Episode 20: Busting 7 Relationships Myths

by | Last updated: Aug 28, 2023 | Podcast

Have you heard that date night solves everything, nothing should feel awkward after you’re married, or you should never argue with your spouse? If you have, you’re not alone! Despite being well-meaning, people often perpetuate 7 relationship myths that aren’t true for some – if not most – relationships. But the question remains – what does work when you’ve hit a rough patch?

The truth is, most solutions are not one-size-fits-all. In fact, in this episode, we will explore some of the unlikely truths of relationships, including the deeper meaning of date night, the awkwardness of long relationships, and the benefits of “arguing” with your spouse. Let’s dive in!

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

  • Date night doesn’t fix everything
  • How to go deeper
  • Awkwardness lasts after marriage
  • How to claim the awkward
  • Never arguing is unhealthy
  • How to talk about what really matters

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If you’re questioning whether you can recover the feelings you’ve lost for your spouse, and you’re serious about putting an end to feeling stuck, lost, and alone… I’ve written a book just for you.

It’s called Stay Or Go: How To Find Confidence And Clarity So You Can Fix Your Marriage, Or Move Forward Without Regret. The approach I share in this bestselling book has already worked for thousands of women struggling in lonely, disconnected marriages, and I’m confident that it will work for you, too. If you don’t want to spend another day stuck in indecision, get your copy below.

Welcome to The Loving Truth podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now, your host, relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. Today, we are going to be talking about seven different relationship myths that I want to challenge, that I want to spend some time to debunk, because what I'm finding with my clients is that the old ways or the very traditional ways of thinking about relationships and about marriage aren't very helpful. Now, I want you to think about it like this. There are tools, let's call 'em some very basic tools, that very well-intentioned people have said, “You should do this.” And if you do that consistently, then your relationship will thrive, or it will last, or it will feel good, or whatever.

Now, that works pretty well if you're not in crisis, right? If you're just a little bit disconnected, or you hit a little bit of a rough patch together and you're missing each other and you want to reconnect, right? Something like date night works pretty well in that situation, but when you have years of disconnection, when you have been struggling for a long time and there are some deeply held resentments on at least one party's part inside the relationship, now something like date night not gonna be so helpful, right?

So it really depends upon how far along the problems are inside your relationship to know whether or not these things are going to be helpful. Now, none of these things are going to be harmful, right? Nothing's going to harm your relationship that we're gonna talk about today. But if you have tried them, these different tools and techniques, and you haven't been successful, and then that can leave you feeling kind of hopeless - I want you to know, it might just be that you're reaching into the toolbox for the wrong tool.

That's a tool for someone who's just a little bit in a rough spot, not someone who is essentially in crisis inside their relationship. So I don't want you to feel like things are hopeless. I just want you to realize that we've got to start thinking about relationships much, much differently in order to really be successful with them.

Now, I'll share with you a quick story of a client of mine that I'll refer to as Alison - that is obviously not her name. Since we're talking about date night, we'll start there. She and her partner have a date night once a week, and they have for four years. Every Saturday night, they go out to dinner together. But if you were to stand back, be a fly on the wall in the restaurant and watch them interact while they're having dinner together, you might think that they don't like each other much. He has his nose in his phone, scrolling a lot, and she is looking around, people-watching, not making any eye contact, right? So they're both physically there, but they're not engaged with each other. They're not using it as an opportunity to really connect.

If they speak to one another, they might say something like, “Well, what looks good to you on the menu?” Or something that's going on with the kids - “Did you see that Jill got a good grade in her algebra class?” Something like that, right? So they're not talking about them as a couple; they're not talking about them as individuals. They're talking about very safe topics because they don't know how to connect anymore. And now it just feels really awkward.

So let's debunk the first myth. Date night does not solve everything, okay? Date night is lovely. When you are doing well in your marriage, when you're feeling pretty good about it, or if you just need a little bit of reconnection, date night, once a week can be super, super helpful. I'm not saying that it's doing damage, but what I'm saying is, if you show up to that date night, like my client Allison and her husband, where you're there physically, but you're not there mentally, and you're not there emotionally, then you might actually be doing more harm than good because the other person might be sitting across from you going, “He doesn't even wanna be here. Why do I even bother trying?”

