Debunking the Marriage Myths
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to have some posts up about what is and isn’t true about marriage – and it’s based on research. We’ll be unpacking a few simple ideas that may have skewed your thinking for years, help you understand why they’re damaging, give you some ways of countering them, plus give you a few “power verses” to keep in front of you on this journey.
So here we go…
Marriage Myth #1 – “If you will, I will,” or “Quid Pro Quo” contracts are healthy.
Creating a contract is a common tool parents use with adolescents who are trying to find their way to independence. The contract essentially shows both parents and teens the expectations, privileges, and consequences. Contracts are common in business and provide clarity and help both parties understand the score, right? They DO have their place, but give the “if you-I will” marriage contract the boot! Once reciprocity becomes a concern of anyone in the relationship, once score-keeping starts, it’s a symptom the relationship is already IN TROUBLE. “I did this for you yesterday, you can do this for me today,” is an indicator of love eroding. Trust erodes as a result, and the score-keeping just speeds up the downfall. Bernard Murstein found in 1977 that this way of thinking showed up in both ailing relationships and friendships.
Why it’s a problem: Score-keeping is essentially the sin of judgment and pride in action. Any feelings of superiority in relationships contribute to relationship fails. Getting information about how giving you actually are is one thing – comparing yourself to your spouse is a formula for trouble, however. Know it’s okay to debrief about your week as a couple, how things went, etc., but not as a means of comparison.
How to counteract: If you or your spouse are score-keepers, STOP. Instead, focus on the positives for BOTH of you, paying attention to what is right and good in the relationship. Give life to those thoughts by paying compliments and saying them aloud and you’ll be adding to what Dr. John Gottman calls the “fondness and admiration” part of your relationship “love maps.”
Power Verse: Philippians 4:8
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Bottom Line: Verbally catch your spouse in the act of doing things right instead of focusing on the negatives and you’ll improve your relationship.
Marriage Myth #2 – Divorce is primarily caused by affairs.
While extra-marital affairs certainly are cited in some divorces as reason for ending the marriage, the California Divorce Mediation Project discovered that over 80% of divorces are actually caused by emotional distancing. You know, that place you end up when you both feel like you have nothing in common, you don’t talk or confide in each other, and one or both of you are clueless about what’s really going on in each other’s lives? What’s interesting is that further research supports that most affairs start because of friendship and affection between the two people. Clearly the need for intimacy is still there – but it’s not being filled within the marriage. Dr. John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, highlights the various ways to deepen your friendship, affection, and admiration of your spouse. This takes daily effort, can reduce stress for both of you, and will help you form deep connections if you are lacking them.
Why it’s a problem: Without friendship, your relationship has no basis for trust to build upon. For friendship to occur, you have to both actually know each other – deeply, intimately know each other. If you don’t know your spouse’s dreams, stresses, sorrows, friends, accomplishments, struggles, or latest wins or fails, you need to realize your marriage is in trouble. If one of you knows about the other, but that isn’t reciprocated, you run the risk of turning your spouse into a lonely scorekeeper – which can also fuel the fires of divorce potentials.
How to counteract: If you aren’t interested in your spouse’s life, get interested. Seriously. Fake it ‘til you make it. If you don’t, you’ll end up in isolation, which greatly decreases your chances for having a successful marriage modeled for your kids. It doesn’t matter how you really feel – it is loving behavior to be interested in your spouse – and God calls us to love our neighbor! Who else could be your closest neighbor other than the person you married? And if your spouse isn’t interested in you? Try saying this:
“I feel lonely and isolated. I need us to get to know each other and be friends again. I wish we could connect emotionally and do things together again.”
Then talk options and maybe even take a dance or marriage class together. Spouses who spend time together and do things together can come to know each other again. Plus, as an added benefit, you’ll model awesomeness for your kids. They’ll stay interested in their spouses when they’ve been married a long time, too because they’ve seen you do it!
Bottom Line: Become seriously interested in your spouse as a person and the unique and wonderful being He created and you’ll improve your relationship.
Power Verses: Mark 12:31, John 13:34-35, and Ephesians 5:25
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
We find also, as an aside, that most people find it respectful and loving when their spouse is interested in them. The age-old human relationship guru, Dale Carnegie, of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame even had a principle – “Become genuinely interested in other people.” It’s just respectful and loving behavior, regardless of who you are with. 🙂
Love to you,
One more thing?
It’s not a small thing.
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