When I first started providing couples therapy soon after graduation from my counselling studies, I really had little experience of how to help couples that were coming to see me.
It was truly a baptism by fire because as I started to sit with couple after couple in the first year of my new career, I had to come up with something to help each couple move out of pain and start to make positive changes in their relationship.
Now, after almost 20 years of working in the field of relationships, one thing I can say for sure is I’ve learned a lot about relationships from working with countless couples.
Some of the things I’ve learned are common sense, yet some other things have been surprising and exciting.
Most of all, I’ve learned there are lots of myths about couples and long-term relationships that just aren’t true.
So, when I sum it all up, here’s what I’ve learned about love:
1. No two couples are the same
One of the wonderful things about my job is I’ve met so many different couples from all walks of life and I have come to the conclusion no two couples are the same.
Every couple has a different story and it’s fascinating to hear what attracts people together.
If you’re in a relationship, don’t ever forget your own story as it’s unique and can never be replicated.
2. There are only so many relationship patterns
The reality is there are only a limited number of types of relationship patterns that exist.
She pursues him and he withdraws. He criticises her and she attacks back. They both avoid conflict and withdraw from each other. You get the idea.
When you can notice your own relationship patterns, this is the first step in bringing about real change in your relationship.
3. Attraction is an unpredictable thing
Attraction is an incredible thing. I’ve worked with the most unlikely couples across all genders, sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds.
One thing I’ve learned is you can’t create a formula for attraction.
It’s this incredible and amazing thing that’s beyond human comprehension. And you just never know when it’s going to happen.
4. Relationships that start with a bang often end with a bigger bang
When relationships start with a fierce intensity and passion, they often end in the same way.
This is not a blanket rule, but no couple can sustain that kind of intensity of connection indefinitely. You have to expect that the fires will cool at some point and that’s okay.
When there’s passion and intensity that goes uncontained, those couples often end up breaking up in a dramatic fashion.
A slow burn and taking the time to get to know each other without completely losing yourself in the relationship will often lead to a successful relationship in the long run.
5. There’s no such thing as the perfect relationship
The couples that often run into trouble are the ones where one or both partners believe their relationship should be perfect.
Perfectionism, when it comes to relationships, can be the kiss of death. No partner or relationship can live up to those impossible ideals and if you think yours can, you’re in for a rude shock.
Every couple experiences difficulties and conflict at one time or another.
Just realize it’s a part of life and the most important thing is to bring compassion and kindness to yourself and your partner when you’re going through difficult times.
6. Your partner can’t fulfil all your needs
Another common myth is the idea that my partner can fulfil all my needs. This belief is often in form of, “Once I find my perfect partner, I’ll never want for anything again.”
This is a dangerous expectation because it sets you up for disappointment when you discover your partner simply can’t meet all your needs.
It’s important not to lose your individuality in your relationship, no matter how much you love your partner.
Keep your friends, nurture your separate relationships, and keep in close contact with your family. Also, don’t be afraid to have interests, projects and hobbies that don’t involve your partner.
The bottom line is you’re two separate individuals who have separate likes, dislikes, wants and needs.
The wonderful thing is, you can share these things together and separately.
7. You have more than one soul mate (if you believe in that)
Some people seem to believe there is only one soul mate for them in the world.
I’ve worked with countless individuals who thought they had met “the one” and then it didn’t work out.
And guess what? They went on to form other relationships that brought them equally as much love and joy as the relationship they thought they could never replace.
Don’t limit yourself to thinking there is only one person in the world for you to have a deep, connected, and loving relationship.
8. Changing your relationship is hard work, but worth it
I know that changing your relationship for the better is really hard work. If it was easy, couples would do it all the time and there would be no need for couples therapists.
Those couples that put in the hard work are the ones that reap the benefits. They are happier, more resilient and able to face life’s ups and downs with greater robustness.
If your relationship needs help, don’t be afraid of reaching out and getting the professional support you need.
It could be the best investment you ever make in your future.
9. Relationships can be boring and ordinary at times, and that’s okay
The reality is even in the best relationships, there are times when the relationship can feel boring and ordinary.
The important thing to remember is it’s okay to go through periods where your relationship doesn’t feel exciting. This is just part of the reality of day-to-day life.
However, strong couples recognise when they are in one of these periods and then mix it up to bring back spontaneity, excitement, laughter and fun. These couples are happier in the long term.
Be aware of the cycles of your relationship and make sure you work together to maintain your connection, even at times when you feel disconnected.
10. The sex can get better, even in a long-term relationship
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who have accepted a bad sex life because they think that’s what naturally happens when you’ve been together for a while.
There’s no reason for accepting a dull, boring, or sexless relationship.
I’ve seen so many couples turn around their sex life to create a deeper, more connected sexual and emotional connection than they ever had before.
It’s true that you get what you settle for. So, when it comes to your sex life, you can have the best sex of your life, even after many, many years together.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.