It can leave you feeling more hopeless. So if you have tried date night, and it hasn't been successful for you, I just want you to give yourself a little bit of grace and go, “Oh, because I was thinking that was gonna solve things, when maybe I'm gonna need a little bit of a heavier hammer here in order to try to resolve some of the longstanding issues inside the marriage.”

So that's the first one. First one is date night - but alone does not solve everything. Okay? The second idea that we need to rethink is that it shouldn't be awkward once we're married; once we've been together for years, nothing should feel awkward. Having dinner shouldn't feel awkward. Continuing conversation, keeping that conversation over dinner going, shouldn't feel awkward; sharing what feels good to you sexually shouldn't feel awkward. Look, that's a bunch of horseshit, okay? You're going to feel awkward in the relationship. There are going to be times that you're uncomfortable or you and your partner are uncomfortable.

Let me give you some examples. If you have to have a very difficult conversation, maybe there's something that happened where your partner hurt you and you have to share that with them, or you feel like you want to share that with them, that whatever it was that they did hurt you - that conversation is not gonna feel comfortable, right? If you have gone out to dinner, time and time again, every week, but you have nothing to talk about, and you're just sitting there staring at each other, or trying to not make any eye contact with one another and not be really present with one another, trying to add some structure in order to keep the conversation going is going to feel awkward.

You know, I will often tell my clients, you can do it in a very structured way, and I give some ideas around how to do that. But you can also keep it really lighthearted too. Maybe you just want to keep the conversation going, but you don't want or need to talk about anything that's really deep, or we have to overcome these problems in our relationship right now over dinner. We don't have to do that every time. We could just keep it kind of light and easy. And so those table topics, there's a ton of them. Just go on to Amazon. There are a bunch of different kinds of table topics. There are lots of different variations on those topics that are really just meant to open up conversation between people.

So it will ask you questions; you'll just grab a few cards, take 'em to dinner with you, or if you're sitting outside together sharing a glass of wine, just grab a few cards and just ask each other these questions. An example might be, “What are you most excited about in the upcoming year?” An example might be, “If you could have dinner with anybody, dead or alive, who would you want to have dinner with and why?” Right? So they're very harmless questions, but inevitably they're going to open up dialogue between the two of you. And who knows? You might even learn something about your partner that you didn't know before, and that's kind of cool, right?

So I always say, you know what? Let it be awkward. Own the awkwardness. When I feel like I'm going to be uncomfortable, I just say it. I say it right out loud, and I put it right out there. I'm like, “Look, this is going to be really uncomfortable for both of us, but we're going to do it.” And eventually, if we keep trying, it's not going to feel uncomfortable, because discomfort comes from unfamiliarity. I'm not familiar with it. I'm unfamiliar with doing this thing. So once I do it, often enough, it's going to become more familiar to me, and then it doesn't feel awkward. But in order to get to that non-awkward phase, you have to be willing to walk through the awkward, right? So just own it and be like, “Look, this is gonna feel weird, but let's just do it.” Right? We can be weird in front of each other. We can be awkward in front of each other after 10 or 20 years together, but let's just try it, right? We've got nothing to lose.

Do that. That's going to help you open up that conversation. All right? So don't assume that just because you've been together, there aren't going to be awkward times, certainly sexually speaking, because most of us are not great at talking about sex and talking about our needs, and talking about our desires, and talking about what feels good.

There are going to be times that's gonna feel awkward. So let it; if you can't be awkward with a person you've been with for a decade or more, then who are you going to be awkward with, right? So just put it out there, own it, and stop assuming that something's gone wrong, okay? It's just you've gotten out of the habit of something and you need to get back into the habit of that thing, okay?

The third thing is this idea that if we argue it means something has gone wrong. No, it doesn't. If you argue every day all the time, okay, that's a bit extreme. But just because you argue once in a while doesn't mean that there's something wrong with your relationship. And it doesn't mean you have to rethink whether you're with the wrong partner or not. When you argue, what that means to me is that you two are talking about something that you care deeply about. And that's important. It's important to you. It's important enough, and you feel strongly about it enough that you have some big feelings about whatever the topic is.

