Our relationships can be rewarding and enriching as well as confusing and painful. But because relationships are so meaningful and important to us, we sometimes tell ourselves lies to avoid having to confront harsh truths about ourselves or our partners, and recognise that particular relationships might not be right for us.
When it comes to romantic relationships, there are a few common lies that pop up time and time again that hold us back from having authentic, enduring relationships with ourselves and with other people. Have you convinced yourself of any of the following…?
“They will change eventually. I will help/inspire them.”
This is a common one when it comes to relationships. It can be easy to identify what changes other people need to make so that a relationship can work out. Unfortunately, you don’t have the power to change another person, even if it’s for their own good. Real change has to come from the individual, and it’s no small-ask as the process is often confronting and uncomfortable. It can be excruciatingly painful when other people don’t confront these changes when they’re necessary to keep a relationship alive. You can be there and support them and listen to them, but real change will always be their responsibility, no matter how loving, helpful and supportive you might be. It’s one thing to commit to changing, but if you’re not seeing them make any dedicated action towards making these changes, then what evidence is there that these changes will ever happen?
“I am the problem and if I change, things will get better.”
Taking sole responsibility for everything that is wrong with a relationship fails to acknowledge that relationships are a partnership where both sides contribute. While you can work on your own stuff and take control of the things that you want to change, if your partner is consistently behaving in ways that undermine, disrespect and hurt you – that’s on them. All the personal change in the world might not ever change their behaviour. At this point, it’s important to understand your own personal boundaries, and establish what is ok and what’s not ok in terms of how you are treated in the relationship.
“Just ignore it. It will fix itself.”
Ahh, ignorance is bliss, right? Not quite. Society likes to perpetuate this idea that relationships are “effortless”. Truth is that strong and nourishing relationships take work. When things start to get off track or when life gets in the way, it takes active and deliberate action to bring things back to a good place. This might mean having an uncomfortable conversation, scheduling in time for intimacy, or seeing a couples’ counsellor. If there are problems, it’s unlikely that turning a blind eye will be the solution – in fact, it’s likely to contribute to things getting worse.
“I am not worthy/good enough for this person.”
This one goes to the heart of deep and influential core beliefs that have the power to influence your life negatively if never confronted or dealt with. Many people struggle with a lack of worthiness but it is honestly just one of those enduring lies you’ve told yourself for so long, it now appears to be true. You are completely worthy of love, respect and happiness in life and in relationships. But in order to believe it, you need to create a new narrative that reinforces this to be true. Doing some inner child work, exploring where these ideas first surfaced, and looking back on formative experiences can be helpful to get to the root of worthiness issues. Many people find seeing a therapist a great place to start.
“I want this/ I am happy.”
When a relationship is not terrible but not amazing, it’s hard to know how we should feel about it. Also, society places a premium on being “in-a-relationship” and so often, we can tell ourselves we “want” an average relationship, more than we’re willing to confront the alternative of being on our own. To confront these lies, it’s worth tapping into your inner guidance system to get some clarity. Get in touch with your intuitive self, perhaps with practices like meditation, journaling or getting mindful in nature. These will allow you to start developing a deeper, more authentic connection with yourself, and help you understand how you truly feel about the relationship, beyond the expectations of society, your partner and other people.
“This is normal. I deserve to be treated this way.”
No one, read, no one deserves to be treated with disrespect, contempt or abuse. It is not ok as a reactive response to anything you’ve said or done, nor is it normal behaviour in healthy, happy and sustainable relationships. The insidious power of abusive treatment is that it erodes your ability to believe you are worthy of anything better. It diminishes your identity and breaks you up into parts. And it can be especially confronting when this language/behaviour comes from someone who paradoxically claims to love you. Sometimes it can be hard to recognise abuse if it’s all you’ve known in a relationship for such a long time. Reach out, speak to supportive friends or family. See a therapist. Sometimes it can take external perspectives to get a better understanding of the situation you’re in and how you can move beyond it.
“They say they love me so they must love me (even if they don’t act like it).
And so we return to these choice phrases, “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words”. Words are easy – they don’t take any follow-through. And we learn to place a lot of stock in what people say. But what people do is far more important. You have to look at their behaviour and ask if it aligns with what they are saying to you. Of course, communication is important and you should always talk to one another to get a better understanding of where they might be coming from. But if you communicate your needs clearly and concisely, and they continuously act in ways that fail to acknowledge or respect those needs, then they’re unfortunately all talk.