Undoing Some Myths of Marriage

Older couple dancing joyfully

One reason that many marriages flounder or fail is that we enter into them with unrealistic expectations. There are many myths of marriage out there that are not realistic and don’t serve you. Unfortunately, they set you up to be disillusioned and discouraged with your marriage. I believe you’ll be a lot more successful building a loving relationship if your expectations are honest and realistic. So, here are some beliefs about marriage that I think will actually free you to have a happier marriage.

Marriage is not happily ever after

In spite of our most beloved storybooks and Hollywood endings, marriage is not happily ever after. No marriage is perfect. All marriages have their difficulties. I don’t care who you married, there will be challenges. Nothing worthwhile is easy.

 Marriage won’t make you whole or fix your brokenness

 A lot of people unconsciously marry someone thinking that their partner will make them whole. In fact, people use those words—”you complete me” or “you make me whole.” Then they assume their partner is at fault when they don’t feel whole. A better way to look at it is that you’re whole already, or short of that, you’re responsible for making yourself whole.

There is no such thing as a one and only

The myth of a one and only is perpetrated in storybook tales as well as movies. Now it is great if you find a soul mate. And you will be more naturally compatible with some mates than others. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people you could marry and build a great relationship. There’s not just one person out there.

You don’t have to love your partner all the time to have a great marriage

The truth is that your emotions will come and go, like clouds in the sky. There will be times when you’re madly in love, times when you’re apathetic, and times when you’re irritated and considering divorce. Recognize this as natural and not an indication that you have a poor marriage.

 It is okay to disagree and experience conflict

You are not supposed to think and feel or do everything the same. In fact, your differences can draw you to each other and become an opportunity to learn and grow as you become more “us” centric and come up with plans that work for both of you.

It is okay to go to bed angry

Don’t go to bed angry is such common advice to young couples. But it isn’t realistic. If you’re upset with one another and having a difficult time working through a conflict then it’s okay to take a time out and sleep on it. You’ll cool down and have a fresher perspective the next day.

If your spouse really loves you, he or she will not always know what you need

Your partner can’t read your mind. You have to let him or her know what you feel and need. And yet we often tell ourselves that it doesn’t count if we have to tell them. They should know. This is a setup to be disappointed.

Your happiness is your responsibility

It is your job (not your partners) to make you feel safe, happy, smart, healthy. Fill in the blank. Of course, you want your partner to be there for you, responsive and attuned to your needs. But if you expect them to do this for you and you are not doing it for yourself, you’ll be disappointed.

A good marriage starts with you

It is so easy to focus on your partner, what he or she is doing or not doing. Remember that you have a part in everything that happens in your relationship. This isn’t about blaming your partner or yourself when things go wrong, but rather being willing to be accountable and learning to make new and better choices.

Improving your marriage is a process

A long process, by the way. I remember asking my grandparents, around their 60th wedding anniversary, about their hardest years of marriage.  My grandmother answered—the first 22. I laughed and then got sober since I was in about my fifth year of marriage. Although it’s not fair to put a number on it, the truth is that a great relationship doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, shared experiences, dedicated effort, and commitment. Take the long view.

Examine Your Expectations

I remember attending a marriage of a young couple a number of years back. A number of us were seated at a table enjoying some refreshments when a young woman, herself recently engaged to be married, asked a question of an eighty-year-old friend, someone who’d been married for several decades. “What advice do you have for us recently engaged couples?”

“Lower your expectations,” was his reply.

I almost fell off my chair with laughter.

The gentleman later clarified what he meant by adding, “but raise your aspirations.” In other words, marriage has the potential to be a beautiful journey in which two people come together and find meaning, fulfillment and love. And, it’s a journey made much easier if your expectations are conscious, realistic and spoken. So, whether you’re single, newly married, or have many years behind you, take a look at your expectations. Would you enjoy your relationship more if you challenged  some of the myths of marriage and made your expectations more realistic?


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

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