Throughout our lives, we constantly absorb messages about the dos and don’ts in relationships. We’ve been told that some behaviors and choices are taboo and should be universally avoided, lest your relationship be doomed.
But relationships are not the same for everyone. You and your partner aren’t doomed to failure just because you sleep in separate beds or take separate vacations. In fact, some of these “despised” behaviors can actually be beneficial for certain couples. Yes, really.
We asked therapists to share which “taboo” relationship choices shouldn’t be shut out and, heck, might even be worth embracing under the right circumstances.
taboo no. 1: Sleeping in separate beds.
Culturally, there’s a stigma around couples choosing to sleep apart, dubbed a “sleep divorce.” Strangers assume there must be trouble in heaven: either relationships are in crisis or their sex life must be non-existent.
While either of these scenarios may be true for some couples, these are by no means the only reasons people choose to sleep in separate bedrooms.
“In fact, some relationships fare infinitely better by not sharing their space at night,” Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist Abigail Makepeace told HuffPost. “It may be a matter of preference to have separate rooms or, in some situations, it may be a necessity.”
Perhaps one partner snores all night, squirms in his sleep, goes to bed much later or wakes up much earlier, and the other partner is a light sleeper. In these cases, not sleeping in the same bed can ensure a good night’s sleep for both parties.
As long as both partners are happy with the arrangement, this setup can actually lead to a healthier relationship, Makepeace added.
In fact, Kelifern Pomeranz, a psychologist and sex therapist in Menlo Park, California, pointed out that sleep issues and relationship issues tend to go hand-in-hand.
“Research shows that sleeping in separate beds helps improve overall sleep, which, in turn, can lead to better relationship satisfaction,” she said.
“Some relationships are infinitely better off not sharing their space at night.”
– Abigail Makepeace, marriage and family therapist
For couples who regularly sleep apart, Pomeranz recommends coming up with a nightly ritual to connect.
“Take time before bed, even if it’s short, to cuddle, talk, and connect emotionally before you both head back for the night,” she said.
taboo no. Tip #2: Talk about your romantic past.
For many couples, discussing their love lives before getting together is out of the question. They find it too uncomfortable a topic or fear it would be threatening to their current partner. But discussing previous relationships shouldn’t be taboo, said therapist Nicole Saunders, owner of Therapy Charlotte in North Carolina. We all have a past, and those experiences have shaped who we are today.
“When couples allow fear, jealousy, or other insecurities to block data-rich parts of their relationship stories, they miss out on gaining insight into each other’s evolution: conflict style, triggers, and character,” she said. Saunders.
Plus, how your partner talks about their last relationship can offer clues about the kind of person they are today, she said.
“If there is no accountability or accountability, then there has been no growth and the same pattern is likely to repeat itself!”
taboo no. 3: Flirting with other people.
Engaging in flirtatious banter with someone other than your partner is often seen as a sign that you may be unfaithful or that you are unhappy in your current relationship.
“However, when done without the intention of infidelity, flirting with others can have the potential to ‘spice up’ your relationship,” Makepeace said.
When we flirt, we rediscover our sexiness and confidence — and we can bring those positive feelings back into our relationship, she added.
If you’re in a monogamous relationship, though, make sure the flirting doesn’t cross the line in “incongruous territory with the fidelity of the report,” Makepeace said.
taboo no. 4: masturbate.
Some people mistakenly believe that if you like yourself, then you don’t have to be sexually satisfied in your relationship, Pomeranz said. When in reality sex and masturbation are two separate things that serve different needs, one doesn’t replace the other, but they can work in tandem.
“The most important sexual relationship is the one you have with yourself.”
– Kelifern Pomeranz, psychologist and sex therapist
“The most important sexual relationship is the one you have with yourself,” Pomeranz said. “Connecting with your pleasure is important to not only knowing what you like, but also being able to verbalize to your partner what you want. Time and space for self-pleasure can allow for greater intimacy and connectedness in a relationship.
taboo no. 5: Take separate vacations.
Just because partners plan solo trips or get away with their friends or family doesn’t mean they’re avoiding quality time together. They are just cultivating the relationships they have with themselves and with the other important people in their lives.
“A healthy relationship needs both familiarity and distance,” Pomeranz said. “Separate vacation gives each partner the opportunity for autonomy, independence and self-confidence. It also gives each person a chance to miss each other, which can allow for a renewed appreciation of their partner.
Northern California therapist Kurt Smith, who specializes in men’s counseling, said he typically doesn’t encourage couples to take separate vacations because he believes they should prioritize spending time together. Still, going on a road trip with friends or family “shouldn’t be a problem if it’s the exception, not the rule,” he said.
taboo no. 6: Go to bed angry.
How many times have you heard this old relationship advice: “Never go to bed angry.”
If this works for you and your partner, then keep doing what you’re doing. But trying to resolve a conflict before falling into a haystack is “unnecessary,” Saunders said.
Staying up to do things when you’re all worked up and exhausted can sometimes exacerbate tension rather than relieve it. That’s because in an emotionally flooded state, important skills like listening, information processing, and empathy with your partner are all compromised.
“There is no evidence that breaking this old adage is harmful to a relationship, and it can be argued that ignoring it can be beneficial,” Saunders said. “Going to bed with an unresolved conflict gives the couple time to process their feelings, maybe get some sleep, even if it’s not the best, and come back to the table with a fresh perspective.”
taboo no. 7: Talk openly about money.
Avoiding clear and honest conversations about finances is a mistake, Smith said.
“I spoke to a woman this week who has been married for 23 years and doesn’t know how much money her husband makes or anything about his finances,” she said. “Now that they’re separated and she’s depending on him to keep paying the rent, the fact that she doesn’t know anything about her finances has become a big problem.”
“When couples allow fear, jealousy or other insecurities to block data-rich portions of their relationship stories, they miss out on gaining insight into each other’s evolution.”
– Nicole Saunders, therapist and owner of Therapy Charlotte
But you shouldn’t be waiting for things to go sideways to have these conversations.
Talking about money can actually be a way to deepen the intimacy in your relationship and bring you and your partner closer together, financial therapist Amanda Clayman told NPR. And because our money problems never are As soon as When it comes to money, these discussions can help you grow in other areas of your life as well.
“Money shows up in our lives every step of the way as something that appears, on the surface, as a problem to be solved,” Clayman said. “But it usually reveals something deeper about something in our lives that needs to change or grow or change.”
taboo no. 8: Watching porn.
A porn habit can be harmful if consumption is excessive, is used to regulate emotions, or begins to interfere with a person’s daily life, such as work or relationships.
But in many cases, it can be a great addition to a healthy and exciting sex life with your partner.
“There’s a lot of public talk that porn use can damage relationships and lead to sexual dysfunction,” Pomeranz said. “While this may be true if porn is abused or as a means of coping with negative feelings, research shows that partners who view porn together report greater relationship functioning and sexual satisfaction than partners who don’t.”
taboo no. Tip 9: Keep a secret from your partner.
This is “hugely controversial,” Makepeace said, but in some cases she believes keeping a secret may actually be better for a relationship.
“If a behavior or belief occurred in the past, that you learned from and that you’re no longer practicing, it can sometimes be advisable not to share the survival or health of the relationship,” she said.
Here’s one way to determine whether you should share or keep a secret with your partner, according to Makepeace: Ask yourself, Do you want to confess because you want to clear your conscience? Or is it because you believe that telling your partner would actually be better for the growth and development of the relationship?
“These potential gains should be weighed against the possibility of devastating effects on your partner if you share a secret you’ve been keeping,” she said.