Recovering alcoholics, addicts and co-dependents are not immune to mythology about love and sex.
When it comes to love and sex, one size definitely doesn’t fit all.
That’s the theme University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz explores in her new book “Everything You Learned about Love and Sex Is Wrong.” The book, which is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, zeroes in on 25 myths about love and relationships and tells why they may not be the right advice for everyone.
“These myths are passed from one generation to another. Some are given with the best intentions by people we respect and care about,” said Schwartz. “What happens when we hear something enough times is that we tend to accept it. But these myths, if swallowed whole, could be fatal for some people’s happiness and relationships.”
In her book, Schwartz, the former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, tackles such myths as:
- You should never have sex on the first date.
- Your lover should be your best friend.
- You should always be 100% honest with your partner.
- Children bring a couple closer.
- You can never truly get over even one act of infidelity
- You should be prepared to do anything for the person you love.
- Everyone should cohabit before marriage.
- Never go to bed mad.
“These are the kinds of things that are not questioned in our society or we think we know everything because, of course, we are all experts on love and sex,” she said. “I wanted to write this book in a personal voice and not as an academic, although it is fueled by nearly 30 years of research. It is written the same way as if I was sitting across the table and having a latte with a reader.
“It is written to emotionally grab the reader about things they care about in a serious way. There is nothing in the book that I don’t believe, although I realize that not everything in it is for everyone.
“One of the main reasons for writing this book is to answer textbooks, which are so vanilla. They gloss over the real life experiences of people over the human life cycle. People watch soap operas because they are an exaggeration of real life. I wanted to talk and write about what really happens in relationships. I don’t expect anyone to agree with everything I’ve written, but I hope that some of these ideas will help spare people some real misery in their lives. I’m not offering a prescription, but putting ideas on the table for people to consider.”
The top fable on her myth parade is the belief that having children brings couples together. Schwartz, the mother of two children, believes this mistaken belief has done more damage to couples than any single myth.
“Anyone who has had children knows they have all kinds of costs that will undermine the marriage relationship,” she said. “This will happen to you if you are not aware. Young couples are taken with the idea that having children will cement their relationship. You have to work hard to remain lovers and nurture a relationship. But what happens is the wife falls in love with the baby, and the husband has to earn a living to support the family. Romance and sexuality become secondary to being parents.
“This is my No. 1 myth because I see it happen systematically to couples. All couples need to find ways to be alone and to get away together.”
Schwartz also has strong views on such other myths as:
“Compromise is necessary in a relationship.”
While a believer in compromise, she is against those that “eclipse your soul” or those that make people’s lives unhappy and not well lived. A marriage should not be seen as a compromise where dreams are not satisfied. She thinks of generations of women, including her mother’s, who were very bitter because they didn’t have a chance to nurture their talents.
“People can’t get over infidelity.”
Sure they can. A lot of research says people can and do recover from a violation of trust. There may be more benefits than costs in forgiving and staying in a relationship. You don’t need to feel you have no choice and that you have to leave because leaving may not be the best thing for you to do. Look at what some people put up with in relationships – alcoholism and physical or psychological abuse.
“You should never have sex on the first date.”
While a lot of women may not want to challenge this rule, she knows many women who started their relationship with their husband this way. Sometimes you only get one opportunity or the moment is just perfect. And, early sex can lead to quicker emotional intimacy between a couple.
“Everyone should live together before getting married.”
Do it if you must, but don’t live together very long because research shows cohabitation changes the way couples learn to relate to each other. People have a strong sense of what is theirs – money, property and even emotions – and research indicates that generosity is clearly different between married and unmarried couples. There is something about living together outside of marriage that impedes emotional generosity.