Marriage is a big decision. Couples choose marriage for a variety of reasons — they love their partner, are committed to companionship, and want to formally enter into an exclusive relationship that will last forever.
So, it’s no surprise that couples will often seek marriage advice in an effort to avoid conflict and achieve a lasting relationship.
Marital advice can be helpful… unless you get bad advice.
Here are 8 pieces of bad marriage advice that you need to ignore if you want to be happily married.
1. Marriage is easy if you’re truly in love.
This advice sets you up to question everything. Once you experience an inevitable conflict or difficult situation, you will ask, “Did I fool myself?”, “Is this person really the love of my life?” or even “Did I make the right decision?”
If you start out expecting marriage to be easy, you will waste a lot of energy asking the wrong questions. Instead, communicate with your spouse and ask the right questions. Seek to understand the gain insight into how your spouse perceives the situation.
Healthy relationships allow each partner to share their perspective, think about the other’s position, and freely change or maintain their views.
In a bad marriage, the conversation is lopsided, if there’s a conversation at all. One person is pressured, manipulated, and influenced to agree with the other, regardless of what they think.
2. Common interests will keep you happy while differences will tear you apart.
Sure, it’s nice to share similar interests with your partner. Without things in common, you would not be attracted in the first place.
However, too much sameness may become predictable and boring. Couples who are interested in different things can share their interest with each other, providing an opportunity to listen, learn, teach and explore the new experience.
Even if your spouse is not interested in participating in your new endeavor, they can still support and appreciate your opportunity. Don’t be afraid to run out of new common interests. Committed couples who share a life tend to develop new common interests all the time. Differences help couples avoid the ‘rut’ and keep life exciting.
3. Have sex every day.
Every day? For most, this advice is unsustainable. Most couples do not have sex every day. Work and family obligations may not afford them the “alone” time they need. Sexual frequency also decreases with age.
A study with 1,170 participants asked couples to complete a sexual frequency survey and then repeat the survey ten years later. Findings identify that 34 percent of the couples engaged in sex two to three times a week, 45 percent reported engaging a few times a month, and 13 percent had sex a few times a year.
Ten years later, sexual frequency for these couples decreased over time. Having sex every day will not save your marriage or increase feelings of passion or romance. Striving to meet this unattainable goal will ultimately end in failure. Instead, talk with your spouse about their expectations. Spend time alone because you want to, not because you are obligated.
Don’t turn sex into a dreaded chore. Keep it fun!
4. If the marriage doesn’t work, get divorced.
Marriage is not “just a piece of paper” intended to be a time-limited contractual deal. In fact, it’s just the opposite. For example, Christians see marriage as a public announcement of commitment before God that they will love each other.
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, your definition of marriage matters. If you choose to marry, ask your partner, “What does this piece of paper mean to you?” This is an important question. The answer defines your meaning of marriage.
If marriage is more than “a piece of paper” and is defined as a life-long commitment, you will work together to love, cherish, and respect the bond you share.
If marriage is “just a piece of paper,” then your marriage may be disposable and, eventually, meaningless.
5. If your marriage is “going south,” have a baby to keep it together.
Having children doesn’t keep a marriage in turmoil from collapsing. Research finds that adding children to the equation increases stress and decreases marital satisfaction for all couples.
This is not to discourage couples from having children, but rather, to highlight that children come with many changes that are inherently accompanied by stress.
Couples with children typically experience less alone time and more financial stress. They may struggle with re-balancing their work, social, family, and sleep schedules to accommodate the needs of their children. And, if your child has a medical illness or disability, more stress is piled on top of that.
For couples who struggle with communication, commitment, trust, infidelity, and a whole host of unresolved challenges, adding children to the mix can escalate marriage problems and completely shatter the already weak foundation.
Consider marital counseling to build back the foundation you need if you decide to add children.
6. No marriage can survive without sex.
Although sexless marriages are in the minority, many still survive. Marriages can thrive if both people are not bothered by the lack of sex. However, when one partner is feeling ignored, neglected, frustrated and longing for the companionship they expected, conflict about their sexless marriage can prevail.
Communicating about how to navigate this dilemma is key. Research on sexless marriages finds that couples who rank high in communal strength can work it out.
Partners high in communal strength see their marriage as a joint endeavor. They are motivated and willing to meet their partner’s needs, even if their own desire for sex is low. These couples report greater marital satisfaction.
7. Stay together, no matter what.
What if your spouse is controlling, manipulative, and dismissive? This rejects the idea of an equal partnership. If you feel punished, emotionally tormented, or physically afraid of your spouse, tell someone.
Based on limited available research about intimate partner violence (IPV) during the COVID-19 pandemic, violence seems to have increased in frequency and intensity.
Radiologic findings of patients who reported physical abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic were compared with radiologic findings of physical abuse from three years earlier in 2017.
When comparing the subject groups, researchers identified 28 deep injuries in 2020 as compared with 16 deep injuries in 2017, indicating that incidences of IPV were higher and that victims of physical abuse stayed in the cycle of violence for a longer period of time.
Staying married because “you made the commitment” allows the cycle of abuse to perpetuate — the abused remains isolated while the abuser continues abusing.
Tell someone. Call a hotline. Ask for help if you experience domestic violence, defined as “a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner.”
A bad marriage can not only ruin your life — it can kill you.
Splitting marital responsibilities 50/50 is impossible and promotes the unproductive game of keeping score. When the score becomes lopsided, resentment is projected toward the spouse perceived as not pulling their weight.
Traditionally, the wife was expected to care for children, organize every aspect of school, medical appointments, and social needs while doing all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. The husband’s accepted role was to provide financially for the home.
Then the roles changed.
Why so little? Research found that men tend to devalue “unpaid labor” and, as a result, do less in the home, regardless if their wife is working or not. The solution is not to divide responsibilities 50/50, but rather to negotiate together about how tasks will get done.
Negotiate a reasonable plan for how things can be done. Split chores up as fairly as possible and hire help if you can afford it. Whatever you decide, decide together.
Carry this list of bad marriage advice with you and build on it as you experience the challenges and treasures of your marriage.
I published this article originally on YourTango.com and I’m happy to share it with you here as well. If you’re struggling as a parent, with your roles and responsibilities or simply feeling overloaded caring too much for others, I can help. My book The New Normal: 7 Things to Know as You Care for & Love a Child with Special Needs is on Amazon or you can reach out to me here.