5 Myths About Marriage

A few better ways to think.

Marriage is like driving a car: Even if you’re in the front seat, you may not understand what’s going on under the hood.

Many times, it’s the myths about marriage that mess a marriage up before you even get married. If you can deconstruct these myths, it will help you make a wiser choice about whom to marry—and how to do marriage better once you say “I Do.”

Myth 1: Marriage is Work

There’s a lot of “marriage is work” talk 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-to-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 have a big impact on your marriage.

Whether you're dating or married, what do you want your relationship metaphor to be? Marriage is the metaphor that you make it.

You will have to work at elements of your marriage, but marriage is not all 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 you're dating or married, what do you want your relationship metaphor to be?

Marriage is the metaphor that you make it.

Myth 2: 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.

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, but on what works for both of you.

As I wrote in 101 Secrets for Your Twenties, “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.”

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 3: Marriage Completes You

If you’re looking for a relationship to complete you, you will consistently feel very lacking. Your spouse is not God, a magic genie, or a unicorn with wish-granting abilities. Your spouse is a 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; it should inspire and challenge you to work on filling in the cracks on a daily basis.

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. And my wife helps give me peace while I continually work on my incompleteness.

Bonus Dating Tip: As I've written before, “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 4: 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.

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.

Love is more an intentional choice than a tingly feeling.

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 5 Marriage is a One-Time Thing

One of my mentors loves saying that he’s been married seven times to the same woman.

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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 (a.k.a., a newborn). And sometimes the change is more subtle and nuanced. It could be a promotion, a death, a diagnosis 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.

This article originally appeared at allgroanup.com. Used with permission.

Top Comments

Jason Adams

57

Jason Adams commented…

I enjoyed your article, Paul. You make some great points which I generally agree with. I’m struggling with Myth #1, though. As a husband of over 11 years and a professional counselor who frequently provides marriage counseling, I’m rather confident in my conclusion that marriage is work. It’s many other things, too; but it’s definitely work.

Perhaps our different viewpoints can be traced to our attitudes toward work. I enjoy work… nearly all forms of it. I love what I do for a living. I love projects around the house. I love immersing myself in something and taking pride in the finished product. For me, the work associated with marriage is no different. It’s challenging, it’s sometimes exhausting, and there are many highs and lows. But in the end, it’s tremendously rewarding.

Marriage is work, and that’s a good thing!

Paul Angone

68

Paul Angone replied to Jason Adams's comment

Thanks Jason for the thoughtful comments. You definitely make some great points and I think we're both kind of saying the same thing.

I wrote above that "You will have to work at elements of your marriage, but marriage is not all work." Emphasis on "all". My main point was mainly raising awareness with how often we're using the Marriage is Work metaphor seemingly above all else.

Because when I hear people talking about marriage is work, it is typically done with exhaustion and downcast eyes as a struggling married couple bemoans all the difficulties. And don't get me wrong, it is difficult. But it's lots of other things as well and coming from a communications background I believe strongly in the power of naming something.

What if more married couples were walking around believing and talking about their marriage being a crazy, epic, tough adventure together? Or a creative, difficult, life-giving collaboration? How would that change the way we view our role in our marriage, our view of our spouse, how we talk about our marriage with others, and the role our marriage plays in the world and the Kingdom? I don't necessarily want my main construct of marriage to be work and my wife, my co-worker.

12 Comments

Michael Johnson

289

Michael Johnson commented…

OK, so you knew many (including me) would disagree with more than one of your myths... until you explained yourself. And because I like your explanations I have to share this post with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity.

And for those who are NOT married yet, FMU exists to help you prepare for your future marriage NOT like work, but like a successful career: intentionally, intelligently and IN ADVANCE!

For starters, here's a post debunking 10 other lies about marriage (presented in the Huffington Post): http://f-m-u.com/Blog/marriage-will-make-fat-nonsense-2/.

Stanley Crescioni

50

Stanley Crescioni commented…

Very nice! I have heard all of the myths voiced by various people. Though I assumed most of them were said in a sarcastic manner. Thanks for the great article!

