Most couples are naive about how challenging and sometimes difficult marriage will turn out to be. This may sound cruel but studies show that it is important to burst some of these naive marriage bubbles in order to help ensure a happy marriage. Good premarital counseling, if it does nothing else well, must succeed at this.
That is why I spend time with couples teaching them about some popular marriage myths. Here are ten of them:
Naive marriage idea #1: Our romantic love will never fade.
Truth: It will fade a LOT, especially in the first couple of years. The good news is that if you stick it out, it can be replaced by a much deeper and more substantive kind of love.
Naive marriage idea #2: I love every single thing about my partner.
Truth: No you don’t! If you answer true to this question, you either aren’t being honest with yourself, or you don’t know your partner very well. The good news is that the best relationships are built on consistent doses of reality, so moving past this will only make you stronger. Of course it could also cause you to split up, but if your relationship can’t stand up to reality, the last thing you want to do is expose it to the reality-shock that is marriage.
Naive marriage idea #3: Living together will one day help our marriage be stronger.
Truth: The jury seems to still be out on this one in the research. It is important not to be cavalier in either direction. There are circumstances under which living together appears to lead to a higher likelihood of divorce, not a lower one.
Naive marriage idea #4: Sex in marriage will happen naturally and without any awkwardness.
Truth: Sex, at times, will be awkward for every couple. Sex is too potentially powerful and intense to not also always carry potential to be awkward and frustrating.
Naive marriage idea #5: I should tell my partner absolutely everything about myself and expect my partner to tell me everything about him/her.
Truth: This is probably a bad idea. Though openness and honesty are important, there are some truths about you that, though your partner knows them generally, will cause great pain to talk about specifically. Marriage has its 0wn “TMI” points (too much information), where perhaps it is better to talk through details of some things with a mature friend or a therapist.
Naive marriage idea #6. Our marriage will naturally grow closer over time.
Truth: Your marriage, without intentional effort, will naturally grow stale over time. The things you loved about your partner when you married them will slowly become the things that will irritate you. “Spontaneous” starts looking like “irresponsible,” “organized” starts looking like “boring,” etc. Think of marriage like driving. You don’t want to jerk too hard on the wheel or it’ll derail you, but if you take your hands completely off, you won’t stay on the road for too long.
Naive marriage idea #7: Once we are married, we won’t have to deal any more with issues like masturbation.
Truth: Since sex is part of life (and getting married moves it more into that context than anything else you can do), and life is imperfect, sex will not always be served up whenever and however both partners want it. One or both will still have to deal with this issue either for themselves, in regard to how they feel about their partner doing it, or both.
Naive marriage idea #8: If God is “at the center” of our marriage,” it will be better.
Truth: Not necessarily. Well-meaning, sincere, people of faith can struggle with selfishness, immaturity, stubbornness, and irresponsibility like anyone else. Those are the things that wreck marriages, not whether partners have this or that religious commitment or lack thereof. Though research shows that similar religious beliefs and practices are an asset in marriage, they simply are not enough.
Naive marriage idea #9: All we need is love.
Truth: You need a LOT more than that. Show me a couple that has nothing more than what they call “love,” and I’ll show you a marriage that’ll be closing up shop very soon after it starts.
Naive marriage idea #10: My partner couldn’t do anything that would cause me to question my love for him/her.
Truth: Your partner almost certainly can, and will, do things that will cause you — at some point — to question your love for him/her. For many naive couples this sounds really scary or negative, but it’s just fact in most relationships. Knowing this will help make sure you don’t misinterpret the normal challenges of marriage for signs that your marriage may be over.