Lots of people believe a lot of dumb things about marriage!
I’m in the middle of moving our site to our new Bare Marriage domain (we should be up and running by the end of the month!), and we’re only taking posts from 2018 and forward with us, leaving over 1000 posts behind.
So I’ve been combing the archives seeing if there are any older ones I’d like to save, and for July I’ll be tweaking them and rerunning them! Here’s one I originally wrote in 2017. Back then I had 13 things rather than 11, but i decided to leave 2 out of the rewrite! 🙂
I asked on Facebook, “what are some dumb things people believe about marriage?”, and tons of you replied! (Thank you so much! It makes it much easier to write my posts when you all give me the ideas! 🙂 ). Think of this post, then, as a collaborative effort between all of you and me.
11 Dumb Things Smart People Believe about Marriage:
1. Marriage is a lot of hard work
We hear tons of pessimistic statements about marriage out there that talk about it as if it’s always going to be one hard slog that you have to get used to. But that’s not necessarily true. One woman said:
I’ve been married 12 years, and people don’t believe me when I say it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I definitely don’t fit the “marriage is hard” crowd. Of course we fight and argue, but so did I with my sisters growing up, but do you ever hear “being a sibling is so hard. It takes a lot of work.” No, you don’t. Don’t let what others say keep you from wanting to get married. It’s mostly fun!
What I found is that marriage WAS hard work at the beginning, because you had to get used to new habits. But once those habits become natural, it can stop being hard work. That doesn’t mean that for everyone marriage feels fun and easy; some people are married to those with difficult personalities. But on the whole, if we each put in effort to learn new habits, marriage can be amazing!
2. Marriage shouldn’t be any work
While lots of people believe that marriage will always be work, some believe it shouldn’t feel like work, or else it’s not real love. One woman wrote:
People believe that the honey moon never ends. My niece thinks is should always be gifts flowers no arguments and telling her how great she is, she refuses to believe that is a fantastic lie.
The key to marriage eventually feeling easy is learning how to think of the other person until it becomes natural. Here’s how one woman summed it up:
I’ve been married 21 years. It’s not hard…life is so much better and so much easier being married than it was being single (and I thought single life was good). With that said …no taking for granted. Say thank you, please, I love you. Ask yourself what can you do to make your spouse’s life better today…and do it.
Exactly! And that shouldn’t feel like work. If simply doing kind things for your spouse feels like work, the issue is not with marriage. The issue is with selfishness.
(Now, if you have a big problem you’re working through, that’s different. But on the whole, thinking of someone else shouldn’t be work! If you find, however, that you are consistently thinking of your spouse and they are never returning the favour, or you are putting all the work into the marriage and they are putting in very little, that’s something that should be addressed. Marriage should make you better people; if one spouse is sliding through, that’s a red flag.)
3. Marriage is all downhill from here
This was a common response! One woman wrote:
Some seem to believe that every marriage is brutal work, full of selfishness, bickering and serious sex issues.
Yep. Not only is marriage a ton of work, but it’s also miserable.
People believe that the longer you’re married the more problems you have or the farther apart you’ll be. Friends have asked me if we have a lot of arguments yet. I said we didn’t, and their reply is, “Just wait! That time will come!”
Actually, in the surveys I did for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that in the sex department, at least, the best years in marriage are 16-24. They’re long after the honeymoon years; long after the kids are all sleeping through the night. It’s after you’ve spent a decade and a half with this man, and you’re able to be super vulnerable. And that’s when things often start to really work!
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4. There’s only one correct way to divide up the chores and the work
We are all different personalities, with different giftings. We all have different callings on our lives. And so it’s hardly surprising that families will look different.
However, we have this idea that marriage should only be done one way. Maybe all wives should be stay at home moms–and stay at home moms should also do all of the housework. Maybe people believe that all wives should work. Or maybe we believe that the husband must always earn the majority of the income, or that housework must always be split 50/50.
When we try to chase after a certain model of marriage rather than trying to figure out what our particular partnership will look like, we inevitably feel resentment, because we’re trying to fit into a mold that perhaps wasn’t meant for us.
The key thing is not who does what, but that you both share the combined load. No one person should be working harder than another, and no one person should have way more leisure time and freedom than the other (with the exception, of course, of certain jobs which may keep someone away from home for months at a time, leaving them with little freedom!). Split the mental load and the labor--whatever that looks like for you.
5. Women must empower men to make all the decisions
That’s another huge belief that kept popping up! People believe that submission in marriage means that his desires matter while hers don’t (Hint: the belief that her feelings don’t matter will doom a marriage).