Jason Adams

57

Jason Adams commented…

I enjoyed your article, Paul. You make some great points which I generally agree with. I’m struggling with Myth #1, though. As a husband of over 11 years and a professional counselor who frequently provides marriage counseling, I’m rather confident in my conclusion that marriage is work. It’s many other things, too; but it’s definitely work.

Perhaps our different viewpoints can be traced to our attitudes toward work. I enjoy work… nearly all forms of it. I love what I do for a living. I love projects around the house. I love immersing myself in something and taking pride in the finished product. For me, the work associated with marriage is no different. It’s challenging, it’s sometimes exhausting, and there are many highs and lows. But in the end, it’s tremendously rewarding.

Marriage is work, and that’s a good thing!

Jason Adams

57

Jason Adams replied to Paul Angone's comment

Thanks for the reply, Paul. (I’m just now checking back in here.) I appreciate the additional thoughts.

I agree that we’re essentially saying the same thing. In fact, I think my primary point of disagreement was the heading, not what followed. I don’t think it’s a “myth” that marriage is work. (My background is also in communications, so I’m probably guilty of playing editor in this instance.)

That said, I completely agree with your statement, “Marriage is the metaphor that you make it.” And I love your idea of a “crazy, epic, tough adventure together.”

In my counseling practice, I strive to help people emphasize the positives. “Marriage is work” does carry a negative connotation for many people. By reframing “work” (work is actually a good thing!) and emphasizing the positive things that marriage is, we’re moving in the right direction.

srg writer

3

srg writer commented…

Paul, good article. I agree, people keep saying that marriage is work, but I think that is taking the wrong attitude to marriage, then what do you expect it to feel like? Along the same lines many people are affected by what they saw in the marriage with their parents, and without meaning to they put that as the model for their marriage bringing that attitude that it is work and tough, and a struggle, but really that can be a very small part of it.

I was confused by the "best friend" myth until I read your explanation. That I agree with. Your spouse is supposed to the person you are closest with, I believe that is part of what was implied with the phrase becoming "one flesh". But yes, expectations of what that means should be tempered. You can not expect your spouse to be someone they are not. You can support them being the best version of themselves that they can be, but God created us with different personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and expecting someone to be a picture of something else is not fair and puts a lot of pressure on them, just as expecting them to complete you would. So although we become one flesh, we may be like two sides of the same coin, each showing unique characteristics.

Robert Pollock

21

Robert Pollock commented…

You say "Myth 5 Marriage is a One-Time Thing" but then say " marriage may change, but your commitment should not" so can you explain more...because unless a spouse dies I do firmly believe the bible teaches it is a one time thing...

Lechar X

1

Lechar X replied to Robert Pollock's comment

Hey Robert,
I believe what Paul is talking about here is something a wise professor of mine used to comment on regarding his own relationship with his wife. My professor talked about how his wife would decide to "reinvent" herself every few years so each time she did this he felt like he would be married to someone new and would adjust to the new "version" of her. Marriage changes because a marriage is between two changing people - it has to change by nature as the two people change and the same two people must continue recommitting themselves to eachother in the marriage throughout the changes. The couple is not splitting up to remarry other people, rather they are continuing to choose to remarry each version of each other they discover over the years as they face the challenges and joys of life together.
For example, during the first few years of marriage the wife may be working while the husband finishes off a doctorate degree or vice versa - that stage of life, the needs of each person, the way to show love to one another, and even the personality of the two people in the marriage will look drastically different than later down the road when they have kids or when they both retire from work. People are always learning, changing, transitioning. If two people enter into marriage and determine to keep their marriage relationship the same throughout the next 80 years of life together, they will be in for a lot of hurt and disappointment. A marriage is a living thing that needs to morph and change to grow with the people in the marriage. Just like a human body that never changed or grew over the course of growing up would be quite grotesque, so also a marriage that never grows and changes over the years would also be grotesque.

To sum all the long-windedness above: "marriage may change" = the personality of the people within the marriage and what's needed to show love to eachother may change (I would even say it WILL change),
"but your commitment should not" = in spite of all the changes in the world around the couple and within the lives of the couple the commitment should continue to be renewed with every challenge and change. In fact, the couple will love each other more for having weathered those storms and changes, and for loving each new side of themselves they reveal to each other.

Hope that helps.

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