Myths about marriage are fairly commonplace. Many of these can be traced to the usual suspects – like pop music, family narratives and in some cases, childhood fantasies. For example, a classic marriage myth is that when “the right one” comes along, you will somehow “know it” deep inside.
In many ways, we have been inculcated to believe that marriage itself is gifted to us by some kind of magical creature – like Cupid – invisibly hovering about unsuspecting couples and bestowing relational bliss. How many fairytales have you read where two of the characters get hitched and then gallop off into the sunset … “And the two lived happily ever after”.
When you throw in cultural legends, like Disney’s iconic Prince Charming, is it any wonder why so many folks have misconceptions about marriage?
And let’s not forget the role of family. You see – family relationships, such as what you saw with your parents and grandparents, unintentionally provide a psychological “blueprint” for what a marriage “should” look like. That kind of psychological imprinting can be powerful!
The reality of course is that not all role models we are given for marriage are healthy. This is particularly true if we have internalized strong marital edicts; passed on to the subconscious through the construct of parental introjection.
The main problem with myths is that many people mistake them as full on facts. If you are a person who has integrated marriage myths into your belief system, there is a good chance you are setting yourself up for problems – both in the here and now and the future.
1. Myth: Married couples don’t have arguments
Fact: Having disagreements is a normal part of any relationship. The absence of disagreements can actually be a symptom of a larger problem. You may be wondering how so?
It’s pretty simple. In secure relationships, couples make an effort to communicate. This means talking about things that are both comfortable and uncomfortable. So if you believe in this particular marriage myth, you and your spouse may be engaging in avoidant behaviors. Over the long term, this can cause deep dissatisfaction and potentially, divorce.
2. Myth: Having children strengthens marital bonds
Fact: While it is true that having children can strengthen a marriage, it is also true that the introduction of children can also cause added strain.
This is particularly true for newer couples that are just starting out. If the primary reason to start a family is to rescue a problematic marriage or to lock one party into the relationship – it can be a recipe for disaster. If you are contemplating having children for this reason, we encourage you to assess the general health of your relationship before moving forward with plans of adding children to the mix.
3. Myth: Marriage locks in monogamy
Fact: In the vast majority of situations, wedding vows do mean monogamy is implied as part of the marital dynamic.
With that shared, it is important to examine how each person defines monogamy. While this is a topic that usually comes up when couples choose to cohabitate before marriage – it doesn’t always get properly explored.
For example, would you consider it an act of infidelity if your mate self-pleasured him/herself while fantasizing about an old flame? What about watching video or reading certain magazines with adult content? In short, definitions of monogamy are not universal. How would you define this term in the context of marriage? How about your mate?
4. Myth: Happy couples are always together
Fact: There is some truth to happy couples spending time together most of the time. But there is also an old saying that goes something like this – there is a reason that the pillars in Rome are built far apart.
Couples that do everything together and have little “alone” time may be suffering from toxic forms of codependency. Over the course of time, this kind of relational dynamic can weaken bonds and actually cause a couple to break up. If you are concerned this is happening in your marriage, be sure to check out our codependency checklist.
5. Myth: Love will conquer all
Fact: Love doesn’t always conquer all. It also doesn’t always “save the day” as suggested in a popular song from the 80’s by Whitney Houston. While there is no disputing the restorative and healing power of love, the emotion itself isn’t “magic”.
For example, love doesn’t roadblock cheating or supernaturally prevent abuse. Speaking of love, it is important to recognize that over the course of time, love takes on different forms. It may be helpful to assess which love style you are currently experiencing in your relationship under this particular point.
6. Myth: True love will means true happiness
Fact: Over 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Rest assured that when many of these marriages started out – both parties thought they had found “the right one”. This sometimes thought of as “true love” … which leads by extension to “true happiness”:
And therein lies the problem – the expectation of “true happiness”. We encourage all couples who are considering tying the knot to seriously revisit their expectations for marriage and assess if they are realistic. A powerful tool for this kind of assessment is pre-marriage counseling.
7. Happily married couples are always intimate
Fact: A couple can still be very much in love and be happy married and still experience issues with intimacy.
The reasons run the gambit – from relational stress to medical problems to grief and loss. At some point in nearly all long term relationships, intimacy is going to ebb and flow. In other words, there will be periods when the proverbial “fireworks” in the bedroom don’t go off like they used to.
What typically happens with many couples is they become consumed with other life areas, such as work and family and neglect to make emotional/physical closeness a priority. Does this sound familiar?
8. Marriage counseling is a bad sign
Fact: The focus of most marriage counseling relates to strengthening relational bonds – not crisis counseling. When you make the decision to come in for various forms of relationship counseling, you are doing something healthy for yourself and your marriage. This includes the premarital counseling.
Just as you might tune-up your car from time to time to make sure it is running optimally, you also need to “tune-up” your relationship and make adjustments accordingly. You probably do this in other important life relationships, such as at the workplace. Why wouldn’t you do this in your marriage?
Marriage Myth Resources
If you are looking for more information on marriage myths, we would like to recommend the following book by the Parrot’s entitled: Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts. Inside, you will find lots of practical insight on popular marriage fiction, along with useful exercises that are designed to help you evaluate your relationship objectively.
Summary Things Up
Myths about marriage have been with us for as long as marriage itself has been around. All one needs to do is look back at Greek mythology to see the origins of some of these whoppers. Recognizing what’s real and what is not can go a long way in preventing false expectations.