“Myths which are believed in tend to become true.” — George Orwell
“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” — Bible
Tom and Tanya were celebrating their third wedding anniversary – in separate rooms. They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. Tom had expected Tanya to take care of all the household duties, cooking, cleaning, etc. His responsibility was the outside.
Tanya, on the other hand, came from a family where all responsibilities were shared between her mother and father. In fact, her father was a great cook and often handled all the cooking responsibilities.
In addition to all the above, Tom and Tanya had come to the rude awareness that their spouse was not perfect. Not only did they mess up, but they often came up with some crazy rationale (at least their partner considered it so) to justify their behavior.
Could it be that they had married someone who would never be able to make them happy?
Dr. Norman Wright, in his book “The Marriage Checkup,” summarizes research dispelling some beliefs often referred to as “conventional wisdom.”
Dr. Wright calls these beliefs “marital myths,” or M&Ms.
The first M&M, as you might suspect, is that the person you marry has a great deal to do with the happiness you experience in marriage. Actually, marital happiness depends primarily on how well you handle the differences between the two of you.
We are all unique. God made us that way, and he “don't make no mistakes.”
If nothing else, the uniqueness makes life very exciting. And, even more important, we are able to complement each other, with one person's strengths balancing another person's weaknesses.
The problem occurs when we look at those differences as deficiencies, leading to conflict. Whether we married the right person is usually up to us and how we handle the differences we soon discover. Are we distraught or delighted?
As the story goes, one husband expressed his frustration to his wife by saying, “Mary, you're not the woman I thought I married.” With a slight smile, Mary replies, “I never was the woman you thought you married.”
A corollary to this M&M is the myth that incompatibility is legitimate grounds for divorce. As we have discussed many times, we all have different communication styles, different love languages.
Successful marriages occur when husband and wife work at understanding one another, not so they can change their spouse, but so they will be able to communicate effectively. Good communication will enable us to “fill our spouse's love tank” and also openly and pleasantly resolve the conflicts that often occur.
Another M&M is that personality flaws such as insensitivity or insecurity are the underlying causes of marital distress. We're not referring to severe mental problems here, but just the everyday shortcomings we all come with.
We might connect this M&M with the first one; we all have unique personalities, and we all have unique (and yet common) personality flaws. The issue once again is to work together to understand the flaws and irritating behaviors and exhibit unconditional love toward one another.
We need to remember, if we could find the perfect spouse and marry him/her, the marriage would not be perfect, because we would be certain to bring flaws into the relationship.
Finally, the M&M which often contributes to major marital difficulties is the idea that problems in marriage work themselves out with time, so just let them go and they'll find their own solution.
Whether the issue is a personality characteristic or a personality flaw, the irritation it causes won't go away with time. As we know, pearls are formed when a small irritant (e.g. grain of sand) is deposited inside a clam. The clam covers the irritant to protect itself, but the irritant doesn't go away. It just gets bigger.
The solution to marital myths is to love one another unconditionally, putting the other first, communicating and forgiving.
The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director, FAMCO, 803-640-4689, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.aikenfamco.com.