"The only thing perfect about marriage is the airbrushed wedding photo." - Anonymous
Marriage, even the best of marriages, can take effort and work.
In fact, based on the research I conducted regarding the essential elements necessary for a marriage to thrive, commitment, trust, and respect were in the top five - and each of these require some work to make happen.
Many people still enter into marriage wearing rose-colored glasses.
We long for the Hollywoodization of relationships. Where everything goes smoothly and passionately, and all our disagreements are resolved before the credits roll.
Marriage myths can undermine your relationship.
Rather than falling victim to these myths, take off the glasses and be honest with yourself and your spouse.
You don't have to settle for less. In fact, you likely are reading this post (and Simple Marriage) because you're interested in making your marriage all it can be.
A great marriage is a long-term process — not an overnight miracle.
By uncovering and debunking these marriage myths, you'll see things more clearly in life and marriage.
Myth 1: "A good marriage begins by finding Mr. or Ms. Right."
It's easy to blame problems in marriage on our spouse, which can lead to the belief that they are not Mr. or Ms. Right. Surely, there are couples that really don't belong together. However, the majority of these not-the-right-person beliefs are rooted in unrealistic expectations.
Myth 2: "When couples argue, it destroys the relationship."
You may have entered marriage believing that arguing is bad. You may have expected things to go smoothly, with only a few minor bumps along the way. But then the usual struggles over money, sex, children, and/or sharing responsibilities emerge.
If you don't recognize that all couples face these problems, it's easy to believe something is wrong with your marriage. Some couples choose to distance themselves from each other rather than talk through the problems. In the end, many of these couples let their marriages fall apart because the gulf became too big to find their ways back to each other. Arguing, or better stated - heated discussions, can be a positive force in a marriage.
Myth 3: "Two people in a good marriage automatically grow closer with time."
A good marriage is the product of constant care and nurturing. Think about it this way: what do we know about achieving anything good in life? It takes work. For example, how do people stay physically fit? Certainly not by fantasizing and longing for a rock hard body - a healthy body takes constant attention and work.
The same is true for thriving relationships.
Marriage is very much like a living organism: It is constantly changing.
Partners are not always going to feel close or affectionate toward one another. There are even times when you will be very angry at your spouse, times when you may even question why the two of you married in the first place.
Working through these rough spots is an important part of growing closer. Keep in mind, however, there is nothing automatic about the process.
Myth 4: "Marriage partners can fill the gaps in one another's makeup."
One great joy of marriage is the ability to pool your strengths and talents. If one of you is physical and the other intellectual, you can help expand one another's horizons. However, if you are painfully shy and rely on your spouse to do all the talking, you're going to feel an imbalance.
Assuming rigid roles based on gender also creates an imbalance: like a husband who refuses to help with cooking or cleaning because these tasks are "woman's work" or a wife who refuses to pick up a hammer or screwdriver because "that's the husband's job." Spouses must be flexible in their roles, and willing to work together at all sorts of tasks.
Great marriages are collaborative efforts in which both partners are dedicated to improving — as individuals and as a couple. Each marriage partner brings a unique package of strengths and weaknesses to the table, and each has a separate timetable for growth. But, if one partner's development or contribution is way out of proportion to the other's, this imbalance can undermine the marriage.
Myth 5: "Pursuing your own individual needs is incompatible with making a marriage work."
It still surprises me how many people think happily married couples must do everything together. As if when you get married you cease to exist as an individual.
Each spouse has a separate life apart from that as a marriage partner - because marriage is a choice. And it's still as much of a choice 15 years into it as it was on the first day.
When you choose to get married, you choose to become an integral part of another person's world. That means, among other things, taking an interest in your partner's personal goals, and doing your best to have amicable dealings with his or her family of origin. However, this is a lot different than feeling compelled to do everything together. If you believe this myth, you'll likely find yourself or your spouse feeling trapped in the relationship.
Some marriages require more togetherness; others, more separateness. The trick is finding a balance of togetherness and separateness that works for you.
Myth 6: "The goal of marriage is for both partners to get exactly what they want."
In the past, people married out of economic necessity and to have children. Now some believe marriage is a way to achieve fulfillment and personal satisfaction.
Complaints in marriage often go like this: "I'm just not happy with him anymore. I don't feel fulfilled." These complaints are a result of overblown and misguided expectations.
You may see signs that this myth is interfering with your marriage; one would be when you or your partner say, "If you loved me you would . . . (check the choice or choices that apply):
- Spend more time with my family
- Make love to me more often
- Take the vacation that I want
- Not criticize me so much
- Do more household chores
The message here, "You don't love me unless you do exactly what I want."
There is also a flip side to this myth that shows up when one partner demands that the other accept their love on faith — even when their words and actions convey the opposite message.
Every one of us has a right to want our desires fulfilled, but we must be realistic. Even in the best of marriages, a spouse and the relationship can provide just so much fulfillment. The rest will have to come other sources such as career, family, or from the pursuit of various interests, or even - most importantly - from within.