Society loves placing constraints—guidelines and expectations—on us both as individuals and when we're part of a couple. But, the fact is, many of these so-called relationship rules are old-school and just don't fairly apply to the ways in which we live our life in today's age. "Relationship rules are the unwritten, invisible, and silent laws that we live by that constitutes how we get along with each other," says Audrey Hope, a celebrity relationship expert. "They are sometimes cultural, often handed down to us by our parents, and given to us by our media and social circles."
While we can say that they don't matter, there are some you may still feel pressured to accept. Here, experts set the record straight and reveal the rules that shouldn't play a role in your relationship today.
Your partner has to love your family.
At first, this one sounds like a non-negotiable, but, the reality is, if someone in your family is difficult to get along with, your partner does not have to like or love him or her. What they do have to do, however, is respect them, and they must be respected in return, says Rudi Rahbar, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in couples and families. "If one of your family members don't respect your partner, that's a different discussion."
You always have to have good sex.
Not always, according to Rahbar. "Sex is like everything else in a relationship—it changes with time," she says. "Sometimes it's going to be mind-blowing, other times, meh." Bottom line: You don't necessarily have to have the most out-of-this-world sex with your partner in order for the love to still be there. What we see in movies can be misleading, as relationship experts agree that physically connecting regularly is the most important thing.
You always have to be honest.
About the important things? Yes. But you don't have to point out every single truth there is. "Be honest when your feelings are hurt or when you feel wronged. But honestly isn't always the best policy," says Dr. Rahbar.
You should never go to bed angry.
In a perfect world, you and your partner would settle all squabbles before you drift soundly to sleep, but do we live in a perfect world? While Diana Mandell, dating coach and relationship expert, does encourage couples to resolve issues quickly to prevent prolonging things, some people need space and time to think about things before responding. "This is especially true for people who have reactionary tendencies," she says. "As long as you and your partner address the issue(s) the following day, it is okay to go to bed upset with your partner."
The guy should always pay.
It's the 21st century, so who pays for what is entirely up to you and not defined by your gender. If you have a nice salary and can afford to pay for things now and then with your partner contributing in a fair way, go for it. "Men, just like women, like to know that they are appreciated and that they are being treated," Dr. Rahbar. "Think of how nice it feels to go out with your man and he pays the bill without blinking. They feel the same way when you do it."
You shouldn't live together before marriage.
How else are you supposed to know what marriage will be like? Living together, even just during the engagement period, gives you a glimpse at what your future holds. In fact, Bonnie Winston, celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert meets lots of people who have told her that if they had lived with their spouse beforehand, they would never have married them in the first place! Bottom line: Live with your S.O. once you're ready—it will be good for you both!
You shouldn't have friends of the opposite sex.
Unless it's an ex with unfinished business, Winston recommends allowing your S.O. to have friends of the opposite sex and cultivate these relationships so that they become your friends as well. "When I met my own husband, I had an 'instant family' and I met my husband's ex-wife on the second date at their daughter's high school graduation party," she says. "As it turns out, we have a very nice independent friendship as well."
Men who don't have "money" aren't marriage material.
"Men still suffer from needing to be the breadwinners," says Hope. "This rule is a forever rule and may never change, even though women are joining them at the top of the boardroom and there are two financial incomes in the home." Bottom line: If you fall in love with someone of either gender who isn't particularly "well off," don't let that be your sole deterrent.