We've talked about the 'rules' and 'theories' that people create in relation to relationships (see what I did there?). Basically, our beliefs and experiences come together to create expectations of how a relationship (and everything else in life) should play out. These are basically shortcuts our brains create to make thinking about stuff easier. 'Go to the library, be quiet, get books'. There's one. Or 'make my girlfriend sad, get flowers, make dinner and maybe make-up sex'. There's another. We don't have to think about these things, it's just an in built pattern; how things should work. These are called schemas. Most schemas are shared by our communities, since this is where we learn them. Social norms and expectations form them.
Unfortunately this can lead to schemas that spell trouble for our relationships. Here are five of the most common that were found as far back as the 1980's by a couple of Clinical Psychologists, Eidelson and Epstein.
Arguing in a relationship is bad:This is a very common one. People say 'I thought people in love weren't supposed to argue so much! We should be able to work through it without fighting'. If you think there's trouble brewing every time you're arguing, you're going to have a bad time. Arguments are inevitable in a relationship. No two people are going to click on every issue. But if you dread conflict and try to avoid it at every turn, the resentment will build and there really will be trouble. It's all about how you handle it (stick around The Dirt Psychology a while and you'll find some tips on how to do that too).
Partners can't change, we're always going to have this problem:This is especially true of 'Destiny Theorists' or those who believe in the 'one true love' philosophy. The truth is, everyone can change. Start to think you're stuck and your partner isn't going to be able to address the problem and the relationship is going to suffer significantly. To be fair though, some people are just too bullheaded to change. The key is making sure they won't before deciding to jump ship.
John Grey's book 'Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus' was an awesome insight into the differences men and women face in each other. Unfortunately it perpetuates this idea (in people who haven't read it) that men and women can't get along. But that is a straight-jacket we put on ourselves. Sure men and women go about things differently, but we know from research that the differences between individuals are far greater than those based on gender. If you can get on with Jane down the road, you can get on with your moody boyfriend. If you can stand a beer with your boss, you can negotiate around your girlfriend's peculiarities.
You're my partner, you should just KNOW these things!:'You're my soulmate, you should know what I want'. Maybe your partner is giving you the silent treatment and just gets angrier when you ask what's wrong. Oh no! It's not just the ladies that do this. 'I just need my space, can't you tell when you should leave me alone?', sound familiar fellas? Well unfortunately, love doesn’t equate to mind reading. Communication will always be the key. Expect them to know what's going through your head all the time and you're going to have a bad time of it. In fact, some studies suggest that the longer we're together, the less we can 'mind read' our partners!
Everyone else's sex life is perfect (and ours isn't)!:This one has probably become even worse these days than it would have been back in the Eighties. What with scenes of a sexual nature more and more visible, it's almost hard not to think that everyone's sex life is more stimulating than your own. Fact is, most people have the same sex life. Check this fun statistic out. Durex conducted a study in 2003 that shows us that your average couple has sex 127 times a year, or around 2.5 a week. Google it and you'll find similar results all over the place. Moreover, there's a pretty significant lack of reported kink in these escapades. Most people like it vanilla. So there you go. Hopefully you saw one in there that you or one of your friends has and you can toss it out the window. Replace it with something a little more functional and have a happier relationship as a result.
If you liked this article, you might be interested in four sure signs that your relationship is on the rocks. Or maybe the four most common causes of arguments in relationships that you should avoid at all costs? Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and 'the good life' at The Dirt Psychology.