The following are 7 common myths about marriage that have been identified in couples therapy and couple education settings by current research. We have expert Dr. Jeff Larson here to help us debunk some of these based on his own and others’ research findings.
Myth #1: If my spouse really loves me, they should instinctively know what I want and need to be happy.
You have to communicate clearly about your needs, wants, and expectations for your spouse to have any chance at fulfilling them. So, the reality is: If my spouse really loves me, they will openly and respectfully tell me what they want and need and not expect me to be able to read their mind.
Myth #2: I can change my spouse by pointing out their inadequacies, errors, and other faults.
Such blaming, especially if it rises to the level of criticism, has been shown to predict divorce. The reality: I can positively influence my spouse’s behavior with communication about how their behaviors impact me, but nagging never works.
Myth # 3: My spouse either loves me or doesn’t love me; nothing I do will affect the way they feel about me.
The reality is if I exhibit loving behaviors, their love for me will likely increase in a reciprocal way–and I can control my own behavior. Therefore: If I behave more lovingly, they will love me more in return.
Myth #4: I must feel better about my partner before I can change my behavior towards them.
Part of being married is learning you sometimes have to do things for your partner that you would rather not do, simply to show them you love them. These actions will likely elicit kind and loving behaviors from them, too. The reality: Positive feelings can result from positive behaviors.
Myth #5: Marriage is a 50-50 partnership.
Some days I may have to put in 80% while my partner puts in 20%, due to illness, stress, fatigue, etc. Only unhappy couples worry about “who is doing more in this marriage.” The reality: Your marriage will be stronger if you focus on pleasing your partner and not keeping a tally of who is contributing the most.
Myth #6: Marriage can fulfill all of my needs and dreams.
Marriage cannot meet ALL of our needs. Nor should it. We still need friendships, clubs, joint activities with others, fulfilling work, recreation with same sex friends, etc. to make life full. Reality: Marriage can fulfill many of my needs, and the others can be fulfilled by other appropriate people in my life.
Myth #7: Couples should keep their problems to themselves and solve them alone.
The reality: Keeping your problems quiet and going at it alone often leads to marital failure. Get trusted others to help you. (i.e. Therapists, Clergy, Trusted family, etc.) One warning: Before sharing private couple information with a family member especially, it is best to first get the permission of your spouse.
Hopefully the debunking of some of these myths can help you in your current and future relationships, thanks Dr. Larson! If you would like more help with figuring out where the weak spots are in your relationship, take RELATE today!
Baucom, D. H., Epstein, N. B., LaTaillade, J. J. & Kirby, J. S. (2008). Cognitive-behavioral couple therapy. In A. S. Gurman (Ed), Clinical handbook of couple therapy (4th ed.), pp. 31-72. New York: Guilford Press.
Gottman, J. (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Larson, J. H. (2003). The great marriage tune-up book. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mace, D. (1979). Marriage and family enrichment: A new field? Family Coordinator, 28, 409-419.