Okay, enough already. If I had a hundred dollars for every time a couple would say to me “we never argue,” after having been asked to describe their relationship, like that is somehow the standard on how every relationship should be judged, I would be living in a beach house in Florida. When it comes to marriage, our society can sure get it wrong. We over idealize it and paint this picture that unless everything is perfect (e.g. not arguing), we have somehow failed. Well, this is wrong. So I am going to debunk a few prominent myths on what constitutes a happy marriage.
1. Happy couples don’t fight
If you believe there are couples out there who never argue, then I’ve got some oceanfront land in Idaho to sell you. Of course happy couples argue, for two reasons: First, no matter how well you get along, it’s not possible to agree 100% of the time. Second, small irritations sting a lot more when they’re caused by someone you love and respect — someone you feel should understand you. Happy couples argue (and it actually is healthy to do so as long as it is done in a positive way), not because they don’t love each other, but because they do.
2. Happy couples have a lot of common interests
Believe it or not, you might actually have more to talk about if you don’t have totally overlapping interests. After all, a shared hobby also means a lot of shared knowledge. You could conceivably run out of things to discuss, or find it tiring talking about the same stuff over and over again. On the other hand, complementary interests can give you a lot to chat about.
3. Happy marriages split the workload 50/50
One tendency to avoid in a happy marriage is score-keeping. A great marriage must have give and take. Maybe you do more of the cooking right now because your work schedule fits better with meal preparation. Or maybe you do more of the grocery shopping. Give it a few years, and this could totally change. We’ve got to remember that marriage is a long journey, so if you play the “who does more” game, you’re bound to end up unhappy.
4. Happy couples are best friends
The main issue with this myth lies in interpretation. Many people take this to mean that happy couples are attached at the hip, and depend on each other for everything. Frankly, that kind of utter dependency can put a strain on a marriage. Suppose you and your partner are going through a shared crisis, like a job loss. A spouse can be a wonderful confidant, but there are times when sharing your fears just transfers your stress to someone who’s as weighed down as you are. At those times, a friend outside your marriage is a very healthy thing. You can vent, and then return to the situation better able to cope and support your partner. Likewise, if you’re depending on your spouse to be your sole source of entertainment and happiness, you’re going to wear them out. A friend recently shared with me a story about when her dad finally decided to retire. “After retirement, my dad decided to share so many of my mom’s interests that she started going on long errands to get a bit of time alone. I’d call, and dad would say, ‘She was only going to Old Navy, I can’t imagine why she’s not back yet.’” Sound familiar? By all means, it is important to be great friends with your spouse, but you need a network of people to depend on and other friends to spend time with, other than your spouse.
5. Happy marriages have a lot of romance
Do you remember that feeling of euphoria when you and your spouse were first in love? What about the butterflies you had in your stomach or the way you thought about them all the time? I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but that kind of intensity is unsustainable. Expecting things to be that way all the time sets an impossible standard for you and your spouse. Stop believing that what you see in the movies is a realistic picture of how marriage should be. You should aspire to have the best marriage possible, and I would argue that having a realistic level of romance is extremely valuable, but it is also important to give yourselves a break every once in awhile.
6. Happy spouses are mind readers
I have written before about the importance of being attentive to each other’s needs. This is still very important, but if your spouse isn’t reading your mind, and you have to point out the Christmas gift you’re hankering for, or to remind them of that honey-do list, it’s not a failure on either of your parts. Give each other a little grace and remember that just because your spouse may not be reading your mind, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you.
7. Men should be the primary “breadwinners” in the home
I chose to include this because depending on how you were raised, this could be a big issue in your marriage. I have seen successful marriages where women are the primary breadwinners and marriages where men are the primary breadwinners. I believe there are benefits to one parent being able to spend more time at home, especially when their kids are young, but in our society today, this is not always possible or quite frankly preferred. Every marriage and family is different. What works well for some won’t work for others. What is important, though, is that couples are unified and working toward a common goal. I also believe the Bible has some great wisdom to give on this topic and would be worth reading. We should never define our self-worth by being able to say we are the primary breadwinner. Rather, we should define our worth by how well we are developing and utilizing the gifts and abilities God has given us.
8. Happily Ever After
Happily Ever After sounds like the end, doesn’t it? But princes and princesses presumably go on to live long lives…and fairy tales are pretty short on the details. Our lives have ups and downs, and weathering them together is what truly makes a good marriage great. Instead of “And they lived happily ever after,” it would probably be better to say, “And they lived happily overall.” Don’t measure the success of your marriage by one season of your life. Marriage is a long journey and it is better to measure your marriage by the overall picture vs. the right now.
If you take one thing away from this blog, I hope it’s that you and your spouse should cut yourselves some slack. Happy marriage myths set the bar so high that you may feel like failures even when we you are doing a good job. At the end of the day, accepting that your love and your marriage are imperfect, and that there is always room for improvement, will take a lot of pressure off…and that will do more than any myth to make your marriage a happy one.
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