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Marriage is only a piece of paper

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No, a wedding and a marriage certificate isn’t necessarily a proclamation that you and your partner love each other more deeply than your unmarried next-door neighbors. On the other hand, while love may be the main motivator for tying the knot, marriage usually brings with it several financial and legal safeguards that are important for both partners.

Your partner completes you

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The idea that we are all somehow incomplete until we find our perfect partner is a trope that refuses to die. And why would it? It’s rolled out in novels, chick flicks, magazine articles – even in Shakespeare plays. However, holding on to the belief that someone else completes you means losing your unique identity. This is unhealthy for you and also for your relationship.

Different political views will split you up

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Differing political views certainly do split up couples. However, they don’t have to do so. Some partners on opposite ends of the political spectrum make their relationship work by avoiding discussing explosive topics. Others learn to find common ground and focus on that. And, no doubt, some couples thrive on the debates engendered by their differing views.

Never go to bed on an argument

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Not letting the sun go down on a quarrel is advice you might have heard from your granny or other older relative. For some people, this is good advice and probably is key to their successful relationship. Other people, however, need time to cool down before apologising and resuming friendly relations – and a night’s sleep is the ideal opportunity for this.

A relationship can’t survive an affair

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Some relationships do not survive an affair. Others do – and some survive many. How your relationship might fare in the aftermath of an affair depends on the circumstances and the effort both partners are prepared to put into repairing what went wrong. Although it’s inevitably a distressing and challenging time, some relationships emerge stronger.

It’s not all about the sex

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In the early days of a relationship, sex seems like the pinnacle of coupledom. However, very few relationships – especially with children – can keep that sexual intensity. That isn’t to say that sex isn’t important. For most couples, it remains an essential part of their relationship but there can be periods when one person’s libido drops or when life gets in the way.

A baby can save a bad relationship

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There are no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” when it comes to a baby and a relationship. Even the healthiest partnership is rocked by the arrival of a seven pound small person. Less healthy relationships frequently implode under the pressure of sleepless nights, constant feeding, endless crying and the total disappearance of couple time.

Sharing a bed is a sign of a strong relationship

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Sharing a bed can be a sign of a strong relationship. However, some couples preserve their relationship by doing precisely the opposite – and not sharing a bed. Perhaps one of them snores or suffers from insomnia. Perhaps one is a shift worker or one gets up very early. Provided they find other opportunities for intimacy, sleeping in different beds will not doom their relationship.

Someone who cheats once will cheat again

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Whether or not someone who’s cheated on their partner will cheat again depends on three things. First, there’s the reason that prompted them to stray in the first place. Secondly, it’s whether or not the couple address the reasons for the cheating and resolve it. Thirdly, there’s the question of forgiveness. Sometimes it’s difficult to re-establish trust, but it’s also not impossible.

Needing therapy is a bad sign

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All couples go through difficult patches. Sometimes a couple can resolve their problems themselves. On another occasion, the same couple may decide they need help – and, in many ways, a couple who accept that they need specialist help from an impartial outsider are making a mature decision. This decision can be key in whether or not their relationship survives.

Date nights are a must-do

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Magazines have long loved the concept of date nights. Nowadays, so too does Instagram, TikTok and all the other social media outlets through which we judge our lives. If date nights work for you and your partner, great. But if they make you feel a little bit nauseous, that’s fine too. After all, couples can enjoy each other’s company without calling it a date night.

Affairs cause most divorces

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Stating that affairs cause most divorces is hard to quantify as there are no reliable statistics on the point. It may be more accurate to suggest that, for some couples, an affair marks a tipping point in a relationship that’s been going bad for some time. However, even where that’s the case, an affair doesn’t always automatically end in divorce.

A good sex life has no end date

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Quite a large number of people between 60-85 are still sexually active, and many are happy with their sex lives. This could mean that a good sex life has no end. A more accurate answer might be that sexual desire changes throughout life. Different people’s sex lives end at different stages of life. Even good sex lives can stop for various reasons.

