5 Myths About Marriage
(Part 2 of 3)
Myth #1: Marriage is 50/50.
The correct ratio here is 100/100. If you go into a marriage thinking, “I'm going to give 50% and I expect my spouse to give the other 50%,” it sets you up for a mindset of taking, rather than giving. You’ll start thinking, “I’m only going to give my 50%, only if he or she is putting in their 50%”. It becomes an endless tug of war. Rather you want to give, without expecting anything in return. If each partner has this mindset, imagine how loving and abundant the marriage will be!
In the Coptic tradition, a couple is adorned with beautiful crowns during the wedding ceremony. Crowns that represent glory and martyrdom. Martyrdom because marriage is all about sacrificing your life for someone else. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware gave a beautiful sermon in this Eastern Orthodox wedding and said, “In every true marriage, while there will be joy and fulfillment, there needs also to be unselfishness and sacrifice, but may the sense of joy always prevail.”
Look at how St. Paul commands the husband to love his wife to the point of giving his life to her, just as Christ did for us. And how the wife ought to submit to the husband. Both commands call us to put our pride aside and really serve one another.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5: 22-27)
Marriage is really a means to sanctification and salvation. If you think you’re perfect, just get married, and you’ll have someone tell you how imperfect you are. Our spouses tend to point out the flaws in us that we might be blind to, and instead of letting that cause division, let it be a catalyst to repentance and betterment.
Myth #2: My spouse should know what I’m thinking.
No one is a mind reader. This is why communication is key! There is no way I can read my husband's mind and know exactly what he's thinking, and vice versa. We've been married for almost 7 years now, and how his mind works still amazes me. There are things he'll assume I'll just pick up on, but I definitely won't. And there are times I'll assume he'll know exactly how I'm feeling, but with my (many) mood changes he'd have to be superhuman to know what’s going on in my head.
We have to communicate how we're feeling, what we want, and what’s on our mind. Communication is something that has to be practiced daily, and is ever-changing, just like many things in marriage. I also have to say that we’ve gotten better over the years with picking up on each other’s tendencies, that there is a degree of “mind reading” going on.
If you're currently engaged, and if you allow me to give you one piece of advice, it's this: talk about expectations! So many couples go into marriage with unspoken expectations, and when these expectations are not met, it leads to disappointment and frustration. Expectations about everything, from house duties to how you'll be divvying up your time. These expectations could have come from different places; the home you grew up in, the culture you were surrounded by, or even the media. Regardless of where they came from, they need to be addressed with your partner to either be implemented or invalidated.
Myth #3: If I pick the right person we’ll never fight.
Well, that can’t be further from the truth. Every couple argues or fights. I joked around once with a friend about how my husband and I got better at fighting over the years, and she gave me an odd look. So I clarified that we got better at conflict resolution. Overtime we learned each other’s fight language. The same way people have love languages, I believe they also have fight languages. Some will want to deflect, suppress, dominate, quickly communicate, escape or act in other ways in order to avoid dealing with a conflict. Conflict resolution is an essential skill any couple must acquire to not just survive, but thrive.
It’s important to point out that there are two kinds of conflicts in marriage. In Dr. John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he distinguishes between solvable conflicts and perpetual conflicts. Solvable problems are minor irritants, like someone leaving their socks on the floor, that could be easily solved (i.e. picking up their socks). Perpetual problems are conflicts that come up over and over again due to fundamental differences in personalities or lifestyles. He suggested that the perpetual problems don’t necessarily have to be solved, but managed. If you want to learn more about this check out chapter 8 of his book, or this article.
Myth #4: My life is over once I get married.
I've seen some form of this myth jokingly printed on t-shirts and mugs, with the words “game over” written above a picture of a bride and groom. Yes, it’s true your life will change once you get married. You might not be able to devote as much time to your friends, family, or even yourself. But it certainly isn't over. You'll have to discover how to do things as a unit, because you are no longer two, but one (Matthew 19:6). (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware also mentioned this in the video I linked above)
This doesn't mean you can't pursue things you love. In fact, your spouse will probably be your biggest cheerleader when you're trying to further your career, take up a new hobby, or pursue a passion of yours. You’ll just have to figure out how to manage your time wisely so that you can still maintain the important relationships in your life. Just be aware that in order to grow and strengthen your marriage you need to invest adequate time, energy and attention. Fr. Daniel Fanous makes a great case for date nights/quality time (which I'm a big fan of) in this talk.
Myth #5: Sex is going to be like what I see in the movies.
Real intimacy isn’t what you see on TV shows, movies, or even porn (I hope this isn't something you’re watching, if you’re struggling with it please go read this blog post). Sex scenes in entertainment are staged, acted out, and choreographed to make you feel a certain way. The goal is to get you hooked to that release of dopamine your brain experiences as you watch sexual content, so you always come back for more. Real sex is selfless, bonding, healing, and holy. What you see on TV is the exact opposite, most of the time it’s self-gratifying, lustful, objectifying, and sinful.
Real sex takes work. No one is an expert overnight (assuming you saved yourself for marriage). And I'm not just talking about the physical act of it, but the emotional and spiritual one as well. Putting your spouse's needs before yours is no easy task. This requires vulnerable communication and a selfless attitude.
So no, sex is not like what you see in the movies, but the good news is, if done with the right spirit of honor and love, it will be even better!
After having a few conversations with married couples, I’ve compiled a list of things we wish others would stop doing:
1. Asking them when they're having children. Besides the fact that 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility, this is a personal and sensitive question you shouldn't be asking.
2. Just asking about their spouse and kids. There is more to married people than their family; ask about their career, service, hobbies, and other cool things they're up to.
3. Assume they only want to hang out with other married people. They still love their single friends and want to be included in their life.
4. Assume they don’t want or need your friendship because they now have a life partner. Their need for friendship will always be there.
5. Expecting that your friendship will stay exactly the same (see myth #4). Give them some grace until they figure out how to balance everything.
P.S. If you're married and are experiencing any kind of abuse (physical, verbal, etc.), please speak out and seek help. A safe marriage is not a myth, and should be the standard.
This is the second post in a three-part series about myths around singleness and marriage.
Part 1 - 5 Myths about Singleness
Part 3 - 5 Myths about Dating/ Engagement