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.”


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  • Steph

    Hey, this is a pretty great post. Way to keep it real.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    questioning my current relationship

  • Elena

    these are the articles i enjoy reading the most…
    this is relatable and well written..
    only thing is that i wish you offered more solutions, you did a few times, and those were the best times.
    keep it up, never give up.

  • Kelly McClure

    This is all true, and gave me severe anxiety because of that fact.

  • Alright

    brandon scott gorrell is taking over in a good way. i admire the way you directly face these cliches and appreciate that you didn't employ irony/sarcasm frequently like a lot of other writers on here do. irony/sarcasm tends to alienate certain readers who don't feel 'in on it', like inside jokes. when you tackle real life in an honest, vulnerable way, you seem way more likable and worth reading.

  • Marti


  • http://twitter.com/john__dorian john dorian marshall

    i don't know. i feel like bsg majored in psychology or philosophy? does anyone know

    • Bsgsuperfan

      psychology in utah

  • Daniel

    I've really enjoyed the the last few posts, BSG. It feels like you're boxing around the 'relationship'-topic from a few different angles and some good stuff is coming out of it.

  • Crazy Carrie Jakie


  • Jess

    This is one the best, most accurate depictions of relationships I've ever read. Very nice.

  • Manam

    i warned you people about BSG!

  • msg

    seems true. <3 u bsg

  • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

    i liked reading this, felt high levels of interest throughout

    • unctuousethnic


  • Ytft


  • Ytft


  • http://twitter.com/srslydrew Drew Farr

    “I think that when you get to the point of simply trying to logically defeat someone in an argument, you aren’t even concerned with reconciling, you’re just concerned with winning, which won’t do anything for the relationship.”

    Super acute observation.

  • Justinne

    You made a lot of good points here. I particularly agree with 9, and trying to win an argument for the sake of winning. I feel like this is true with a lot of couples. Well, it applies to my relationship. Thanks for an insightful post.

  • leah

    Who over the age of 25 hasn't questioned these cliches? If you haven't, perhaps it's time to question your social maturity.

  • http://tomhankssuperfan.blogspot.com megan boyle
  • http://kumquatparadise.tumblr.com aaron nicholas

    incredibly insightful. #3,4, and 7 held elevated interest on my part

  • dalas

    This looks like everything my wife and I have worked through over six years, and I totally agree that getting over these clichés leads to a better relationship.

  • http://twitter.com/mungofrench kdub

    really liked reading this. you sound very sane.

  • quadling

    Dull and pedantic. You failed to notice that the refutations of the cliches you provided are themselves cliches. Who doesn't realize on some level that relationships are messy, complicated, hard, full of compromises, and only worth what we put into them? Who doesn't still also kind of hope that's not going to be true next time?

    • Brandon Gorrell

      eh…explain how any of my refutations are cliches.

  • some dame

    Um, duh.
    11. Sex is whatever men think sex is.
    12. You think of the opposite sex always within the context of sex.
    13. The person you're in a relationship with is not just You, re-imagined. It's someone you could never be or think like.
    14. Someone else should be your main source of love (rather than your own dignity).
    My guess as to why your top 10 cliches exist? Men are still the ones who create the majority of public and commercial discourse.

    • Brandon Gorrell

      you seem pissed

  • http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/discussion-what-are-you-willing-to-do-for-love/ Discussion: What Are You Willing To Do For Love? | Thought Catalog

    […] But figuring this out can be difficult, namely because in our culture we have two simultaneously dominant, completely opposite yet equally loud views on love: 1) love conquers all/is worth sacrificing for, and 2) if love inconveniences you in any way, don’t do it. Romantic comedies and eternal optimists will have it that we should “tough it out” in favor of true love, whereas the more rational-minded among us are wary of any emotional endeavor that makes us break too much of a sweat. […]

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