The four big myths about love and how ACT can help

We’ve all grown up surrounded by idealised depictions of love – from the fairytales we read as children to the classic romance novels and Hollywood blockbusters we consume as adults. These storybook romances often show us passionate soulmates with effortless ‘perfect’ partnerships that can weather any storm. And while these romantic fantasies are certainly captivating, they can also set us up for profound disappointment when the realities of real-world relationships collide with these unrealistic expectations.

In the first chapter of his book ACT with Love, author and ACT therapist Russ Harris explores several of the most pervasive and damaging myths about love that many of our clients will have internalised and want ‘fixing’ when they come to us for help. Understanding and challenging these myths is a crucial first step to help them build healthy, fulfilling partnerships. Let’s take a look at some of the ideas that are explored:

Myth 1: The “soulmate”

One of the most ubiquitous relationship myths is the idea of the “soulmate” – the notion that there is one perfect person out there who is destined to complete us and understand us on the deepest level. This mythical soulmate will supposedly know us better than we know ourselves and make our lives infinitely easier just by being together.

The problem, of course, is that real human beings are complex, flawed, and ever-changing. No one can truly know or fulfil another person entirely. Even the most compatible partners will have conflicting needs, wants, and perspectives at times. Expecting to find that elusive “other half” sets clients up for disappointment when their partners inevitably fail to live up to this fantasy.

Myth 2: Easy love

Another common myth is the belief that true love should come easily, without any real effort or struggle. When conflicts and difficulties arise in a relationship, many people assume that something must be fundamentally wrong, that they’ve failed to find their “meant-to-be” soulmate.

What we need to make clear is that all relationships, no matter how loving, will encounter challenges. Partners will have opposing opinions, competing needs, and moments of hurt or anger. Navigating these inevitable rough patches requires patience, compromise, and a willingness to work through problems together. Relationships take constant tending and nurturing – they are not a static state of bliss.

Myth 3: Meeting our wishes

People often fall into the trap of believing that partners should be able to fulfil all their desires and make their life easier. People want them to understand each other’s needs intuitively, anticipating wants, and rearranging each other’s lives to suit their own preferences.

But this is an unreasonable and ultimately self-defeating expectation. No one person can be responsible for another’s happiness and fulfilment. When we place that kind of burden on our partners, we are bound to be let down, and the resentment and disappointment that follows can seriously undermine the relationship.

Myth 4: Lasting passionate love

We tend to idealise the initial euphoric, passionate stages of a new relationship, clinging to the hope that those intensely positive feelings will last forever. When the intense attraction and excitement wanes over time, people often panic, worried that the love has faded. The truth is, that initial spark of romantic love is largely a neurochemical phenomenon that cannot be sustained indefinitely. As relationships mature, the passionate love gives way to a deeper, more companionate form of attachment. This is a natural and healthy progression, but it can feel like a loss if clients are fixated on recapturing that initial feeling.

Embracing the full human experience

Russ Harris argues that letting go of these myths and having more realistic expectations is a crucial part of the acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) approach to building healthy relationships. ACT encourages us to embrace the full human experience of love – the beautiful moments and the painful ones, the easy times and the struggles. “Love and pain are intimate dance partners; they go hand in hand,” Harris writes. “Not always, of course. When your relationship is running smoothly…that’s pretty wonderful. But the fact is, in every relationship, sooner or later problems will arise.

Rather than trying to maintain an unrealistic fantasy, ACT encourages flexibility, self-compassion, and a focus on our deepest values. It’s about showing up authentically, even when that means acknowledging our own flaws and disappointments. And it’s about making a committed choice to work through challenges in service of creating a life and a partnership that is truly meaningful.

Letting go of the myths doesn’t mean giving up on love – it means opening up to a richer, more fulfilling experience of it. Learning to embrace both the light and the shadows creates the possibility for our clients that their relationships become more resilient, deeply connected, and built to last.

Russ Harris is joining us in August for a 3 hour live workshop “ACT for relationships: Building, repairing and enriching important close relationships” where he will cover common relationship issues, and how to effectively target them with ACT. For more about this topic take a look at our resource hub, and download the first chapter of Russ’ book ACT with love for free.

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