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5 Myths Which Could Hurt Your Marriage
By Nancy Wasson ©
Many people have grown up with misconceptions of what it takes to make a marriage work. The following five incorrect beliefs can damage your marriage.
Myth 1: Your spouse should automatically know what you need and want.
This is a prevalent myth among many spouses who believe that if a partner really loves them, the partner should instinctively and intuitively know what their needs and wants are. And, of course, that the partner should take immediate action to satisfy them. Hurt feelings and anger accumulates when the partner doesn't figure out without being told what is expected of him (of her).
The following series of boxes give examples of myths in a marriage:
Traci was really tired when she finally got home late from a long day in the office. She was looking forward to spending some time with her husband Alex to get some sympathy, cuddling, and nurturing-and perhaps a back rub or a foot massage too. Alex, on the other hand, was clueless about Traci's expectations and after greeting her, went back to watching a football game on TV.
Alex didn't realize there was a problem. He thought that he was being helpful by giving Traci time and space to wind down after a long day. Traci found herself fuming as the rest of the evening progressed but she didn't say anything because she didn't want Alex to spend time with her if he didn't really want to. In her mind, whatever efforts he might make to nurture her wouldn't count if he didn't think of it himself.
Healthier Approach: Share your needs and wants directly with your spouse. Don't make her (or him) second guess you or try to read your mind. Practice speaking up and saying "I've had a grueling day and really need a back rub. Could you give me one?"
Myth 2: If your spouse would change his (or her) behavior, you'd be happy and you could have a happy marriage.
This premise of this myth is that a spouse has to change before the partner can be happy and enjoy a happy marriage. It sounds simple enough. When the other person gets it together to become healthier and to change, then the marriage will improve by leaps and bounds.
In the meantime, the partner can only wait and hope that one day the spouse will "see the light." This, of course, puts the partner in the role of helpless victim whose very happiness depends on what the spouse decides to do. His (or her) present and future happiness is in the hands of the spouse.
Buying into this myth lets the partner off the hot seat so that he (or she) doesn't have to actually do anything except blame the spouse and wait to see if she changes. It's a passive role that lets the partner sit back and avoid the challenge of working on himself (or herself).
Alex was getting irritated with Traci coming home late every evening from work. She said that she had to get a big project done, but Alex couldn't help thinking that she could leave earlier if she really wanted to.
They used to meet at the gym after work to work out together, but now Alex found himself working out alone with increasing anger. He started blaming Traci for his unhappiness and for the stress her overtime at work was putting on the marriage. "If she would just come home on time, we could be happy again," he thought.
Healthier Approach: Make a commitment to being happy whether or not your spouse ever changes. After all, you can't give what you don't have inside, so if you're not happy yourself, you can't create a happy marriage. Work on changing yourself to be the kind of partner you wish you had.
Myth 3: You should always put your spouse's needs first to be a good partner.
The word "should" is often a red flag that indicates problems ahead. Who said that you "should" always put your partner's needs first? Someone who told you that you'd be considered selfish if you didn't? Someone who wanted you to feel guilty if you didn't accept their viewpoint?
In reality, it's not healthy to always put other people's needs before your own-no matter who the other person is. Doing so indicates a lack of respect for yourself, your time, your needs, and your goals.
You can value your own needs without being selfish or overbearing. Many times spouses can find a creative way to meet the needs of both of them if they spend some time brainstorming and problem solving. But that won't happen if one spouse automatically devalues her (or his) needs and goes along with whatever the partner proposes.
Traci always let Alex play golf with his friends on Saturdays while she stayed with their one-year-old daughter. Even though there were things she'd been wanting to do for months in what little free time she had, she always thought she was doing the right thing to suppress her own needs in favor of letting Alex enjoy himself.
Finally, after months of denying herself, she finally had enough. She blew up at Alex at a seemingly insignificant provocation. She accused him of being selfish in always playing golf while she stayed at home. Alex was baffled. Traci had never hinted that there was a problem.
Healthier Approach: Show respect for yourself by valuing yourself and your needs and preferences. Become more aware of when you treat your partner's needs as more important than your own. Marriage is about compromise and both people getting their needs met at least part of the time. If you don't value yourself, others won't, either.
Myth 4: Your spouse should always contribute 50% to the marriage.
It sounds good in theory, but in reality marriage hardly ever turns out to be as neatly divided as this myth implies. Over time, there should be some balance of sorts, but the effort and time expended by each partner may never be completely equal.
There are many times when one spouse or the other carries most of the load or makes most of the effort in a marriage. Perhaps one spouse works out of town during the week or is clinically depressed. A spouse may be chronically ill, in physical pain, or busy pursuing a college degree. Or one spouse may handle the majority of the child care.
In these cases, the spouse who is keeping the marriage going may be contributing 80% to the marriage while the partner weighs in at only 20%. In time, the balance may shift in other ways to even out the load more, or the partners may exchange places. Instead of trying to keep everything equal on a daily basis, look at the overview and focus on the bigger picture.
Traci felt guilty when she decided to take college classes two nights a week after work. She knew that this meant Alex had to carry a heavier load of chores, housework, and errands while she studied and attended classes. While Alex was supportive and didn't complain, Traci knew that he was giving more of himself to keep the marriage going than she was.
Five years later, Alex decided he wanted to change jobs and accept a more challenging, better-paying position that required him to travel during the week. All of a sudden, Traci found herself giving much more time and energy than Alex to keeping the marital relationship going. She remembered Alex's support of her when she was pursuing her college degree and was glad to be able to give to him in return.
Healthier Approach: Think in terms of giving a 100% effort to your marriage when needed. If both you and your spouse are each giving 100%, then you'll be in a positive place to handle the extra stress that problems and unforeseen challenges can bring.
Myth 5: Your goal is to have a peaceful marriage with as few disagreements as possible.
Over the years, I have heard many couples brag that they never fight and hardly ever argue. When this happens, I know that most likely one spouse or the other has been trying to keep accumulated anger, frustration, and resentment in an emotional "closet" with the door shut. This only works for so long and then the closet door bursts open and all the heightened emotions spill out to contaminate the marital relationship.
The goal is not to have a marriage with no arguments or disagreements. The goal is to find a way to disagree without being disagreeable or disrespectful to each other. When anger and resentments are buried in a relationship, the passion is also snuffed out in the emotional debris.
Some lukewarm marriages could benefit from more open disagreements, heated arguments, and strongly stated viewpoints and opinions. At least then the partners would be both engaged in the relationship instead of letting it silently die off.
Alex had been brought up in a family that avoided confrontations. He decided early on in his marriage to Traci that he didn't want a marriage filled with conflict and arguments. When Traci felt strongly about something, Alex would generally just go along with her to keep the peace, even if he didn't really want to.
He hesitated to rock the boat by disagreeing and almost always hid his true feelings from Traci. Their friends all remarked about how well Alex and Traci always got along, and Alex and Traci enjoyed telling others that they never argued or disagreed. The marriage was calm and peaceful, but the passion gradually faded away and left a feeling of blandness and emptiness behind.
Healthier Approach: Make a commitment to express your real opinions, needs, and preferences to your spouse. If you are afraid of your spouse's anger, schedule a counseling session to discuss your concerns with a therapist present to mediate. You may need to develop a set of "fair fighting rules" with the help of the counselor in order to feel safe in speaking up at home.
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Posted by Jessica Watts at 1:01 PM