by Deniss Pleiner, M.A
In my work with individuals and couples over the last 7 years I have supported clients through many iterations of relationships. I’ve witnessed long term partners get married, get divorced, get separated and then reunited, I’ve supported patients who couldn't find the right partner finally find them. And most of them were held back by lies they (and we) have been told about love and relationships. Today I am sharing 5 of the most common ones with you today:
1. True Love Forgives Everything: Not only is this just not true, it is also harmful. The idea that if we love someone we must forgive all puts us in a position to also forgive betrayal, abuse, and disrespect. Our ability to put up with or forgive pain done to us is not a marker of true love. True love does forgive genuine mistakes, small oversights, and reasonable human errors. But in order to do that, love must also have a foundation of mutual respect. Because if your partner also loves you, they would at the very least be able to offer that. They will not be perfect but they will be open to feedback, they will grow, and they will show you respect.
2. “If they really love you, they will know what you need without you having to tell them” The idea that if someone loves you they will just know how to love you sets us up for frustration and sets unfair expectations for our partner. If we tell ourselves that our partner should just “know” that means that we are making a very big assumption: our partner has had the exact same life and has the exact same needs as you. That’s the only way they would know. But your partner has had their own experiences, and has their own needs. In some ways, you might overlap: you might both show and receive love through physical affection and it might feel like they just “know” that but it’s because you share that in common. You have to teach your partner what you need and how you need to feel loved. In the same way you would like your partner to tell you if they need something. You might think “it means less if I tell them” but when you think about it, it is extremely romantic to feel safe enough to tell someone what you need and then have them care enough about you to hear it and implement it. That is hella romantic.
3. If you say how you really feel, you will look needy: This is the lie that keeps us in dating patterns that do not serve us. Having to keep quiet about what we need means we have to swallow our needs. It creates a heavy feeling and it really erodes our self-esteem. The message we send ourselves when we keep quiet about our needs in a romantic relationship is that our feelings and needs are not important– or at least not important enough to say anything. Having needs does not make you needy and being able to express them and ask for what you need not only improves your self-esteem but it also gives the other person the opportunity to meet your needs in a relationship. Your partner or potential partner cannot meet your needs if they don't know what they are. If you really want to build a healthy fulfilling relationship with them, give them an honest chance by being honest with them.
4. True Love Requires Sacrifice: This one is dangerous. It also tends to keep us in relationships that are toxic, unhealthy, or outright abusive. I often hear this as an excuse in unbalanced relationships. I want to introduce you to a different perspective: Relationships require compromise, not sacrifice. What this looks like is this: in a relationship, all parties have needs that require to be met in order to feel safe and loved. The way that need is met should be flexible but whether or not your need is met– should not be. You might need physical affection to feel loved: perhaps your partner is not comfortable with PDA but they may be willing to hold your hand or hug you or kiss you before exiting the car or house. You two can compromise on how that looks without having to sacrifice your needs. I have seen many relationships be destroyed because of constant sacrifice.
5. If we love each other it will work out: Relationships take work. Consistent, intentional work. They require honest and respectful communication where both parties listen as much as they talk. They require compromise (not sacrifice) and relationships evolve with time as you each grow individually and if you choose to grow your family as well. Love is a wonderful basis to build a relationship but it is not the only element required.
These five lies and myths about love and relationships are often the ones keeping us back from building the relationships we want. As BIPOC Adults we also often have to deal with cultural and family expectations about when, how, and with whom we are “supposed” to be with. When we are in therapy we often to have to unlearn these lies and also peel back the layers of culture, race, gender, expectations and slowly allow ourselves to discover what works best for us and what will lead us to that.
If you need help wit this journey, consider working with one of our therapists here at TOC Therapy.
Deniss Pleiner, M.A. is the founder and Clinical Director of TOC Therapy-- a group
practice in California tailored to meet the mental
health needs of BIPOC adults through
online individual and couple's therapy. As Clinical Director, Deniss guides the clinical development of TOC Therapy Associates and oversees clinical services and offerings. Deniss also works as a Mental Health Advocate, hosting workshops for organizations interested in supporting their
member's mental health and developing emotionally intelligent leadership.