If you cheat, you must own up

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Confessing to cheating on your partner is a natural instinct for many people. However, it’s interesting to consider why – and how that confession will benefit the other person. Does it stem from a need to feel forgiven for a transgression that may, for instance, have been only fleeting and almost instantly regretted? Or a desire to fix a deeper problem in the relationship?

Common interests keep you together

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A couple with nothing in common are unlikely to get together in the first place and, if they do, are unlikely to stay together very long. However, these common factors do not have to mean shared interests. They could equally well relate to a similar family background or educational level, or to shared values.

Keep no secrets from each other

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It’s necessary to differentiate secrets from privacy. Everyone, even if they’re in a relationship, is entitled to privacy in some aspects of their lives. Secrecy is trickier. Some secrets conceal lies or acts that could hurt the relationship – and these can be concerning. However, some secrets are positive: a surprise birthday party, for instance.

It’s obvious when a relationship is over

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A quick glance at any online relationship board will tell you that it’s difficult to know when a relationship needs to end, and it’s certainly different for everyone depending on the circumstances. It’s sometimes easier for those on the outside to see when a couple have reached the end of their shared road than it is for the couple themselves.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

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The book might have sold in the millions but is the tag line really true? Ultimately, no. To suggest that men and women assess and feel differently about their relationships is only popular psychology. Neuroscience has found no physiological differences between the brains of men and women that might have supported such a gendered view.

A baby will blow up your relationship

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It’s absolutely true that a baby is a challenge to most relationships. It’s also true that a significant proportion of children in Western countries will experience living in a broken home at some point during their childhood. However, the majority of these failed relationships will not have failed during the child’s infancy and will not have failed because the couple couldn’t cope with a baby.

Personality problems ruin marriages

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We’ve all met people with whom we struggle to get along with. However, it’s quite a leap from stating that you don’t like someone to asserting that no-one could manage to be in a relationship with them. Instead, the key to a successful relationship is finding someone with whom you mesh and get along with.

Constructive criticism is good for the relationship

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A relationship isn’t a workplace appraisal. Consequently, facing criticism, even if it’s well-intentioned, from your partner can be very difficult to deal with. While it’s important that both parties feel “heard” by the other, assuming that you are entitled to critique your partner is often perceived in a very negative way. Be open with them, but also respect their comments.

You should want to be together all the time

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While no couple can maintain a relationship worthy of the name without spending some time together, it’s not necessary for them to spend all of their time together – and can even be counterproductive and claustrophobic. Remember, too, that some couples maintain successful relationships even when separated geographically for long periods of time.

Avoiding conflict will ruin your relationship

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Whether or not avoiding conflict ruins a relationship depends on what is meant by “conflict.” If two people never discuss things that concern them or make them unhappy, then their relationship is probably doomed. If, however, they manage to do so without becoming confrontational or argumentative, they are demonstrating their maturity.

Sex should be spontaneous

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Spontaneous sex can be fantastic and certainly doesn’t deserve down-voting! However, spontaneity is hard for many couples, especially if they work opposite shifts, have young children or nocturnal teenagers. For them, maintaining a sex life may depend on the opposite of spontaneity: scheduling. While this may make things seem forced, it’s also a good way to show that effort is being made.

Men are biologically primed to have affairs

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It’s true that studies routinely show that men are more likely to have affairs than women. Some people suggest there’s a biological reason for this: men can procreate with many women, and it’s in their genetic interest to do so. However, this is a convenient excuse that ignores the possibility of men having more opportunities to cheat and being forgiven for it.

A partner should meet all your needs

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Expecting one person to be your lover, your friend and your confidante is an enormous burden to place on them. It’s also very limiting for you. While you may be sexually exclusive, starting a relationship with someone doesn’t normally (and shouldn’t) mean giving up your friends and casual social acquaintances. Remember to find a way to balance these things.

Good relationships are easy

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There is some truth in this statement: a good relationship is easy – sometimes. That single word caveat is crucial: no relationship is easy all of the time, and it’s unrealistic to expect this. Like most things worth having, a relationship will sometimes require work – and often a considerable amount of it. If you’re willing to do the work, your relationship can be great.

