12 Lies About Marriage That May Surprise You

1. Marriage is about Love. It’s Not a Legal Document.

Ok. At Couples Therapy Inc. we like love too.

But of all these 12 lies about marriage, this one, in particular, needs a second look. This is perhaps one of the most stubbornly popular lies about marriage.

It has become politically incorrect to emphasize the word “marriage.”

Some therapists tell me that they fear that using the word marriage will make their unmarried clients needlessly “uncomfortable.” Many therapists prefer to use the neutral phrase “in a relationship.” They treat intimate relationships at various levels of commitment as if they were are all the same. The research suggests that they are not.

Love and Marriage (I’m including civil unions here too) are the building blocks of civilization. Research has indicated that marriage is a significant fountainhead of health, wealth, happiness and even longevity. Most importantly, a successful marriage is a key factor for the mental health and emotional happiness for future generations.

2.  I Live Alone. So Does My Girlfriend. But We’re Kinda Committed to Each Other. It’s the Same Thing as Being Married …Right?

No, it’s not. Strange as it may seem, unmarried couples are less prosperous and less healthy. They tend to die at an earlier age (especially men) and take longer to bounce back from being ill than people who are married. As I mentioned earlier, one of the most popular lies about marriage is that marriage itself isn’t all that important. Research has suggested that men, in particular, significantly benefit from marriage because they tend not to do well on their own. Commitment is healthy and healing.

3. Conflict is a Clear Sign that You’re in a Bad Relationship.

Get used to it. Sooner or later conflict visits all relationships. Conflict is not only unavoidable; it is an incredibly useful and essential pathway to a better understanding of our partners as well as ourselves. Conflict is an opportunity to have a perfect learning experience. Our efforts to understand and be known often opens the door to marital conflict. Disagreements should not be avoided. They should be used skillfully to deepen the connection.

lies about marriage are harmful

4. We’re in Love. That’s All We Need… Right?

The Beatles were not couples therapists. Love is not all you need.

Not by a long shot.

Sex, romance, and connection can often sink beneath the weight of children, chores, career concerns, and superficial chatter.  As you move through time together, you need to prioritize a sacred space that is exclusive yours, honoring and deepening your intimate bond on a regular basis.

Love does not conquer all. If you don’t carve out time for your relationship, it may suffer a death of a thousand cuts.

5.  Stop Dwelling on Past Injuries… Just Get Over It.

If you harbor old resentments, therapy might be a good place to start unpacking and airing out old grievances. Don’t tuck your resentments away for safe keeping. You can both move past old emotional wounds. The past is immutable, but your understanding of it, and the meaning you make of it, can begin to shift into a healing and forgiving space. In order to get over something, you may benefit from discussing it in therapy.

6. The Best Marriages are Between Strong and Independent People Who Take Care of Themselves.

Nope. Interdependence is what truly preserves and enhances intimate bonds. The best marriages are couples who have a deep abiding friendship and attend to each other’s needs on a regular basis.

7. If it’s Too Hard to Talk… Well, Then You Just Aren’t Compatible.

One of the most common lies about marriage is this issue of compatibility. Communication is like a muscle. Use it or lose it. The good news is that marital communication is a proven and very teachable skill. It has nothing to do with compatibility.

8. If a Relationship is So Bad that You Need Therapy, It’s Already Too Late.

Here is another one of the lies about marriage that keeps many couples from getting the help they need. It’s a solemn fact that in the US, couples struggle for an average of six and a half years before entering therapy! But despite that reality, science-based couples therapy is still 70-90% effective for most couples.

The unfortunate truth is that fewer than 10% of divorcing couples even attempt couples therapy. Unfortunately, many couples who do enter couples therapy employ an all-purpose therapist. Find a Couples Therapist with advanced science-based training. It can make a huge difference for you and your family.

9. Couples Fight about Important Stuff… like Conflicting Values, Sex, or Money.

Couples fight most about one thing….absolutely nothing! Most fights are all too familiar “demon dances.” They’re about the pain that comes from disconnection and emotional isolation.  At these critical moments, couples who have learned to turn towards each other, instead of away, enjoy the happiest outcomes.

10. Once you Figure Out What the Fight’s About, You can Usually Fix It. Fights are Fixable… Right?

Most couples I work with are shocked to learn that 69% of marital conflict is perpetual. It is fundamentally unfixable. Perpetual problems stem from deep fundamental differences between partners.

However, happy couples understand, accept and even appreciate their differences. They manage their “perpetual problems” by constantly turning toward each other and working through them with love, respect, and a robust sense of humor. John Gottman’s research tells us that perpetual problems may be fundamentally unsolvable, but with skill, they are often quite manageable.

11. Compatibility is the Thing. If you aren’t Compatible, it’s Not Going to Work.

Wait a minute. Aren’t we often first attracted to our partners because of how different they are from us?

Differences can be profoundly sexy!

The famous T-shirt study by Claus Wedekind demonstrated that the pheromones we find most sexy are from people who are significantly more genetically different from us. Nature loves variety!

What people usually mean by “compatibility” is their deep desire for a partner who is thoughtful and careful with their tender and vulnerable feelings. The ability to turn toward a partner and demonstrate a deep interest in understanding a conflicting point of view can be highly desirable….but it is not “compatibility.”

12. If It Doesn’t Work Out, Divorce is No Big Deal. My Parents Divorced.. and I Turned out Just Fine.

One of the most uncomfortable lies about marriage is that the impact of divorce on children is negligible. The idea that divorce is no big deal to kids is one of the most destructive lies about marriage.

Research shows that children of divorce tend to have more emotional problems throughout their lives. They are even less likely to finish college. And they’re much more likely to re-create the same unhappy patterns from their family of origin in their own marriages.

Gottman says that the most precious gift a parent can ever give a child is a happy and intact family.

Teach your children well by getting the help you need.

Your joy or misery will echo through time because you and your partner are teaching your kids what it means to be an intimate partner every day. While it’s true that fighting in front of the kids can be very damaging, so is a needless divorce.

Show your kids that intimate partners aren’t disposable and that marital happiness is worth the effort.

About the Author Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.

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