They say the rules are meant to be broken. But when it comes to dating, we often think certain relationship rules exist for a reason, and thus follow them to a tee. Think along the lines of edicts like “never go to bed angry” or “compromise is everything,” and how engrained they all feel. And yet, breaking a few rules like these can actually be a good thing — and may even make your bond with your partner stronger.
Not all rules are “one size fits all,” so if it feels like something isn’t working for you or your partner, it’s OK to switch things up. “All couples are different, so the rules will work for some and be unhelpful for others,” Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. “Just because something is expected doesn’t mean it’s right for your relationship. Go with what your partner and you prefer and keep the lines of communication open.”
In doing so, you might even free yourselves from some unnecessary stress. As Bennett says, “In many cases, ‘relationship rules’ can be oppressive and stifling and create anxiety in a relationship.” And really, who needs that? Here are a few rules you should consider breaking if you want to be closer to your partner, according to experts.
They say it’s better to resolve a fight before going to bed, lest you and your partner stew all night long. But in many cases, this isn’t always possible — or healthy.
“Staying up arguing all night never brings anyone closer, and only winds up leaving you with bad memories and harsh words spoken,” clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky tells Bustle. “Break this rule when you know you need some time to mull things over and get back to the discussion when you are both calm.”
It’s perfectly fine to call a time out out for the evening, and agree to speak about the issue again the next day. This allows you both time to cool off, and be better, more understanding partners as a result.
While you may think that healthy relationships consists of people who never have to or want to argue, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the healthiest of couples are the ones who do argue, and work through things together, which is why this is one rule that definitely needs to be broken.
“The only couples that never argue are those that don’t talk to each other,” Dr. Odessky says. “You shouldn’t argue every day, but you should have productive arguments with your partner regularly to address concerns and figure things out.”
Many people assume happy couples can and should do everything together — including sharing all the same friends, joining each other in hobbies, and so on. But there’s something to be said for breaking this expectation, and having your own separate lives.
As Dr. Odessky says, “It’s important to have interests and time apart from the relationship. This time can help you grow as people and get to know yourselves more. It will also bring you closer by having you be a more wholesome person in your relationship.”
Many folks believe white lies are what keep a relationship going, especially when they’re said with good intentions — as it often the case. But this is a habit that you and your partner should avoid, as it can quickly get out of hand.
“When we make a decision to tell a white lie, we are psychologically justifying to ourselves why we cannot be forthcoming with our partner […] whether it be because we worry about how it’s going to make them feel, how it will make us feel, or what they will think of us” psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee tells Bustle. “In a healthy relationship, learning to deal with the disappointments, including potentially hurting our partner’s feelings, comes with the territory.”
So the fewer white lies you can tell each other, the better. “Over time, telling white lies can snowball into bigger lies, resulting in tarnishing the foundations of trust in the relationship, as well as creating emotional distress for the person telling the lie because it becomes difficult to keep up with the lies,” Dr. Forshee says. “Guilt may begin building, creating more psychological distress.” And that’s just not worth it.
We’ve been taught over the years that healthy relationships are all about compromise, or that they’re built upon two people who are willing to bend for each other no matter what. But that’s not an entirely healthy notion to hold.
“In most cases, compromise is great advice to get along in a relationship,” Bennett says. “However, in some cases, you shouldn’t compromise, especially if you feel strongly about a topic or a compromise might violate your core values. Sometimes, the answers are black and white and it’s a matter of sticking to your guns.”
By refusing to compromise when something means a lot to you, you’ll prevent resentment from taking over your relationship. And you and your partner will have more respect for each other, and feel closer as a result.
Another trap many couples get caught up in, is the idea that you don’t have to apologize. In reality, “the opposite of this book and movie quote is actually true,” Bennett says. “Sharing a deep love for another person doesn’t excuse you from having to admit your faults and taking ownership of your role in relationship problems. Love means you want to say sorry when you know you’re in the wrong.”
Perhaps one of the most important rules to break is the idea that “love conquers all,” since it suggests you don’t need to put in any work or make any effort, as long as you’re in love.
“Obviously you should love your partner, but you can’t expect your love for each other to keep the relationship strong,” Bennett says. “In many cases, love can blind you to problems in your relationship that need fixed. For example, there are cases where setting boundaries and being assertive are more important to relationship success than feelings of love.”
While it’s fine to buy each other gifts and go out for fancy dinners, the whole “spending money” rule isn’t one you have to abide by, if you don’t want to.
As Bennett says, “It’s an established expectation that you have to spend big on your partner on certain days (anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, etc.). But, in reality, grand gestures on those days mean very little if the relationship is unhealthy on a day-to-day basis. It’s better to consistently show love and passion than to make a giant fuss on major milestones.”
By being there for each other in meaningful ways every day, instead of going all out on big holidays, you’ll be giving your relationship exactly what it needs. Which is really what breaking these rules is all about, anyway. Even though there are lots of ideas floating around that feel set in stone, it’s up to you and your partner to figure out what works best for your relationship — even if means breaking a few rules.