Forget false matrimonial beliefs and learn true tips for living happily ever after By Denise Schipani Any husband or wife will tell you that when... Read More
Forget false matrimonial beliefs and learn true tips for living happily ever after
By Denise Schipani
Any husband or wife will tell you that when it comes to marriage, you can’t always believe what you hear. Whether it’s that getting hitched will turn your sex life sour, or that walking down the aisle can turn a slob into a neat-freak, it’s safe to say that marriage myths abound. And they can be harmful, if you believe such fictions as “Your spouse should be your best friend” or “If you fight, you’re on the road to divorce.” The reason these myths persist is because we are prone to idealizing marriage, says Pamela Garber, a New York City psychotherapist—and that can make it even harder to face reality. The good news is that reality can often be better than any romantic myth. Read on for 10 common (and erroneous) beliefs about marriage, plus expert advice on how to work towards creating your own real-life storybook ending instead.Myth #1: Marriage will make someone change their ways.
You know when a dress or a sofa is for sale “as is”? Think of your spouse that way; who he is on the day you say “I do” is who he’ll be every day after that. This doesn’t mean that people can’t change, but it does mean that you can’t change someone, says Gilda Carle, PhD, author of 99 Prescriptions to Fidelity. If he has dangerously bad habits, like drinking, gambling or a history of infidelity, beware (if you’re not married yet, think hard before committing); these tendencies are not changed by the love of a good woman. But if you’re talking about the typical bad habits that drive you crazy, like not putting his coffee cup in the dishwasher or leaving dirty clothes on the floor, “you have to understand that this is the way he is, just as there are things you do that probably make him crazy as well,” says Dr. Carle. Over time, you can work on adapting to each other’s habits and talking about the things that you really can change or let go. One way to do this is to catalog your own bad habits; you may start to notice that he’s a good guy for putting up with the way you leave your makeup all over the sink, which will make you more likely to toss his dirty socks in the hamper without making a stink about it. Photo: Ugurhan Betin / Thinkstock
Myth #2: Once you’re married, you’re finished “growing.”
Evolving your personality is a lifelong process. Believing that you both reached a plateau when you tied the knot is like thinking that you’re done learning once you finish college. This myth can make you resist growth, which can be dangerous for the health of your marriage, says Garber. For instance, you may avoid doing or learning new things out of fear that you or your spouse will change so much you won’t love each other anymore. The reality is that doing and learning new things can be enriching for your marriage, especially if you bring back fresh ideas and excitement to share with your partner, says Dr. Carle. To reap the benefits of evolving together, explore things you may both enjoy through experimentation: Take a cooking class, go on a hiking trip or join a film discussion group. That way, you may find something that lights a fire in both of you. If it turns out that your interests remain on opposite ends of the spectrum, enjoy your own pursuits but be sure to share your experiences with each other when you return home. Photo: Thinkstock
Myth #3: Married couples should have the same interests.
Many couples believe that if their partner enjoys something, they too should make an effort to get on board. It’s a nice impulse, and many of us will grit our teeth and see movies we hate or try activities that don’t float our boats in an effort to impress a new love. But over time, if you force yourself to do everything together, one of you may become bored or unhappy, or the other might start enjoying his or her hobby less (or worse, quit it altogether). The key thing to remember is this: There is no rule that says you need to spend every waking moment together. In fact, it’s actually better for your relationship if you can enjoy some separate activities, hobbies and friends, and return to one another refreshed, says Dr. Carle. That said, be sure you find and cultivate things you both like so that you can spend quality time together as well. Photo: Shutterstock
Myth #4: Your husband should be your best friend.
How many love songs express the idea that couples should be everything to each other? The problem is that no one person can complete another. “Yes, your husband should be the number one person in your life, but not the only person. Especially for women, it’s important to continue to cultivate your friendships,” says Dr. Carle. “For us, friendships are social and sustaining.” Your husband won’t be able to fill that roll, and if you expect him, to you’ll risk alienating girlfriends who can connect with you in ways that men can’t. By the same token, your husband will also benefit from the occasional night spent with the guys, when he can simply relax and relish in some male company. Photo: Thinkstock
Myth #5: Married sex is B.O.R.I.N.G.
