An important step in making healthy decisions in the pursuit of loving, romantic relationships of honor, esteem and respect, is rejecting the romantic—and misguided—notions that many of us have been taught about what it takes to find love. It is critical that you identify and challenge these ideas and beliefs—whether planted by your parents, peers, popular culture, religious upbringing or other sources—and uproot them, especially when they don’t prove to be true, or conflict with your responsibility to make Grown, healthy choices for yourself. Here are three popular romantic notions you must reject as an act of self-love:
A person will change their habits, lifestyles and beliefs for “The One.” Have you been taught to believe that because a “player” says he loves you, he’s going to instantly “forsake all others” and retire from the game? Or that the fun-loving, turn-down-for-what party girl is going to stay home on the weekends and stop wearing those revealing outfits (the ones that caught your attention when you met her) because she’s now your wife, the mother of your child and a member of your church? Or that a person will give up shopping, drinking, gambling, criminal activity or other lifestyle they happily (or not) pursued just because they say (you believe) you are “The One”? Then get ready for a world of disappointment, frustration, conflict and deception.
Or you can face a Grown Zone truth: It is not your responsibility, nor is it within your power, to change, fix, or control another person with your love. People are who they are, and become more of who they are over time, which means what you love about them will get better, but what you can’t stand about them will get worse. Do people change? Sure, but for themselves, not for you.
Cute couples make for great relationships. Please don’t tell us you’re still falling for this one. But too many people do, often with the encouragement of family and friends, as well as media-driven celebrity-match fairytales. “You look so good together,” they say. Or, “You’re the cutest couple I know; a perfect match.” And how about the classic: “You are going to make some pretty babies!”
How many beautiful people have ended up in ugly relationships—including horrendous marriages—because they bought into the ridiculous notion that love is about looking good as a couple (which is ultimately about fulfilling the fantasies of others, not about what’s best for the couple in question)? Whether you look at celebrity marriages, matchmaking reality shows, or your own friends and family, it’s clear—there is absolutely zero correlation between physical attractiveness (one of the relationship attractors we discuss in our book, Loving In The Grown Zone) and the capacity to establish and sustain healthy relationships. Keep this front of mind when your friends and relatives (or that voice of ego/insecurity in your head) tries to convince you to pursue or stick with a relationship just because you and the other person will make for great #cutestcouple Instagram selfies.
The ultimate achievement in love is a wedding. This belief is the single biggest cause of bad marriages and divorce. This wedding obsession is as much about commerce as it is about romance: The $51 billion wedding industry has everything to gain from as many people getting married as possible, as often as possible. That more than half of those marriages end in divorce has almost no downside for the industry, which makes even more money when divorcees remarry, divorce and remarry, and (often) divorce and remarry again.
Most of us go along with the wedding-by-any-means-necessary hype even when we have no faith at all that a new marriage will succeed. How many of us witness weddings and celebrate the rings, hair, dresses, music, food, reception, and yes, how cute the couple look together—but cannot honestly celebrate the marriage? However, talk to enough people, and if they’re honest, some will cite broken engagements, and even being left at the altar, as the best thing that ever happened to them, even if they were disappointed and devastated when it happened. Talk about dodging a bullet!
Perhaps there is nothing you can do to stop the wedding propaganda juggernaut. But for your own good, know this: The ultimate achievement in love is not a wedding, but a healthy, loving relationship of honor, esteem and respect, which is the bedrock of all successful marriages. Focus on establishing the foundation (a healthy relationship), before building the house (a marriage). Remember, whether you build on solid ground, on a fault line or in a flood zone, the builders (like those in the bridal industry) get paid; they have nothing to lose (unlike your spouse and any children you have) when the basement floods, the walls start to crack or it totally collapses later. When you get those longings for your big wedding day (or the “when are you going to get married” pressure from others), take a good look at all of the unstable and crumbling marriages around you and remember: Better to be single wishing you were married, than married wishing you were single. Take as much time as it takes to get to know a person (as well as yourself) before rushing to the altar. The right person is worth the wait; the wrong person is never worth the risk.
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