10 Clichés About Relationships & Sex That Are Worth Questioning

Assumptions, clichés and narratives our culture has for romantic relationships can play a significant role in how a couple interacts. Here are some that are worth questioning.

1. That you either have or haven’t found “the one”

This is the widespread narrative that there exists a human on this earth with whom you’re 100% compatible. When you meet this person you both fall deeply in love and you two live out the remainder of your lives together, happy and fulfilled, never having reason to question the validity of your relationship. This person is “the one.” The downfall of this cliche is built-in. While the story holds that the perfect lover for you exists and is in fact alive somewhere and you only have to find him, it makes no guarantee that you will find him. The story actually holds true the opposite: that it’s hard to find “the one.” That you’re lucky if you find him. As a result, you scrutinize each long-term mate you acquire for qualities of being “the one.” In an effort to protect yourself from wasting time on a person that is not “the one,” you’re always on guard for the red flags the story provides that mean your partner isn’t the “the one:” feeling bored or unsatisfied, disapproving friends and parents, sexual fetishes, thoughts that betray the “sanctity” of the relationship, etc. After a certain amount of time, disagreements add up, someone commits a minor betrayal, etc., and suddenly your significant other is definitely not “the one” and you’re forced to part ways. The alternative is to reject this narrative entirely and make decisions about staying in the relationship based on your own emotions, beliefs, experiences and perception.

2. That acts of sex and romance are actually the acting out of scenes in movies, books, and cultural conventions regarding love and lust

Sex involving two partners shouldn’t have anything to do with Victoria Secret catalogs, Penelope Cruz, or any TV/movie love/romance/sex scene that once impressed you so deeply that it’s actually become a part of your sexual repertoire. Sex doesn’t have to be loud, it doesn’t have to be graceful, and you don’t have to roll your eyes to the back of your head to show your pleasure. Sex is much more comfortable and exciting when you don’t impose the rest of the world and its judgments on the act. When you do, it isn’t a terrible discomfort, only one that causes a certain amount of self-awareness, a rule system, a number of boundaries by which both are forced to play, often resulting in embarrassed, feigned laughter or self-conscious grins.

3. That every emotional issue in a relationship can eventually be logically eliminated through the simple matter of finding “the answer”

Emotional issues aren’t as easy as “Well, if you want to stop acting that way, then stop.” Emotional problems can be rooted in mechanisms built as far back as childhood where at that time they offered an appropriate coping strategy for one’s environment but now in an adult context only cause “glitches” in the “program” that don’t seem to make immediate sense. Treating emotional problems as strictly logical entities has been the downfall of many relationships because it creates a very wide gap in empathy and support, often leading to sharp feelings of alienation, loneliness, and low self-esteem. Take, as an example, problems with intimacy. “I’m sorry, I just don’t want to, I can’t tonight.” A says, “I want to want to, I want to be able to give that to you, but I can’t make myself want to.” “If you want to want to, then just want to,” B says, attempting to force A’s problem into a logical framework. “I can’t make myself want to,” A says. “It’s like if you were trying to feed me food and I wasn’t hungry. I can’t help that I’m not hungry.” A has a good point; it’s more complicated than B’s positioning it.

4. That thinking about someone outside the relationship in a sexual way is a grave betrayal

Humans have sexual organs and an evolutionary history of some 500,000 years, both of which “program” us to seek out sexual contact with other humans if these humans “unlock” certain chemicals in our heads, or whatever, and to deny the existence of this fact or to think of it as a grave betrayal to the sanctity of a relationship will quickly lead to either a) lies or b) one person “punishing” the other. A more realistic and healthy strategy is to recognize that your significant other is a human being and hold her to a realistic, agreed-upon standard, such as “We will not interact sexually with anyone but each other.”

5. That you will live “happily ever after”

You won’t. First off, you’re going to die. That isn’t traditionally a happy thing. The real point, though, is that “just world theory” (i.e. the belief that we live in a world where justice is naturally occurring, that the universe “corrects” “wrong” things, that all rapists eventually get raped in the ass, that anyone that’s done something wrong will “get what’s coming to them”) is not at all real (unless you practice a Western religion). It is more realistic to assume that problems and difficulties will occur in your relationship and in your life and work on developing suitable means of solving or alleviating those difficulties. Otherwise, every relationship problem you run into will be one more step toward disillusionment, bitterness, jadedness, getting “broken,” and “giving up.”

I am the co-publisher of Thought Catalog. Follow me on Twitter. I also use a pen name called Holden Desalles.

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