This is one of those myths that make singles hesitate before tying the knot, afraid to lose their current relationships’ unfettered passion. The problem here is the mistaken belief that sex has to be wild and “new” to be passionate, says Garber. In reality, married sex can actually be more passionate than it was before you walked down the aisle. When you know someone intimately and allow yourself to be vulnerable, you end up feeling freer, more trusting and secure, which can lead to a much deeper sexual connection, says Dr. Carle. And the truth is that any great physical passion will eventually wane, but if you’re lucky and work at it, the deeper connection that remains is sweeter and longer-burning than those initial fireworks. Photo: Siri Stafford / Thinkstock
Myth #6: You should equally divide housework.
Fairly divvying up household chores always sounds modern and enlightened. Especially if you are both working, why should, for example, a wife do all the dusting and cooking, while the man mows the lawn once a week? But if you try to measure each other’s every contribution (“I cooked, so he better clean up!”) you’re in for a lifetime of resentment. “Nothing is totally fair 100 percent of the time,” says Garber. There may be times your husband is so absorbed in work that he doesn’t have a chance to do a thing, and you have to pitch in more. Or it may swing the other way if, say, you go back to school at night and have a child that needs caring for. Plus, there may be tasks each of you cares about more, or are better at completing. Instead of trying to keep a spreadsheet of who-does-what-when, sit down and work out a basic structure that aligns with your lifestyle (you do the laundry because you’re more concerned about it; he does the food-shopping because his work schedule allows it more easily), accepting that the balance can and will shift over time. Photo: Thinkstock
Myth #7: Having children will bring you closer.
It’s hard to believe that this wouldn’t be true, especially if you both wanted to procreate and adore your child. The truth is, the hard work, adventure and joy of raising kids can either pull you together or tear you apart. But if you get––and stay–—on the same page about how you parent, it’s more likely that your children will bring you closer. As Garber explains, “It’s not the children themselves that can connect you as a couple, but the experience of parenting together.” To see eye to eye, she explains, you have to continue to talk about your parenting goals, discipline strategies and day-to-day concerns so that they don’t fall by the wayside, which can pose a threat to your union. Photo: Andriy Sharapa / Thinkstock
Myth #8: If you fight, you’re headed for divorce.
It’s true that if you fight all the time and never resolve basic issues, your relationship may be in trouble. However, “Not fighting ever is more of a predictor of divorce,” says Garber. That’s because total silence could mean that one or both of you has given up on the hope of saving the marriage, and doesn’t care enough to work through issues. If you have grievances that need airing, get talking! Just be sure to do it in a civilized manner; avoid using fights to belittle or emotionally harm your partner. “Create fair-fighting ground rules that work for you, and realize that agreeing on everything would make for a boring relationship,” says Dr. Carle. Photo: George Doyle / Thinkstock
Myth # 9: Your in-laws will always be the enemy.
This myth can be self-fulfilling: If you believe that you will clash with your husband’s parents, you very likely will. “If you set up the relationship as adversarial from the beginning, that’s how it will be,” says Dr. Carle. Remember that both you and your in-laws love your husband. Build on that love, letting things play out over time and get to know your in-laws as people, not potential enemies. Try to view things your in-laws do in the most positive light you can. If, for example, your mother-in-law always brings a hot dish over to your house, avoid assuming, “She thinks I can’t cook well enough for her son!” Instead, try to understand that she may just be trying to give you a hand with the cooking so that you can relax. Photo: Thinkstock
Myth #10: The love you feel on your wedding day is the peak of affection, and it’s all downhill from there.
At really great weddings, not only does the champagne flow, but you can practically feel the love radiating from the happy couple. That said, a wedding is just one day out of a whole lifetime. The real journey starts the next day (or at least, after the honeymoon). There’s something innocent and hopeful about the love you feel on your wedding day, but if you believe it’s as good as it gets, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. “Switch your mindset,” says Dr. Carle. “Your wedding is just the beginning of your life together; consciously decide that as the years pass, it’ll get better and better.” Photo: Shutterstock