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Are These 5 Common Pieces of Advice Ruining Your Marriage?
Everyone seems to know the answers…
Whether you’ve been married 10 years or are recently engaged, we’ve all been given marriage advice. From your aunt pulling you aside at the reception, to your parents’ interjections during early marital issues, it seems that everyone wants to offer their opinions on marriage.
But what about misleading opinions—the kind that could actually damage your marriage? Here are five common pieces of advice to watch out for, and how they might already be hurting your relationship.
“Always be completely open and honest.”
Open communication builds trust, and no relationship will last long—at least not happily—without it. So why hold anything back?
Not being completely open and honest doesn’t mean you should start keeping secrets. It means knowing what’s worth mentioning, and what will only create unnecessary tension. For example, there are parts of your past that should be left there unless asked about. There are also concerns to mention, and some to let go of.
Knowing what to say, and what not to say, comes down to your intentions, as explained by Margaret Paul, psychotherapist and co-author of Do I Have to Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?
“The problem is, too often people share their feelings as a form of blame. You’re far less likely to receive a defensive response and far more likely to resolve conflict when your intent is to learn rather than to attack and blame.”
Before you bring something up, check the intentions behind the words. You might be surprised by how many arguments you prevent.
“Never go to bed angry.”
Disagreements are a natural reaction to two people—coming from different backgrounds, personalities, and beliefs—joining their lives into one. And some people will tell you to solve the issue right then and there, regardless of how late it is. Dr. Bola Ovenipo, a family physician, says otherwise:
“A lot of times we need a timeout from heated arguments when both parties are irrational, unyielding and tempers are fiery. Sleep helps us decompress, and often times we would wake up with better insights and even feel consolatory towards our partner.”
If something is bothering you to no end, be sure to stop and think about your body. Feel hungry or tired? These base irritations will mix with the problem and, like yeast in water, expand it into something unforeseen.
Taking a timeout to sleep, eat, or even go for a walk can satisfy those irritations and help you focus on the real issue. Perhaps the break will offer new perspective, enough to realize there’s nothing worth fighting over anymore.
“Only newlyweds have sex.”
“It gets under my skin when people say married people don’t have sex,” says Carly Spindel, dating and relationship expert:
“I know tons of married people that don’t ever have sex and of course, tons that do. Don’t believe this advice. Many couples say it’s something they do before they go to bed every night, just like brushing their teeth.”
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing—that your sex life is just as wild and fun as the first months of marriage, or your sex life is an obligation, a chore, or nearly extinct.
You can still feel like sex is an important part of your relationship without the hype of lingerie or scented candles. Instead, take on a more lighthearted perspective. Surely you’ve realized your relationship isn’t perfect, and you’ve hopefully also realized that it doesn’t need to be. Intimacy falls under the same category.
Don’t wait for more time, the right ambiance, or even a romantic mood. You could be waiting for a long time. Establish a mutual agreement between you and your spouse that sex is an important part of your relationship, regardless of how long you’ve been married.
“Always buy gifts for special occasions.”
It’s that time again: Valentines, Anniversaries, Birthdays… and with it the obligation to bring home something fancy for your spouse. What if gifts really mean a lot to you? Great. But what if they don’t? There are other ways to show your feelings that don’t involve a heart-shaped box of chocolates.
If symbolism is what you’re going for, think of how quickly flowers wilt, or chocolates digest, or balloons pop. Isn’t there something more valuable that will endure forever? No, I don’t mean a diamond necklace or expensive watch, although those can be nice. Read what Eva Glasrud, psychologist at The Happy Talent, has to say about gifts that last:
“New research shows that money can buy happiness — if you spend it on experiences (a weekend getaway, perhaps — or an acrobatics or metal working class together) rather than things (jewelry, flowers). And decades of research show that couples that play together, stay together.”
And finally, the common phrase that’s less romantic than it sounds…
“You were made for each other.”
Ever heard you need to find someone who completes you? That special person who makes you feel alive again, whole again, new again?
But if you’re looking for your other half, doesn’t that make you an incomplete person? Ashleigh Slater, relationship columnist and author of Team Us: Marriage Together, shares how dangerous this philosophy can be:
“To me, one of the most irksome pieces of relationship advice is that there’s a ‘soulmate’ out there for each of us […] A great relationship isn’t an effortless thing. Rather, it’s something that’s built over time. It takes work. When we experience disconnected moments in our relationships, this idea can leave us in deep discontentment, wondering if maybe we married the wrong person and perhaps our soulmate is still out there. The thing is, in marriage, your mate has become your soulmate — imperfections, disconnected moments, and all. Period. End of story.”
Instead of seeing your spouse as a completion—your other 50 percent—strive to bring your whole heart, energy, and soul into the relationship. There’s a good chance your spouse will join you in your efforts. Now you’ll have 200 percent, not 100 percent, invested in your marriage.
It’s up to us…
Remember that every relationship is different and unique, including your own. So next time you’re told some piece of marriage advice that is claimed to be “one size fits all,” stop and decide if it’s the kind of advice you want to follow, or the kind you politely ignore.
After all, your relationship belongs to you and your spouse. Figure things out together and form your own opinions. Your love will endure the differences, growing and maturing as humans do because love is not something we fall into; it’s something we choose.
What marriage advice have you received before? Did you recognize any of the ones here? Please visit our site and join in the conversation about what does and doesn’t work in your relationship. Our mission is to help, and be helped, as we strive to improve the quality of marriages everywhere.