Feeling bored, jealous or distracted in your relationship doesn’t mean it’s doomed. A neuropsychologist explains why we mistake perfectly normal relationship behaviours for toxic ones.
We can even look at the most iconic fictional relationships and see exactly what’s wrong: why Carrie and Big are toxic, how Ross and Rachel manipulate one another and how Chuck and Blair used each other as emotional pawns.
But when it comes to recognising green flags, it can often be harder as we may have been conditioned to look out for the wrong things. Many of us grow up with assumptions we believe about relationships, but once we’ve experienced them firsthand, come to realise that they’re myths.
Take the seemingly sage advice that you should “Never go to bed angry” and “Talk everything out.” While they’re both lovely sentiments, they’re not entirely practical or accurate. Letting unimportant grievances slide is arguably much better than picking at your partner for each and every thing that displeases you, and your relationship isn’t doomed if you feel like you need longer than one night to process your emotions after an argument.
According to neuropsychologist Nawal Mustafa, The Brain Coach on Instagram, many of the behaviours we may have been taught are signs of something wrong in a relationship are actually pretty normal.
In actual fact, there’s nothing wrong with not sharing the same love language or having the same interests as your partner. Feeling bored at times in your relationship isn’t an indication that you’re incompatible, and needing space doesn’t mean you’re better off without them.
“Sometimes the assumptions we have about relationships can be misleading and lead to unnecessary resentment, guilt, or conflict,” Mustafa explains.
Citing other emotions like jealousy and experiences like sexual ‘dry spells’, she lists not knowing what you want sometimes, not being attracted to your partner 100% of the time, letting some conflict go unresolved and not texting 24/7 as all perfectly normal parts of a relationship that we tend to assume are signs of something wrong.
“Sometimes, we start questioning our relationships when we experience the lows in it,” Mustafa writes. “The purpose of this post is to normalise these experiences and acknowledge that they are present in any relationship.”
Like in any relationship, the connection we have with our romantic partner can feel like it has peaks and troughs. And just because you have more boundaries or are not as inseparable and in tune as you were during the “honeymoon phase,” it doesn’t mean things are fizzling to an end.
In fact, it’s unrealistic to act like we never feel a bit fed up, static or lonely while in a relationship. It’s much more important to normalise not feeling like you’re on cloud nine every single moment of every day with your partner.
“There is no strict rulebook for what a healthy and secure relationship looks like,” Mustafa concludes. “We have guidelines and evidence-based research which are good to consider. However, you know your relationship better than anyone else and you get to decide how to ensure a mutually respectful and healthy bond between you and your partner.”