Jealousy is a sign of true love

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Regardless of what the bodice-ripper you’re reading implies or the movie you saw last night suggested, jealousy is not a sign of true love. It may, of course, coincide with love. However, it usually indicates an immature, insecure person, who is most comfortable when controlling the person with whom they are supposed to be in an equal relationship.

Frequency of sex indicates the quality of a relationship

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You may notice that there’s little correlation between when and how frequently couples have sex. To some extent, we can generalise: new couples usually have more sex than longer established ones, new parents often have no sex at all, and women in the throes of the menopause may experience lowered libido. In isolation, none of these facts say anything about the strength of the relationship.

A good relationship always makes you feel happy

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If a relationship never makes you feel good, it’s the wrong relationship. If the bad times outweigh good times, it’s also probably the wrong relationship. However, it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to assume that a relationship must make you happy at all times. No single other person is capable of assuming that responsibility for anyone.

Love is expressed via grand gestures

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A grand gesture from a love interest can be exciting and exhilarating. However, it’s not the only way to express strength of feeling. Not everyone is comfortable being on the receiving end of big gestures, especially when they’re made publicly. A considerate partner will think more about how their lover will feel, rather than their own desire to make the gesture.

Love is expressed through gifts

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Whether it’s a box of heart-shaped chocolates, a diamond ring or a luxury vacation, gift-giving often plays a important role in a relationship. However, true love cannot be bought and too much gift-giving can leave the receiver feeling that this is exactly what their partner is trying to do. Try to find other ways to express your love – there are many!

A partner should instinctively know how you feel

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Nobody is a mind reader. No matter how much you love someone, you cannot know what they’re thinking or feeling all of the time. Sure, you can make a good guess – and you may often be spot on. However, it’s arrogant to assume you’ll always be right, which ignores the importance of open and honest communication.

A couple is two halves of the same whole

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In some ways, it’s a comforting idea. In another, the idea that a couple represents two halves that come together to make a whole is rather depressing. It suggests that neither person was fully themselves before they met the other and that whoever outlives their partner will once again cease to be an incomplete person. Clearly, this is nonsense.

Sex is the most important part of a relationship

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Few people would disagree that sex is important to a relationship. However, sex is not a defining feature of a relationship. It’s also arguably much less important than communication and honesty. In fact, couples that are good friends and communicate honestly with each other are probably more likely to have a better sex life than those couples who don’t.

Everyone has a soul mate

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This is another trope that’s spoon-fed to us from a very young age. Like most fairytales, it can be comforting, especially when you only ever seem to meet Mr (or Ms) Wrong. However, unless you truly believe in fate, the chances of meeting your soul mate in a world of eight billion people is mathematically improbable.

Arguments are a bad sign

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Some people argue more than others. This can be down to personality, culture or circumstance. A blanket statement that arguments are a sign of a relationship gone (or going) bad is unhelpful and potentially inaccurate. It’s also important to remember that arguments can be conducted respectfully, and can be resolved easier this way.

No one can change


Asserting that change isn’t possible is to suggest that a person’s thoughts, feelings, wishes and plans are set in stone. On the other hand, noting that change is difficult is accurate. A couple with relationship problems may need to change in order to survive as a couple. And, while they may not feel up to the challenge, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

Compatible couples have lots in common

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Compatibility isn’t an exact science. What makes one couple compatible would push another couple apart or wouldn’t be enough to get them together in the first place. What is clear, therefore, is that there’s no check list. While some couples will have lots in common, others are the poster children for the old saying: “opposites attract”.

Passion never dies

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Movies try hard to convince us that passion lasts forever. Science, however, suggests otherwise. For most couples, those heady, passionate, swing-from-the-chandelier days last no more than three years. However, that’s not to suggest that this marks a natural end point to a relationship. Instead, in the strongest relationships, passion is replaced by a love that grows deeper with every passing year.