I came into marriage having been taught to submit in every way to my husband. I was so paranoid of getting out of my place that I didn’t even want to give him my opinion on which restaurant to choose when we went out to eat. It didn’t take long for me to discover he didn’t want a cheerfully smiling puppet. He wanted a WOMAN and teammate!
And what happens if women do disregard their feelings and only care about men’s? It’s like this attitude:
Whatever your husbands asks for ( sexually or any other way ), he shall get it. So I’ve seen many marriages falling apart because of this “commandment”.
The key to loving someone is wanting the best for them. What is best is that people learn to compromise and to love. If someone is learning that their feelings are the only ones that matter, then they will not be loving. They can easily become cruel. A great marriage needs two people who learn to love and cherish each other. If we make our life about primarily doing whatever a spouse wants, without consideration of the impact of that on others or on the kingdom, that’s not loving. That’s idolatry.
6. Men need mostly respect while women need mostly love
Similarly, this one was mentioned a number of times. The truth is that you cannot have respect without love, and you cannot have love without respect, and for most people, they are interchangeable.
There’s a more fundamental problem with this belief system, though, in that it can make women responsible for how men feel and act. If he is angry, it’s because she’s not respecting him. If he is weak, it’s because she’s not respecting him. And if he does anything wrong that requires confrontation–well, she can’t do that because that wouldn’t be respectful.
As I explained in my post about why the concept of unconditional respect in Love & Respect doesn’t work, there is such a thing as “tough love”. If someone is acting badly, you can enact boundaries and still be loving, because it is not loving to enable someone to continue in sin. However, there is no equivalent of “tough respect”. So while a husband can deal with a wife who is damaging the marriage, a woman has no way of dealing with a husband who is damaging the marriage. And that’s not safe.
How about this? Let’s both love and respect each other. That will give us a great marriage!
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7. Marriage will change him into a good person
Marriage does not make everything better; marriage actually exacerbates any problems that are already there, because now the person doesn’t have to impress you anymore. And as you live day in and day out together, the little things will start to add up.
8. As long as you marry a Christian, the marriage will be fine
That being said, both of you being Christian is not a panacea for all problems. One woman said the biggest myth is this:
People believe that ‘compatibility’ is a myth, and as long as you’re both Christian everything will be hunky-dory. Yeah, if you’re 100% committed to making a long term relationship work with someone who it will be a constant struggle to live with it *is* possible, but why would you choose that from the start? Maybe I’m underselling myself but if our baseline wasn’t *easy* I don’t know how we would have gotten through the tough times.
I agree! And our idea of what a “Christian” is can be warped, too. If someone isn’t demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit, even if they can quote Scripture, they likely aren’t a good spouse. Yes, choose a believer–but make sure that believer is someone who is easy to be with because you both care for and are kind to one another.
Just because someone says he is a Christian doesn’t mean he is one!
9. Kids will make the marriage worse.
Kids make LIFE harder. You get less sleep. You have less disposable income. You have less free time. Kids can have their own unique health challenges or other challenges that bring stress to a marriage. Absolutely.
But kids can also be something that bond you together like nothing else! And kids don’t have to rob you of romance. We have so many great memories of bike rides as a family after dinner. Sure, we may not have had as much one on one time, but we had great time as a family that made Keith and me feel closer anyway.
10. Don’t go to bed mad!
The Bible does say we aren’t to let the sun go down on your anger. But if you’re up at 2:00 a.m. fighting, the sun has already gone down. Maybe it’s better to get some sleep so you have a clear head in the morning!
I used to believe this. It took me many years to realise that sometimes my husband needs to go into his cave (metaphorically speaking) for his anger/hurt/frustration to subside and only then can we work through whatever particular issue we are having at that time.
Decide that this issue isn’t bigger than your marriage, and certainly make a commitment to revisit it. But not everything has to be solved before you go to sleep!
11. Divorce is never, ever an option
Yes, marriage is sacred. But God does not love the marriage more than the people in the marriage. And sometimes marriages do have to end.
Some things are unforgivable and a total deal breaker. Sometimes you must leave to save yourself.
More on when divorce may be necessary here.
But I want to end on a lighthearted note, with this one.
That your wife won’t throw cold water on you in the shower. Love being married. Never a dull moment.
Love that! And I hope you all can find joy in marriage, too–and avoid the mistakes that can cause marriage to falter.
Did I miss any? What would be #12? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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