Marriage is hard work. If you’ve been married for any amount of time, you’ll agree with this statement wholeheartedly. We are fed unrealistic ideas about marriage and happiness in marriage via romantic movies and hashtags like “couple goals/relationship goals”. What does that mean anyway? How can one relationship even attempt to be like another when all of us are so entirely different from each other in every imaginable way? This, however, is a rant for another time.
In this article, I’m going to address some extremely unhelpful assumptions we may have about marriage. To be honest, we have all been guilty of these thoughts at some point; the intention is that if we recognize our tendency to have these thoughts, we can stop, call out our own destructive thought patterns, and work towards a more balanced approach regarding our relationships.
Before we consider the assumptions, we need to discuss why these assumptions are unhelpful. As with any unrealistic goal, having such assumptions is a recipe for disappointment.
Constant disappointment builds a pressure cooker-like situation in us - we maintain imaginary benchmarks for our relationships and when we fall short, the pressure keeps building.
Like a pressure cooker that releases steam, we have explosions in our relationships: small ones over messy habits or toothpaste choices to big ones over being hurt, feeling vulnerable or feeling misunderstood. We explode at each other in anger, irritation, withdrawing emotionally or being passive-aggressive. All this leads us to wonder - did I marry the right person? We feel dissatisfied in our marriages and begin to believe that maybe there is someone else out there who will meet all our needs. Do you now see why having unhelpful assumptions can be so destructive in a marriage? So let’s look at them.
Assumption 1: If I marry the right person, we will never fight; fighting is a sign that the marriage doesn’t work.
Fighting with your spouse is normal, healthy, and necessary even. We didn’t marry our clone (thank heaven for that!). We married a person who has had a different upbringing, different perspectives, and different values. We now live with them—in close proximity—all the time! So definitely, there is going to be some friction and differences of opinion.
Having said that, let me insert a note of caution. The pre-eminent researchers on couples, John and Julie Gottman, say that how often one fights is not a determinant in the success of a marriage. Rather, it is how one fights. Respect is the defining variable. Here are some helpful tips to remember to fight effectively:
The 10 ‘o’clock rule: Nothing good ever comes out of discussing contentious issues late at night. Be aware that you are heading into an argument and circumvent it by saying that you can discuss it the next day or when both partners are more relaxed.
Address the issue and resist the temptation to widen the argument: When we are fighting, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and bring up everything that has been irritating us about our spouse. However, that will only escalate the argument and force our partner to become defensive where they are keener on defending themselves rather than listening to what is bothering you in the first place.
LISTEN: God gave us two ears and only one mouth so we need to learn to listen (effectively and patiently) twice as much as we talk. Sometimes all our spouse needs from us is a listening ear and an acknowledgement that you have understood what they have said.
Avoid the words “always” and “never”: “You never spend time with me” and “You always come home late” - this is guaranteed to escalate an argument. Saying “always’ and “never” essentially negates all the times your spouse has spent time with you or has come home early.
Make-up and forgive: Arguments are pointless if the issue is not resolved. Even if the issue is not fully resolved at that moment we need to reassure each other of our love and commitment, ask for forgiveness, and be willing to forgive our spouse.
No abuse allowed: We began by talking about respect; if we respect our spouse we will not inflict any verbal, emotional, or physical abuse on them. Abuse of any sort is extremely serious and if this occurs in your relationship, please speak out and seek help. Abuse is not normal and is unacceptable.
Assumption 2: Marriage will fulfil me in every way.
No human being can fulfil you completely; believing that places an unimaginable burden on the relationship and your spouse. This thought pattern also leads to people perceiving marriage as a goal or an achievement.
Marriage is the beginning of a long journey not a destination in itself.
When we come to realize that our spouse is as clueless as we are, we start to doubt the marriage itself. “Isn’t my spouse supposed to understand me better”, and “Why I am not still attracted to my spouse?” - thus many little doubts begin to creep in.
Understanding that your spouse isn’t Mr/Ms Perfect and cannot read your thoughts to understand what you are feeling or needing, goes a long way in reducing the pressure we put on our marriages.
Some ideas to consider:
Stop comparing your marriage and your spouse to other marriages and other people’s spouses: No marriage is alike so it’s extremely unhelpful to compare. Rather than compare, address issues together and come to a united conclusion.
Be willing to talk and be open to listening: You cannot expect your spouse to read your thoughts; it’s beneficial to choose a relaxed moment and talk about what you want and where there can be some improvement. Requesting change is helpful but demanding change is harmful.
Assumption 3: I will never be lonely once I get married.
People who choose to get married because they are lonely are already putting a lot of pressure on their marriage.
Marriage is synonymous with companionship and friendship, but there are seasons in every marriage - seasons of closeness and intimacy and seasons of distance and disconnectedness.
You may also feel lonely since your spouse, however much they may love you, cannot feel what you feeling to the extent that you are feeling it. Living with another person does not ensure connectedness. This brings me to the next assumption,
Assumption 4: If I have married the right person, marriage should be easy.
This connectedness isn’t easy, it takes time and effort. It sometimes has to be forced. We all fall into ruts and all marriages need nurturing.
We need to keep dating each other and I’ve written more in detail here: https://www.beginagainindia.com/post/5-reasons-why-you-need-to-keep-dating-your-spouse We need to talk to each other politely and respectfully, continue dating each other, set aside time to spend exclusively with each other, stop taking each other for granted, and above all be kind to each other. None of these is easy - successful marriages take effort. But the payoff is amazing!
Currently, there is a lot of societal pressure for marriages to appear perfect, and sometimes issues seem to overwhelm us and we don’t know where to begin fixing our marriage. There is help! Marriage counselling can be a great way to take a step back from all the issues and rediscover each other. You can read more about couples counselling here: https://www.beginagainindia.com/post/what-is-couples-counseling-and-how-does-it-work There are many myths about counselling and I have addressed 5 of the most common ones in this article https://www.beginagainindia.com/post/5-myths-about-counselling-busted
If you feel there is an issue in your marriage speak out and get help. You can book a couples session here: https://www.beginagainindia.com/book-online