Another Valentine’s Day is sneaking up on us, and if you’re currently in a relationship, you’re probably acting a little more lovey-dovey than usual. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course – do you, I say – so long as it’s not a dog-and-pony show to cover up underlying relationship issues that you’d like to keep brushed under the rug. In that case, you may need couples’ counseling or fair-trade relationship advice from a friend. What you don’t need, however, are these eight outdated tidbits that you’ve already heard but which only stand to exacerbate your problems. Take a look and steer clear.
1. Long-Distance Relationships Never Work Out
Meeting a guy who lived hundreds of miles away and falling hard for him seemed to be my M.O. for the first seven years of my dating career. After the first two long(ish)-term relationships fizzled out – for reasons related to lack of intimacy (basically I cheated on them) – I finally met someone who made staying faithful despite the distance worthwhile. I don’t think I loved this person any more than I did the others – I consider myself rather in touch with my feelings, and I love hard (even though my actions don’t always prove that) – but with experience and age came wisdom.
For one, I didn’t like how I made the first two guys feel, one of whose heart I just about broke in two, and I didn’t like how I felt about myself afterward – especially after they dumped me. The third time, however, I was determined to get it right, and it worked because it was the right relationship for me at the time. Despite the 300-plus miles between us, we scheduled time to see each other (on average, two weekends a month). We looked forward to that time together and the weekends were full of excitement and passion. After a year and half of traveling back and forth we decided to move in together, and eventually we married. More on that later.
2. Never Go to Bed Angry
You’ve heard over and over again that you should never go to bed angry at your partner from your parents and grandparents, who claim to abide by this “rule” – but I call bullshit. In a perfect world, sure, we’d kiss and make up before falling into a comfortable slumber together, but sometimes – sometimes! – our S.O.’s make us so fucking mad that all we can think about in the moment is slipping them an Ambien and smothering them in their sleep. (Real talk, y’all; don’t pretend you haven’t digressed to that space.) The underlying issue of this anti-logic, however, is that not all arguments can be resolved right away, and forcing yourself to extinguish your fiery feelings oftentimes only serves to distance yourself from the actual problem just so you’re not yelling at each other anymore. Thus, get it all out. If you need to scream at each other one night, go to bed angry, and dole out the silent treatment for the next few days, so be it. Soon enough, cooler heads will prevail so you can really talk about what’s going – and that’s the best thing for your relationship.
3. Holding Out On Sex Will Get Their Attention
If you think withholding sex from your partner to get their attention is a smart move, prepare to have your feelings hurt – perhaps worse than you ever imagined. For starters, couples can be very stubborn toward one another, especially if each individual thinks they’re “right” in a situation. Then it becomes a battle of wills, and that’s not a healthy way to deal with the issues at hand. Secondly, your partner may misinterpret your unwillingness to connect sexually in many ways – for instance, that you’re not attracted to them anymore or you’re finding pleasure elsewhere – which could lead to retaliation tactics, like bangin’ a side trick for instant gratification. You’ll regret your presumed power play at that point, but the damage will already be done. Avoid certain disaster by skipping the passive-aggressiveness body language and verbally discussing what’s bothering you.
4. Dote on Your Partner to Keep Them Happy
I’m all for doing nice things for your partner – I enjoy planning dates, cooking dinner and surprising mine with the occasional gift – but your efforts should be reciprocated for you to maintain satisfaction in your relationship. That doesn’t mean that you should expect your partner to do exactly what you do for them, but they should show their appreciation for you in their own way from time to time. On the other hand, if your partner doesn’t put much effort into the relationship but takes advantage of all the nice things you do for him or her, ditch the dirtbag. You’ll save a lot of time, energy and heartache by leaving that leech.
5. ‘He’s a Man. That’s Just What They Do’
When my husband and I first moved in together as boyfriends a decade ago, our once-thriving long-distance relationship turned upside-down in our new cohabitation situation. We both had our own living styles, and to say they clashed is a gross understatement. My biggest gripe was that he never cleaned a single thing in the house. He didn’t make the bed or sanitize the bathroom or sweep the floor or even put the dishes in the dishwasher half the time – and it made me furious to the point that I started lashing out. I discussed this problem with my friends and family, and all I heard was, “He’s just a man.” This unanimous retort burned me to the core. Why? Because I’m a goddamn man, too – but I’m also a grown-ass person who doesn’t live like a slob. This approach to mansplaining applies to many aspects of masculine culture, like dudes’ desire to cheat, too. I can’t say I’m completely innocent in that regard, but I would never tell somebody it’s just what I do because I’m a man. I cheated because I was being an inconsiderate asshole – end of story. Thus, the faster you shut down the “all guys act this way” bullshit and maintain your high expectations, the better off you’ll be.
6. Keep Some Things to Yourself So You Don’t Seem Crazy
I’m married but on my way to an amicable divorce – which might make you question why I’m handing out relationship advice like snack-size Kit-Kats. Well, I’ll tell you: I’ve been through it ALL in the past 10 years with my husband, and as someone who prides myself on living and learning and trying to avoid the same mistakes again, I think I’m more than qualified to dispel advice by way of my experiences. As such, one of the most important things I can impart unto you is to always be your authentic self in your relationship – from the very beginning. If you get a little crazy sometimes – fuck it – let that shit show. Your partner will eventually see that side of you anyway, and it’s better to spread your undiagnosed bipolar disorder all over the table so everybody knows what they’re getting into from the start. From there, you two can decide if the relationship is worth pursuing or if you’re better off without each other – a decision that’s only made that much harder with time.
7. If You’re Unhappy, Leave
If your relationship is irreparable, I recommend cutting your losses and going your separate ways – but that’s not an endorsement to be hasty. Couples get angry at one another, annoy each other, and fight. That’s the byproduct of loving someone so much. But that doesn’t mean you should throw it all away because you’ve made each other unhappy. If your overall outlook on life is dismal because of your partner, yes, it’s time to reevaluate your togetherness, but if your feelings got hurt or they did something to piss you off, step back, breathe and remember why you want to be in this. It’ll make all the difference.
8. Move On If They Don’t Want to Get Married
My husband and I have been separated for about two years, divorce is imminent, and I consider myself a one-and-done kinda guy now. That’s not to say I’ll never get married again, but I’d prefer not to. My boyfriend (yep; not ashamed of it, either) may feel differently in a few years – he’s never been married before – but I’ve been honest with him from day one about my circumstance and why another marriage may not be in my future. Nonetheless, if he wants to tie the knot down the road and I’m still anti-nuptials, it shouldn’t mean that I love him or am committed to him any less than I am now; I just don’t want to go through the emotional and legally messy uncoupling process again. I did it, I learned my lesson, and now I need to be smarter.
Therefore, if you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to get married, don’t sacrifice the love and commitment just because they’re not willing to get a certificate to prove it. They have their reasons for refusing to say “I do,” and if your relationship is solid, you’ll get through it. If you need a marriage to be fully satisfied, however, maybe this isn’t the right person for you. Your constant quest to be joined in matrimony will eventually degrade the relationship until there are very few reasons to stay together. In that case, count your blessings – because it was never meant to be in the first place.