Now, the idea isn't that you should never argue, right? Because I always say if a couple is never arguing, it means they're not talking about anything really important inside their relationship. They're staying in that nice, safe zone so that they don't argue. Because a lot of us really avoid confrontation. It's super uncomfortable. And human beings, we don't like being uncomfortable. So we avoid arguments.

But sometimes arguments can be healing; sometimes it can be necessary to get those big feelings expressed. And so the idea is really, how do you handle the arguments? If you handle the arguments well, then it really can be an opportunity for the two of you to better understand one another. But if you don't handle the arguments well, and there's a lot of name-calling and personal digs on each other, or a lot of anger and rage and yelling, now what we're doing is creating more problems on top of this disagreement that we're having. So not only is it not helpful, it's more harmful than anything.

Okay? Now the other idea, along the same lines as arguing, and this is probably one of my favorite rules to debunk because everyone says, “Whatever you do, don't go to bed angry.” Bull. Go to bed angry. It is the best idea because you will see things differently in the morning. You will feel differently about whatever it is you're upset about in the morning. I'll give you an example. So this was just last week. My dog, one of my dogs, was having a lot of difficulties. He had had surgery and it didn't go very well. And then he got to the stitches and basically got the wound infected, and some of the stitches came out. And so it was an open wound, right?

So I knew this, and we were monitoring it. We had been to the emergency vet, and they said, “Okay, here's what you're going to do. You're going to clean him up every day, and you're going to pay attention, and you're going to bandage him,” and all this stuff, right? So it was a Saturday, this last Saturday. And well, I was looking at the wound and I was like, “Ooh, wow, this looks significantly worse than it did yesterday. This isn't good.”

Well, my husband was working out; he was at the gym. So when he came home, I said, “Babe, I need to talk to you. I want you to take a look at Leo's wound because I don't feel like it's doing well at all. I think we might need to think about taking him back.” I was worried, right? And by the way, I get anxious sometimes. Okay? So I was feeling a little anxious. This is completely outside of my comfort zone, and my little guy is hurting, and I'm worried.

So he's like, “No problem. I'll look at it in a little bit.” He gets in the shower, he takes his time. I'm still getting really worried at this point because I can tell my dog is super uncomfortable. He doesn't really know how to move because it's on his belly, and I'm just like petting him and trying to keep him calm and all this stuff. So I go into the bathroom where my husband's getting ready after taking a shower, and I'm like, “Babe, can you please come look at this? ‘Cause I think we're going to need to do something.”

He's like, “Just calm down.” Which, by the way, no one who's not calm ever likes to be told, calm down. “I'll be there in a little bit; it's fine. I'll get there.” Okay. So then he's done showering. Then he says, “All right, well, I gotta go to the drug store because I have to get more of that cleaning solution, and I wanna get some of those little butterfly sticker stitches or whatever. My husband was an ex-paramedic, right? So he doesn't get freaked out about all this stuff.

I get freaked out about all this stuff when there's blood and open wounds and things like that, right? So he's like, “I'm going to go to the drug store. I'll only be gone 10 minutes.” I'm sitting here thinking, can't you please just take a look at this wound first before you go to the drugstore? Nope. First, things have to be done in a certain way. So I'm trying really hard to keep calm. So he goes to the drugstore; he gets all these things. He sits down; we have everything ready to go to clean up our dog and put this antibacterial stuff on. And I guess he's going to put these little stitches on, I don't know.

He looks at the wound and he is like, “Oh my gosh, this is really bad.” Ah-huh. It's really bad. So we take a picture of it; we send it to the emergency vet. Now, by the way, there are probably two hours that have gone by at this point. We send it to the emergency vet, and they're like, “Yeah, you going to bring 'em in.” So we load up both the dogs in the car, and we bring them in. So I was a little salty, okay? By the time we got back that night, it was dark. It was late. I was still super worried. It was not good.

And I was mad that I wasn't being taken seriously, that he was like, “Oh, it's just your anxiety. It's no big deal.” No, it was a big deal, and it was something that needed tended to, but he never even came back and said, “Wow, you were right. I should have done something with that.” Now, the worst possible thing I could have done is bring it up that night and talk about it that night and have all the things to say about it that night. That would've been the worst possible thing because I would've said a whole bunch of probably hurtful things. And he might've said a bunch of hurtful things. Our emotions were high, we were exhausted, and we were worried, right?

