Marriage and Valentines Day are pretty similar — a place where high expectations slam into sheer disappointment. At least for way too many of us.
Why is that?
Well, in the case of marriage it’s like driving a car. Even if you’re in the front seat, it doesn’t mean you understand what’s going on under the hood.
We all have ideas of what a healthy marriage should be, but I’d argue some of these expectations are unhealthy myths. It’s these myths about marriage that mess marriage up before it even happens.
If you can de-construct these myths about marriage, it will help you make a wiser choice on whom to marry. And even do marriage better once you say “I Do.”
Myth #1 – Married People Know What They’re Doing
In my single days, I’d go to a wedding and think, “Wow, there’s two people who have it all figured it out.”
Then I got married and realized pretty quickly that I didn’t have a clue.
For a while, marriage will feel like you’re playing “House”.
There’s no textbook for husband and wife, no matter what new bestselling book tries to convince you otherwise.
Marriage doesn’t just define you, you also define it.
If it feels like you’re playing House, it’s because there should be healthy amounts of exploration, creativity, and unknowns in marriage. That’s normal.
You grow into growing up as your roots grow deeper together.
Marriage doesn’t happen at your wedding. Marriage develops slowly during the thousands of days thereafter.
Anyone can have a great wedding. It takes commitment, character, faithfulness, and humility to make a great marriage.
Myth #2 – Marriage is Work
There’s a lot of “marriage is work” talk being thrown around these days.
Sure, marriage is not simple. But be careful believing marriage is work. This feels to me like marriage is this 8-5 drudgery where every day you’re punching your time card. Because for most of us we can’t wait to leave work.
Metaphors are powerful. Be careful what you’re comparing your marriage to because that very well might dictate your marriage.
You will have to work at elements of your marriage, but marriage is not work.
Marriage is play. Marriage is an adventure. Marriage is a partnership. Marriage is a creative incubator.
Create marriage metaphors that bring life, not drudgery. Whether your dating or married, what do you want your relationship metaphor to be?
Marriage is the metaphor that you make it.
Myth #3 – Your Spouse is your Best Friend
Don’t force your spouse to be your best friend.
Yes, I do believe your spouse should be the closest friend you’ve ever had. If friendship isn’t your foundation, when those first waves hit, your relationship’s sexy wall décor will be floating out to sea.
Yet, many of us are determined to make our spouse our best friend, which really means trying to mold and mash our spouse into acting the way we think a best friend should be.
Keep your best friends your best friends.
Make the friendship with your spouse into an elite category of its own. Not solely based on your perspective and previous experience of what a friend should be, but on what works for both of you.
Stop trying to re-print with your partner what you think a best friend looks like and start painting a new picture together.
“Your wife might not tell jokes like your college roommate did. Your husband might not talk for hours into the night like your best friend from home. That’s all right. Like drinking wine or a cup of coffee, they both might taste delicious, but each will have an entirely different flavor.” – 101 Secrets For Your Twenties
Bonus Secret About Marriage: You only get weirder as you get older. If you can’t stand each other’s quirks now, you’ll be sleeping in different rooms later.
Myth #4 – Marriage Completes You
If you’re looking for a relationship to complete you, you will consistently feel very lacking.
Your spouse is not God, magic genie, or unicorn with wish-granting abilities. Your spouse is human.
If you’re putting unrealistic mythical expectations on your relationship, it might end up more Greek tragedy than romantic comedy.
A good relationship should not complete you. No, it should inspire you daily to work on your incompleteness. (click to tweet that)
My wife can’t complete me and I don’t put that heavy expectation on her. But my wife does give me the encouragement and strength to strive to be better. Every day.
My wife gives me complete peace while I continually work on my incompleteness.
Bonus Dating Tip: As I wrote in 15 Questions Every Twentysomething Should Ask When Dating, “is the person you’re dating like a magnet trying to bring the best of you to the surface? Or are they trying to bury you under a pile of dirt? A spouse should be like a proficient gold miner, able to go beyond the surface to uncover the invaluable stuff underneath.”
Myth #5 – Whom you choose to marry is the most important choice you’ll ever make.
Choosing your spouse is extremely important. Choosing your spouse every day after the wedding is even more so.
There are so many moments throughout the day when you have a choice to choose your spouse. Or not.
When you have a computer in front of you. When you start flirting with that co-worker. When you just consistently choose to stay at work a little later every night.
Love is more an intentional choice than a tingly feeling. (click to tweet)
Marriages don’t fall apart because of one big compromise. They fall apart due to a thousand small ones. Like a windshield crack, the longer you drive on without addressing the issue, the more shattered your relationship will become.
Bonus Relationship Question: Do the fights in your relationship have a point? Or are they just jaggedly pointed, jabbing each other over and over in the same tender spot? Stop focusing on the weeds on the surface and start digging up and removing the real problems.
Myth #6 – Marriage is a One-Time Thing
One of my mentors loves saying that he’s been married seven times to the same woman.
I never understood what he meant when I was single. Now, I get it.
Marriage is not static. It’s not a one-size fits all pair of jeans that will always wear the exact same. Your relationship will change because people change.
In marriage, you have to be willing to re-adjust and re-commit to new seasons. Sometimes that change is screaming in your face (aka a newborn). And sometimes the change is more subtle and nuanced. It could be a promotion, a death, new life, or a new city.
We have to adapt and grow as people, and so do our relationships.
The conditions in your marriage may change, but your commitment should not.
Myth #7 – You Need Affirmation That Your Marriage is on the Right Track
Yes, I do think you need wise mentors in your life who are able to speak life into your marriage.
However, you need to be careful who you’re giving permission to speak into your marriage. Those words can breathe life into your marriage. Or death, depending on who they are coming from.
Your marriage is your marriage.
Be careful who you’re receiving marriage advice from. I’ve met too many jacked up couples who are not even trying to work on their stuff who love giving other people marriage advice.
While it’s great to get input, advice, and wisdom from healthy people, you can’t be constantly measuring your marriage by what other people think about your marriage, even especially from your own family.
Your family is going to have their opinions on how to do marriage, raise kids, have a career – basically anything to do with living.
Be secure enough in your marriage not to run to everyone with your insecurities.
Sure if there’s something really unhealthy going on in your marriage, talk to someone you trust about it.
Yet, choose wisely who you are going to allow to speak into your marriage. If you’re listening to the wrong voices telling you where to turn, your marriage might end up on the side of the road before you even make it out of your honeymoon.
I’d love to hear what you think about these marriage myths within the comments on this article.