11 lies about marriage (including living happily ever after)

One reason that many marriages may flounder or fail is that couples often enter into them with unrealistic expectations. There’s a lot of marriage myths out there about what a good marriage is supposed to look like and this perception doesn’t always line up with reality, which can ultimately, set you up to be disillusioned and discouraged when you and your partner do encounter challenging times. As a psychologist who has studied family relationships for many years, I believe you’ll be a lot more successful building a loving relationship and marriage if your expectations are honest and realistic. Here are some common beliefs about marriage that I’ve encountered in my many years as a family psychologist.

11 myths about marriage debunked

1. Marriage is not happily ever after

In spite of our most beloved story-books and Hollywood endings, marriage is not happily ever after. No marriage is perfect. All marriages have their difficulties. No matter who you marry, there will be challenges. But just remember that nothing worthwhile is easy.

2. Marriage won’t make you whole or fix your brokenness

A lot of people unconsciously marry someone thinking that their partner will make them whole. In fact, people use those words—”you complete me” or “you make me whole.” Then they assume their partner is at fault when they don’t feel whole. A better way to look at it is that you’re whole already, or short of that, you’re responsible for making yourself whole.

Related: I’m done setting unrealistic expectations for myself as a mom

3. There is no such thing as a one and only

The myth of a one and only is perpetrated in storybook tales as well as movies. It’sgreat if you find a partner you consider a soul mate. And, you will be more naturally compatible with some mates than others. But try to remember that, there are a lot of people you could marry and build a great relationship with. There’s not just one person out there.

4. You don’t have to love your partner all the time to have a great marriage

The truth is that your emotions will come and go, like clouds in the sky. There will be times when you’re madly in love, times when you’re apathetic, and times when you’re irritated and on the verge of a divorce. Recognize this as natural and not an indication that you have a poor marriage.

5. It is okay to disagree and experience conflict

You are not supposed to think and feel or do everything the same. In fact, your differences can draw you to each other and become an opportunity to learn and grow as you become a unit and come up with plans that work for both of you.

Related: This mom’s post about marriage is so raw and relatable

6. It is okay to go to bed angry

Don’t go to bed angry is such common advice to young couples. But this just isn’t always realistic. If you’re upset with one another and having a difficult time working through a conflict then it’s okay to take a time out and sleep on it. This extra time may allow you to cool down and have a fresher perspective the next morning.

7. If your spouse really loves you, theywill not always know what you need

Your partner can’t read your mind. You have to let themknow what you feel and need. And yet we often tell ourselves that it doesn’t count if we have to tell them and that they should just know. Nobody is a mind-reader and this approach can set you up to be disappointed.

8. Your happiness is your responsibility

It is your job (not your partner’s) to make you feel safe, happy, smart, healthy, fill in the blank. Of course, you want your partner to be there for you, responsive and attuned to your needs, but if you expect them to do this for you and you are not doing it for yourself, you may encounter disappointment.

9. A good marriage starts with you

It is so easy to focus on your partner and what he or she is doing or not doing. Remember that you have a part in everything that happens in your relationship. This isn’t about blaming your partner or yourself when things go wrong but rather being willing to be accountable and learning to make new and better choices.

10. Improving your marriage is a process

A long process, by the way. I remember asking my grandparents, around their 60th wedding anniversary about their hardest years of marriage.  My grandmother answered,”the first 22.” I laughed and then quickly realized I was only in about my fifth year of marriage. Although it’s not fair to put a number on it, the truth is that a great relationship doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, shared experiences, dedicated effort, and commitment. Try to take the long view.

11. Examine your expectations

I remember attending a marriage of a young couple a number of years back. A number of us were seated at a table enjoying some refreshments when a young woman, herself recently engaged to be married, asked a question of an eighty-year-old friend, someone who’d been married for several decades. “What advice do you have for us recently engaged couples?”

“Lower your expectations,” was his reply.

I almost fell off my chair with laughter.

He later clarified his statement by adding, “but raise your aspirations.” In other words, marriage has the potential to be a beautiful journey in which two people come together and find meaning, fulfillment and love. And, it’s a journey made much easier if your expectations are realistic rather than based on commonly held myths. So, I invite you to take a look at your marriage. How might you improve your relationship by making your expectations more realistic?

There is little that can bring greater joy in life than closeness to our life/marriage partners. But to enjoy that intimacy requires that you view marriage (and one another) in a realistic way. My hope is that debunking these myths can bring you closer together.