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Marriage Myths

Found this today on AOL News: 10 Myths About Marriage – Marlo Thomas and found it to be full of wisdom.

Marriage is hard. We probably need all those myths (and estrogen and testosterone) or we would never get married, and the human race might fizzle! It helps to know that no matter what a marriage looks like on the outside, on the inside, each and every marriage has its own struggles.

Our moms passed down a lot of old “rules” about marriage. But ask anyone who’s been there and she’ll probably tell you that some of them just don’t apply to her marriage… me included. So I asked relationship expert Dr. Dale Atkins what she thinks about those bits of marital conventional wisdom. Read what she had to say – it turns out the knight in shining armor isn’t the only marriage myth!

Hi Marlo, and thanks for asking about the “rules” of marriage, or, as I call them, the myths! Really, so many of them are just that – they raise unrealistic expectations and can lead to disappointment and frustration.

I encounter people in my practice who think that a good marriage is built on romantic love and luck. One woman recently told me that she thinks a couple shouldn’t have to work at marriage if they are truly in love. The reality is that most successful marriages are built on commitment, respect, and companionship – and, of course, a shared history and a desire to support each other.

Coming to a better understanding of each other is the real key to a successful marriage. Now, let’s debunk some of those marriage myths:

MYTH #1: Your spouse is your other half, and now you are complete.
REALITY: A healthy person is complete in herself. Couples don’t complete each other, they complement each other (and they need to compliment each other, too!)

MYTH #2: Marriage is filled with romance and love.
REALITY: It is – but it’s also filled with anger and frustration, disappointment and confusion. It’s filled with lots of emotions, and couples should expect to experience peaks and valleys. The everyday problems and challenges of married life can often obscure romantic, loving, tender feelings, which is why couples need to remember the commitment that’s at the core of their marriage and realize there are full times and empty times.

MYTH #3: Your marriage should make you happy.
REALITY: You need to make yourself happy! Your spouse is not your source of happiness – that must come from within yourself. Marriage can and should augment a person’s individual happiness, but it’s not what makes you happy.

MYTH #4: You should never go to bed angry.
REALITY: That’s unrealistic – there are times you will go to bed with an unresolved issue, one that still has you fired up at day’s end. It’s not great to be lying next to someone while seething in anger, but it does happen. The best strategy is to table things so you don’t feel like you want to murder him! Remind yourself of all the positive things about him; ideally, you’ll have a fresh eye in the morning. By the way, one of you sleeping on the couch for a night is not the end of the world if you need time to think. If that one night turns into days or weeks at a time, that’s a problem. But taking a break for a night to have a calmer conversation the next day just might be more productive.

MYTH #5: A baby will bring you closer.
REALITY: Parenting together is a wonderfully intimate experience that can indeed make a couple feel closer. But it’s so hard on the body, mind, and emotions! New parents are exhausted and constantly questioning whether they are doing things right. Often the woman feels she is doing waaay more than her fair share and is resentful and disappointed in her partner. Then there are the hormones – a woman’s body goes nuts during and after pregnancy! A couple would be wise to recognize that these are all just normal feelings after having a child, and they shouldn’t feel let down that they’re not head-over-heels in love with each other: Take a deep breath, reserve some baby-free time for one another, and know that this is simply a new stage in your long-term relationship.

MYTH #6: Your husband should be your best friend.
REALITY: If you think this way, you’ll be in for a big disappointment. Over the years, you definitely develop an amazing friendship with your spouse. But it doesn’t necessarily start off that way, and it doesn’t replace the need for friends in your life. A best friend is someone you go to the movies with, someone you have a lot in common with, someone you can talk to. A spouse is the one you can go through life with, depend on forever – that takes time, so don’t expect to be girlfriend-close with him right away. And you may not tell him everything – for some things you want a friend’s help. It doesn’t mean you are not close to your spouse.

MYTH #7: You shouldn’t fight in front of the kids.
REALITY: If you don’t teach your children how to disagree respectfully, who will? I feel strongly about this – it can be frightening for children to observe parents going at it, but it’s instructive for them to see you work out differences in a civil manner. Most people don’t fight fair – they call each other names and diminish each other. Children don’t know what to do and they mimic it – and then what have you accomplished? If you fight fair in front of the kids, then make up in front of them, they’ll see that this is a process. You have a responsibility to teach your children how to interact with others in both good times and difficult ones. As a bonus, if you learn how to fight civilly, you’ll probably fight less – you’ll learn how to come to solutions rather than argue.

MYTH #8: You shouldn’t worry if you’re not having sex.
REALITY: It’s true that people can be so busy, and so tired, that sex becomes just one more thing they have to do. Sometimes in every relationship the couple’s sex life goes on hold for a while. And every couple is different – some make love a lot, some less. But most people who have really good marriages do have a sex life. So if you’re not having sex, it is something to examine. The frequency and intensity may change as you get older, but you still need to get what you need. You don’t want to fall into a boring pattern in which you are no longer interested in your mate or want to share your life with him.

MYTH #9: Your spouse should know what you need without your having to say it.
REALITY: Nobody is a mind reader, and it’s unrealistic (and unkind) to expect someone to know your every thought and feeling. It is imperative to communicate what is going on regarding your thoughts, feelings, and your needs.

MYTH #10: You shouldn’t take your spouse for granted.
REALITY: Well, this is partially true – you don’t want to treat each other like old shoes! But you should be able to take certain things for granted – that’s what trust is all about. After all, if you can’t rely on your spouse, who can you rely on? Just remember that it works both ways: If you want to let your guard down and walk around in sweats, that’s okay – you can take for granted that he’ll still think you’re beautiful. But be sure to keep that in mind when you see him in the dirty T-shirt!

Dale V. Atkins, PhD, has more than 25 years of expertise as a relationship specialist helping couples and families. She runs a private practice in New York City.

October 5, 2010 - Posted by | Family Issues, Humor, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Relationships

3 Comments »

  1. These are really great! This should be a gift to every couple thinking about getting married–and reviewed every few years!

    Comment by momcat | October 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. The sole purpose of marriage is breeding. Everything else, good or bad, is tangential and makes little or no difference in the general scheme of things.

    Comment by Jambino | October 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. Momcat – would we have read it? Would we have paid any attention? LLOOOLLLL

    Jambino – I tend to agree with you. And yet, there is a great secret, which is – that marriage is like putting two rough stones into a tumbler. If you can manage to keep working at it, your rougher edges get rubbed off, you learn true humility, you learn to get along through thick and thin, you have a life long companion, and you gain a little polish. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 6, 2010 | Reply


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