So the next day, I was able to have a better conversation with him, and I just said, “Look, I don't appreciate not being taken seriously. I get that sometimes I have anxiety, but when I come to you with something, I don't want you to just write it off - that is insulting to me. Now, I'm not gonna hang on to this, but I need you to know how I felt about it, right?” That's a calmer conversation. We didn't have some big blow-up argument, and I was able to express how I felt, and he was able to hear and receive it. So my friends, if you are upset and you hear that little voice in the back of your head saying, “Well, whatever you do, don't go to bed angry,” hear Sharon Pope's voice saying to you, “Bull, go to bed angry. Go to bed. Get some rest. Address it in the morning.” Your on-ramp into that conversation is going to look and feel and sound so much different than it would have if you tried to address it the night before. When emotions are high, go to bed angry. It's fine. Deal with it in the morning.

Okay? Number five, the myth that we're going to debunk is that love should be enough. That love alone - “I loved you when I married you.” I'll let you know if that changes an idea. Love alone should keep a marriage together over the course of, I don't know, 50, 60 years together. Of course, that is a myth. Love is lovely, but to me, it's sort of table stakes, right? Do you know how they say that love is a verb? Well, what does that look like? What is the verb that love looks like? It looks like kindness. It looks like generosity. It looks like forgiveness. It looks like compassion. It looks like helping each other, cheering each other on, being there for support when support is needed. Being there for levity when levity is needed, being there for encouragement when encouragement is needed, right?

It's this partnership, it's this dance that we do together. Now, love might sit right in the middle of it, but love cannot prop up and sustain all the day-to-day aspects of life and living life beside another human being, right? When there are problems with the dogs, or there are problems with the kids, or there are work challenges or money challenges, or there's a death in the family, right? How are we showing up for each other? How are we showing up to the relationship? Because a relationship means you're gonna show up and do that work. That's what we're committing to.

I think we come into marriage thinking, the relationship itself is, “I'm gonna promise to love you.” Well, okay, but what is that going to look like when times get difficult, right? When we get pressed, when we get squeezed, when we're under a lot of stress or pressure, what is that going to look like for the two of us? And love is not enough, right? Sometimes compassion is what's needed, or forgiveness is what's needed, or a very difficult conversation, or being able to hear a hard truth about yourself might be what's needed. So, love in and of itself, while it is very durable, it's not enough to sustain a marriage and a relationship in today's day and age for the next, call it 50, 60 years, okay?

So on the flip side of that is desire, right? We think desire should just be there as if it's this magic pixie dust. This desire for my partner was there in the beginning. Let's just assume that you had some degree of desire for your partner in the beginning. Even if you can't remember it right now, that's okay. That it was there, and then it's not. It was there 10 years ago, and now it's not. And we know that there's a lot that probably has transpired over the course of, let's say, 10 years, that has made you not necessarily wanna snuggle up and feel real desire or passion for your partner.

Now, they always say the honeymoon period. I've heard it; you know, it's somewhere around 18 months together. Let's be generous. Let's say 24 months is that honeymoon period, right? Of where our partner is a bit up on a pedestal, and we're giddy and love and all of those lovely butterflies in your stomach, all those good feeling feelings. Eventually, it does not matter how good-looking your partner is. I promise you, it doesn't matter how good-looking your partner is. At some point, that butterfly feeling is not going to magically be there, right?

I think my husband is incredibly attractive, but I don't often look at him and my clothes just wanna pop off, right? That's not how it works, right? And if you look at Brad Pitt, he cheated on Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. So it is never about how people look. That's the land of the beautiful people. And they still weren't satisfied. They still didn't have that desire for one another. So desire is not this magic thing that is bestowed upon us and then just magically goes away, and we have no control over it. Desire is something that we have to cultivate inside our relationships. We have to pay attention to it.

