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Relationship myth-busters

How to avoid sabotaging your own happiness

Jen Weigel

May 1, 2012

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Are you unhappy with a partner, or feel you aren't getting your needs fulfilled in your relationship? Before you change your significant other, you might want to change your way of thinking — because there might really be something to that old "it's not you, it's me" cliche.

"We have so many thoughts, ideas and myths about relationships that often have nothing to do with reality," said Tim Ray, author of "101 Relationship Myths: How to Stop Them from Sabotaging Your Happiness." "These ideas are ingrained into us — from magazines to television shows or pop songs.

"But it's totally unconscious. It's not like anybody wakes up in the morning and thinks, 'I wonder how I can be unhappy?' But we have standards in our minds that can't be met. It's our thinking that is the trouble and not our partner."

Ray said these "pervasive" myths create disappointments and unrealistic expectations unless we make a conscious effort to look in the mirror, rather than hope someone else can fix our problems.

"The fear of abandonment is the root to many people's insecurities," he said. "It also has a lot to do with the belief that people can't take care of themselves. You have to listen to your own needs. If you don't have a healthy relationship with yourself how can you have a healthy relationship with another human being?"

Here are some other myths Ray found to be destructive for relationships:

You can change someone.

"When I hear somebody say, 'I think he's got potential,' that's a very dangerous starting point," he said. "You already know that there's something you're not quite happy with but think you can chisel away at it over time. The only person who can change your partner is your partner. I'm all for suggesting ways of doing things better, but after you've said your piece it's still up to them and there's nothing more you can do."

A strong sexual attraction means you're a good match.

Ray said the intoxication of falling in love often makes people ignore major warning signs. "One of the things that make two people a good match is that they have the same core values," he said. "By having the same core values, I don't mean being the same personality type or having the same education or working in the same field. I mean you have the same basic attitudes when it comes to what's important in life or what's important in relationships."

I need a partner to be happy.

"I will often ask a client, 'What would be your dream partner?'" And people say, 'He would love me unconditionally, be trustworthy, fun, a communicator,' and then I turn it around on them and ask, 'On a scale from 1 to 10, how good are you at giving yourself these qualities?'

"How can you be the partner that you seek if you don't do the same things for yourself? This takes time, but once people learn how to do that, not only do they feel better about themselves ... but their ability to be together with their partner becomes more relaxed because there's not this fear you won't be getting what you really want."

A relationship is only a success if it lasts "till death do us part."

"So many people stay in relationships for too long because they feel if it ends, that is a sign of failure," Ray said. "One of the things I work with clients about is to be more psychologically mature and part of that is to realize that people change and things change. T

"he belief that you need to stay together can lead to people staying in an unhappy relationship or marriage despite the fact that they have grown apart and the relationship is no longer working ... A relationship can be a success even if it ends."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel