if your intuition has been wrong in the past, you’ll rightfully question what it’s saying.
Conclusion: If you don’t instantaneously feel like you’ve met The One, that doesn’t mean you haven’t.
2. Love at first sight is real.
“Attraction at first sight is definitely real. And if you’ve ever experienced it, you know that sometimes it grows into real love and other times it fizzles,” says Kim Olver, life, relationship and executive coach. “The chemical response of attraction is simply that, chemical. Love requires knowledge of the other person and an understanding of how you relate together. This takes time.”
To take what Olver said a step further, infatuation at first sight is real and infatuation can lead to what looks like romance and feels like love, but when push comes to shove, a relationship that quickly falls together often falls apart just as fast. Of course, there is the rare occurrence that people do fall in love at first sight. You can keep believing in it, just in case. But if you’re looking at the hottie across the room, “lust” might be a better word to use.
Conclusion: Believe it when you see it.
3. Relationships are hard work.
Relationship and Marriage Coach Susanne M. Alexander said, “Any type of effort in life is harder or easier depending on our level of knowledge and skill. Astrophysics is easy for the woman who has been trained in it. For relationships to flow, it helps to know what you are doing. Read good books. Find good models. Go to workshops. Learn to do them well. Why should relationships be approached any differently than all the college subjects you are tackling?”
For a relationship to continue and progress, two committed partners need to put in their share of work. You can’t let your man breeze by, allowing him to put in 25 percent of the effort while you work overtime trying to make ends meet in the relationship, or vice versa. In fact, it’s been said that each partner putting in 50 percent of the effort equals half a relationship—you have to be all in if you want the relationship to work. Whether you believe in the 50/50 relationship or the all-in relationship, the outcome should be the same with the amount of work being equally divided.
If you’ve repeatedly had to jump through hoops for your partners in the past, then you might think relationships are hard work. But if you have two people working at it together, the work doesn’t seem so hard.
Conclusion: Fact. Relationships require work, but remember to have fun. Apply the work-hard-play-hard mentality to your relationship and see what happens.
4. Nice girls finish last.
Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist and three-time Emmy award-winner, weighed in on this one with her expertise and said, “As for ‘attracting’ most guys, nice girls do finish last because nice girls wear their heart on their sleeve and allow their vulnerability and neediness to scare guys off. Bad girls go after guys with a savvy attitude to get what they want from them. But, once a nice girl learns the secrets bad girls use to attract guys, they can finish first.”
Nice guys aren’t the only ones who have to worry about losing the relationship race. No one likes a pushover in a relationship unless they’re looking for someone to take advantage of. A nice girl may have some good qualities, but those qualities don’t necessarily solicit good behavior from guys or a good relationship.
Sherry Argov became a bestselling author with her book, Why Men Love Bitches, for a reason. She saw a need for straightforward, no-nonsense relationship advice because women weren’t getting what they wanted or needed out of their relationships. Her first book is targeted at women who are getting walked on. Her second book, Why Men Marry Bitches, offers more useful relationship advice so women can turn from being walked on to walking down the aisle.
Dr. Carole Lieberman has a similar book coming out in November called, Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets.
Both authors allude to the Madonna-whore complex, and what they suggest is that a woman can encompass both. As for the women who reject nice guys, maybe they’ve developed the Madonna-whore complex as well. Looking at the stereotypical nice guy, a woman rejects him because he’s “too nice” and then she proceeds to throw herself at the sexual deviant bad boy. We all know how that ends.
Conclusion: Have some dignity. Don’t be a doormat.
5. Can’t-live-without-each-other love is what you should look for.
We can thank Carrie Bradshaw and Sex and the City for this idea. In the series finale episode, Carrie says, “I am someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, can’t-live-without-each-other love.” But is that really what we should want?
“Your first goal should be to have a completely fulfilled and happy life without a man,” says Stephany Alexander, founder of WomanSavers.com and expert in online dating, relationships, and infidelity. That was something Carrie never seemed to master.
Alexander compared life to baking a cake, and after baking perfection, a man is simply the icing on the cake. I’ve heard a similar metaphor from a friend. She compared her life to an outfit and any man who comes into it is only an accessory—like a purse.
Most men will not look favorably on you if you become reliant on them to keep you happy. You become needy and place him on a pedestal and then he can only look down at you. According to Stephany Alexander, “A man should enhance your life, not be the center of it.” And she’s right.
Conclusion: It’s good to know you can live without a man. You don’t have to want to live alone—you just have to know that you can.
Julie Spira, cyber dating expert and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online
Kim Olver, life, relationship and executive coach; author of Secrets of Happy Couples: Loving Yourself, Your Partner, and Your Life
Susanne M. Alexander, relationship and marriage coach; author of several publications