If you read enough books about dating, it’s probably easy to assume that there are certain rules that apply to all successful relationships.
Not true, says author Sarah Mirk, who recently released her book “Sex From Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules.” While researching, Mirk says she spoke to 100 people who were either single, coupled or somewhere in between.
“I learned that there is not any secret rule for doing relationships right,” Mirk says. “What matters a lot is your approach to relationships. You have to be honest and intentional in your actions.”
Here, Mirk shares some of the other lessons she discovered about dating and breaking up in the 21st century:
It’s your job to speak up
Too many times, we expect our partners to automatically know what we are thinking or what we like or find uncomfortable. Mirk says that she herself had to practice expressing her feelings out loud. “When I feel like I am getting upset about something, I tell myself that it’s my job in a relationship to say something. Because if I don’t, nothing will change.”
Breaking up can be courageous
Many couples sometimes stay in unhappy partnerships for months or years longer than they’d like to because they either fear being single or cannot imagine what their lives will look like outside of their longterm relationship. “Breaking up is a pretty brave thing to do,” notes Mirk. “It’s not a sign of failure.”
It’s also important to figure out why you want to end your relationship. Are there personal things that you need time to figure out on your own? “I think a lot of times people have a lot of deep, unhappy stuff,” says Mirk. “And instead of dealing with it, they would do something obviously bad - like cheating - and then say, ‘Well, if I cheated, I have to break up,’ instead of fixing the problem."
Lean on your friends
It’s hard to have a breakup that isn’t painful. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong support system around you. “Your friends are going to be your superheroes,” says Mirk.
Remember, you can be happy
“A lot of people lose track of what a happy relationship is,” says Mirk. If you don’t see yourself being happy with the person you are with, it’s OK to move on.“Everyone deserves to be in a relationship that’s healthy,” says Mirk.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.