Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the things you don’t know that will hurt you; it’s the things you know for sure that just ain’t so!”
When it comes to modern marriages, I can see a lot of truth’s in Twain’s wit and wisdom. Some of the marriage assumptions we have been taught to “know for sure” simply aren’t the truth. When we operate under false assumptions, we are setting ourselves up for failure. I hope that clarifying some of these common “marriage myths” below will help us all refocus our relationships towards healthier and happier homes.
Ten common “marriage myths” (in no particular order):
1. If I marry the “right person” we’ll always feel in love.
Our culture has fed us the myth that we all have a perfect “soulmate” out there and if we find him/her, our passionate feelings will never fade, our disagreements will be rare or nonexistent, we’ll both want to make love with each other constantly and every day in marriage will have fairy tale bliss. When we wake up one morning and don’t have those feelings, we start to assume we must have married the wrong person and need to get out and find our real “soulmate.” The truth is that strong marriages are built on commitment not compatibility. For more on this, check out my post on overcoming “incompatibility” in marriage.
2. If my spouse really loves me, he/she will be willing to change.
Some of the most frustrated people on earth are the ones who are in a marriage where they’re trying to “change” their spouse—or they’re in a marriage where their spouse is trying to change them! It’s exhausting and unnatural. It reduces the marriage to manipulation instead of love. Yes, both spouses will certainly have to make selfless adjustments for the marriage to thrive—but neither should do it at the expense of losing his or her identity in the process. Love brings out the best in us, but doesn’t change who we are. Remember, it’s never your job to “fix” or to “change” your spouse. It’s your job to love you spouse. Love is what truly changes us all.
3. My friends know me, so they are the best place to get marriage advice.
Nearly everyone in your life is going to offer you advice and share their opinions with you. We trust our friends, so we naturally assume their marriage advice is going to be solid, but the best advice is usually going to come from outside your peer group because your peers are dealing with the same stuff you’re dealing with. You need a mentor; not just a friend. You need to find advice and wisdom from someone is ahead of you and probably older than you. Find someone with the kind of marriage you hope to have twenty years from now and ask them for advice.
4. I still have a right to privacy (I don’t have to tell my husband/wife everything).
This one always tends to offend people, but it’s vital to a healthy marriage. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy and if you want a healthy marriage, you have to have total transparency and trust. This means don’t keep secrets, hidden passwords, hidden money, hidden conversations or anything else your spouse doesn’t have full access to. The healthiest couples value transparency over privacy. They place their responsibility to their spouse ahead of their rights to privacy.
5. My parents raised me, so my loyalty to them should be stronger than my loyalty to my spouse.
We should always honor our parents, but when we do it at the expense of our marriage, we’ve created a toxic and dysfunctional dynamic. Your first loyalty must always be to your spouse. Practically speaking, this means you shouldn’t talk disrespectfully about your spouse and you shouldn’t allow anyone in your family to talk disrespectfully about him/her either. For more on healthy relationships and healthy boundaries, check out my Six keys to healthy relationships with in-laws.
Read more: Married Sex: It Can Save Your Life
6. I should not have to tell my spouse what’s wrong, if he/she was paying attention, they would know.
One of the most common miscommunication traps in marriage happens with these unspoken assumptions. We think our nonverbal hints should be more than enough to get the message across—or we think the answer is so obvious that we shouldn’t have to say it out loud. When we fall into this trap, one spouse stays clueless and the other spouse stays frustrated. We need to communicate with consistency, clarity and transparency.
For more on this, check out my popular post on The Top 10 “dumb” reasons why couples get divorced.
7. If I’m not sexually fulfilled in my marriage, as long as I don’t have an affair, I should be able to do anything I want to get my needs met.
Modern couples have adopted the destructive habit of “outsourcing” the sexual fulfillment in their marriage to outside sources like pornography or romance novels. In an attempt to enhance their own sexual gratification, they’re actually sabotaging the sexual intimacy of their marriage. When you replace your spouse with another person (virtually or physically), then you’re pursuing pleasure at the expense of your marriage. All your sexual energies, fantasies and desires should be focused on your spouse. Monogamy should be both physical and mental. It might sound impossible, but it’s not. We explain why and how in our video course on sex and intimacy in marriage.
8. Every couple is unique, so there’s not a single “right way” to have a good marriage.
This one is partially true, but it’s often the “almost true” things that prove to be more deceptive than obvious lies. Every couple is unique and there’s no cookie-cutter approach to marriage, but there are some timeless and universally-applicable principles that provide a compass to keep a marriage on course. To disregard these principles and write our own rules for love and marriage will lead to disaster. I outline the timeless principles that should be present in every healthy marriage in my book The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships.
9. Our kids, need us so they should always come before our marriage.
If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’d be willing to give your life for your kids. Parenthood takes that kind of selfless concern for our kids, but I’ve seen too many couples be “marriage martyrs” by sacrificing their marriage on the altar of parenthood. The parents wrongly assume that total devotion to the kids requires putting the marriage on autopilot. Those parents wake up one day to realize they have an “empty nest” and an empty marriage! One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the security that comes from seeing their parents in a loving, committed marriage. Have the kind of marriage that makes you kids actually want to get married someday!
Read more: 10 Symptoms of an Upside Down Marriage
10. If things aren’t working out in my marriage, I would probably be better off with someone else.
When you face struggles, don’t look for an exit strategy. Don’t fantasize about a life with someone else. Work through your challenges together and you’ll come out stronger on the other side. Remember that a “perfect marriage” is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other!
For more tools to help you build a thriving marriage, you can connect with me on Facebook, follow my wife Ashley and I on Instagram, and check out our popular video course on sex, communication and intimacy in marriage.
Dave Willis is a pastor and, with his wife, Ashley, founded StrongerMarriages.org and the “Marriage” app as a way to encourage couples to build stronger marriages. He is the author of The Seven Laws of Love.