And most of us, I don't know about you, but I was never told, “Look, if you don't pay attention to desire inside of your marriage, it will go out.” It's like a fire. Think of desire as fire. If you don't stoke that fire, if you don't give it some air, give it some kindling. If you don't pay attention to it, that fire is going to go out and eventually go to embers and then die, right? So it's the same thing with desire inside of our relationships. We gotta pay attention to that. And so how do you create desire? That means we're going to have to insert things like surprises and some spontaneity and a little excitement and a little curiosity, and maybe even a little mystery here and there, but at least surprises every now and then.

Surprising one another in inviting one another in a lovely way to be intimate, as opposed to like, you wanna fool around, right? That's lame. That's high school stuff. Let's not do that, right? We've gotta pay attention to desire, because this idea that it's just, it should just always be there, ready, willing, and waiting for us.

That's not a reality. That's not a thing. So we gotta get over that. Now, the last myth that I want to debunk is that the marker for success in marriage is that you remain together forever, right? How many times do you hear people who are going through a divorce, and they say, “I failed”? They look at it as a failure. And when you look at what constitutes a successful marriage, easy for me to say what constitutes a successful marriage is that they remain together until death. But really, I have seen many of my clients where they've navigated divorce, they've chosen to go that route, but that doesn't mean that their marriage was a failure.

There were things that came from the result of two people coming together and attempting to love one another as best they could until they no longer could, right? There were children that were born. There are generations of human beings that will exist on this planet because two people came together. So how can you possibly look at that and say, that's a failure, or because it didn't last until death, that it wasn't successful, right? Think of it like this. If you had a job, let's say you were a marketing director, and you had that job for 10 years, and then you got recruited, and you were successful in that job, and you enjoyed that job, and you helped the company in a lot of ways in that job, and then you got promoted, and you were courted by another company.

You left that company, you went to another company, and now you're vice president of marketing, and you're successful over there too. Does you now being at this new company and this new VP role, does that now negate what you did as director over here? We would never look at it through that lens in any other area of our lives, right? We would never say, “Oh, that was a failure, but this is a success because I'm still in it.” No, you would say that was successful and it helped me to now step into this new role to be successful in a new way, right? So we don't look at our lives that way anywhere else, except in marriage.

The singular marker that most of society looks at for whether or not a marriage is successful is longevity. And my friends, we can do better than that, right? Maybe there were experiences that we shared together that never would've happened had we not been together. There were human beings that were created, little human beings that were created that never would exist had the two of you not come together right there. There are so many things that happened inside a relationship that we have to come up with some better markers for success than just longevity.

All right? So those are the seven relationship marriage myths that I wanted to really challenge here today. And like I said, most of these are outside of making you feel hopeless, because maybe one or two of them aren't gonna be successful for you. They're not gonna do harm or damage, but they're not going to be helpful for you. And I think that it's really important that we get clear about where we are. We can't use a bandaid for a gunshot wound, right? And that's what I think sometimes we try to do when we use something like date night to fix a marriage that has been disconnected and struggling and feeling resentful between the two of you for a decade - that's the equivalent, right?

So sometimes we're just gonna have to pull out some bigger tools in order to solve those things. But some of these ideas were just assumed - I don't even know if we were taught them - things like love should be enough, and desire should always be there, right? Those are the kinds of things that I think that we just assume, and then enough of us bought into it that we just think that's the way it's supposed to be. That's what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. And my friends, those are the kinds of thoughts that are hurting us because we're assuming that something is really broken.

But really what is broken is the initial idea of that love is enough, and that desire should be there, and longevity is the only marker of a good relationship. And date night should solve everything. All of these things that I've shared with you, right? When we can start challenging those things, then we can come at our relationships much differently. And my friends, we will have greater success, and our relationships will start to feel better.

All right. I hope that was helpful for you. Until next week, take really good care, love.

If you're questioning whether you can recover the feelings you've lost for your spouse, and you're serious about putting an end to feeling stuck, lost, and alone. I've written a book just for you. It's called Stay or Go, How to Find the Confidence and Clarity You Need so You Can Either Fix Your Marriage or Move Forward without Regret.

The approach I share in this bestselling book has already worked for thousands of women struggling in lonely, disconnected marriages, and I'm confident that it will work for you too. If you don't want to spend another day stuck in indecision, go to SharonPopebook.com to get your copy of Stay or Go now. That's SharonPopebook.com.


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