How a good or bad advice for married people can be defined.
A number of people giving or embracing the marriage advice does not make it good or bad. It is how that advice works for or against the marriage that makes it good or bad. A bad marriage advice is the advice that works against the marriage, even if everybody gives or embraces it. A good marriage advice is the advice that works for the marriage, even if a handful of people give or embrace it.
Most marriages are suffering because couples are embracing bad advices just because they were given by the vast majority of people and rejecting good advices because they were given by a minute, insignificant number of people. Other marriages suffer because couples embraced bad advices given by good people and ignored good advices given by what the society calls bad people.
Some bad marriage advices are famous and popular, and some good marriage advices are unpopular and seemingly insignificant. That’s where most people miss the point - to the detriment of their marriages - and follow bad advices just because they are popular. Sometimes bad marriages advices are given by ‘experts’ in the field, and many couples are misled by them.
Here are the 8 common bad marriage advices that are working against marriages:
1. “Marriage is the best way to get rid of loneliness.”
If loneliness is the reason why you got married, you will soon discover that nothing can be lonelier than marriage. In fact, if you are afraid of loneliness, don’t get married! The same loneliness that makes single people wish they were married makes married people wish they were single. It’s better to be single and wish you were married than to be married and wish you were single. When you are single and lonely, at least you know why you are lonely. Few things hurt as bad as being lonely because you’re married.
When you are single, you have many options to deal with loneliness, but once you get married, marriage seems to be the only option. When you are married, you get restricted in your plans and movements because you always have to accommodate the other person in your decisions. In most cases, marriage is not the cure for loneliness, it is the cause of it, especially if you get married thinking the marriage will put an end to loneliness. Yes, marriage can keep you in good company, but that company will not always be in a good space to keep you from feeling lonely. There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. You can be alone and not lonely, and you can be lonely in the crowds. If you cannot be alone, you are not fit to be together.
2. “Love should be unconditional in marriage.”
At a glance, this statement seems appealing. Yet I’ve seen marriages suffer badly because of good people who were trying to love their spouses unconditionally while their spouses kept on violating the very principles that could have held the marriage together. These good people remain wives to people whose actions demonstrate that they no longer want to be their husbands. Good husbands also want to remain husbands to people whose behaviour consistently shows that they have made up their minds that they are no longer their wives.
The spouse would be cheating repeatedly and abusing habitually while the other partner loves unconditionally. The problem here is that the one loving unconditionally tends to become the enabler of the very behaviour that’s hurting them. Loving your spouse unconditionally even if they are committed to breaking your heart can make you the accomplice of the very crime you are a victim of. People are generally not motivated to stop their hurtful behaviour if there are no consequences for it. The behaviour that does not get reprimanded gets rewarded, and the behaviour that gets rewarded gets repeated.
Only a child should be loved unconditionally because their lives depend on it. But every adult should on daily basis earn their right to stay in their spouses’ hearts by at least refraining from behaviours that are killing their marriages. Your child never has to do anything to earn your love, but your spouse needs to know that should they beat you or cheat on you one more time, your river of love would permanently stop flowing towards them.
While your children cannot live without your love, the fact that your spouse can beat you or cheat on you , or even take you for granted, shows that they would do just fine, if not much better, without your love. You can’t keep on giving your heart to the person who keeps on breaking it and expect your marriage to succeed in the end. The more they break your heart, the sooner you will be left with no heart to give, and that would be the beginning of the end to the very marriage your unconditional love has been trying to build.
3. “Marriage should be a safe place to hide from all of life’s problems.”
This puts too much pressure on the marriage, especially on your spouse. If you say your marriage should be your safe haven to hide from all of life’s problems, you are actually saying your spouse should make up for everything else that goes wrong in your life. You are saying things can go wrong in your workplace, in your studies, in your family of origin, in your friendships, in your society, and in your religious community, but your marriage should be strong enough to carry all the frustrations accumulated from everything else that goes wrong in your life.
You are putting all the weight of the world on your marriage by expecting it to be the only thing that’s right when all else fails. This can be overwhelming to your spouse because they would be carrying the weight of everything else that’s not working out for you. It will also make you expect much more from your spouse than they are capable of giving, and very soon, in deep discouragement, your spouse would not want to be with you anymore.
Rather than expecting your spouse to be your hiding place when things go wrong, consider working on everything that’s going wrong until you get it right. The same energy you are expecting from your spouse, see if you can use the proportional amount of yours to fix all these things you think your marriage should hide you from. Your marriage will soon not be strong enough to carry you and all the problems you could have solved instead of using the marriage as a distraction to keep you from facing and dealing with them.
4. “Communication should be easy in the marriage.”
Communication is the easiest skill to talk about, but it is the hardest skill to practice, especially in marriage. This is because when we communicate with our spouses, we don’t hear what’s being said, but we hear our own interpretation of what’s being said. Even the things we say represent not the reality at hand, but our perception of that reality.
In other words, we speak our perception of what we’re experiencing, and we hear our own interpretations of what our spouses are saying. This makes communication extremely difficult, especially considering that some, if not most, of the words our spouses say are filtered through our childhood wounds. Hence we find offence in most of what spouses tell us, even if it’s not offensive at all. We hear their messages through the filters of our own brokenness, and this makes communication a complex and complicated activity.
Once we understand that when we communicate with our spouses, we communicate not the messages, but our perceptions and interpretations of those messages, we will learn to appreciate how difficult, but necessary, communication really is.
5. “In marriage you give up ‘Me’ for ‘We.’
This is another fancy but misleading statement that is embraced across the globe. Just because many people give this advice doesn’t mean it’s effective. Sometimes we subject our own marriages to mob injustice by believing everything we hear just because many people are saying it. Every marriage is made up of three components, You, Me, and We. There can be no ‘We’ without ‘Me,’ and there can be no ‘We’ without ‘You.’ It is ‘Me’ and ‘You’ that makes ‘We’ possible, and without you and me, there can be no us.
Giving up ‘Me’ for ‘We’ makes ‘Us’ miserable. Marriage should never take away your individuality. Otherwise, you will be miserable in your marriage, and a miserable person cannot make a happy marriage. When you choose the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, choose the person you love as they are, not the person you will have to change into the person you love. If you have to change them to love them, it shouldn’t be them that you are choosing. Never let the pressure to get married make you choose the person to be your spouse whom you will have to change before you can love them. If they have to give up themselves to be with you, it will eventually be their marriage with you that they will have to give up.
6. “Take time to heal completely before you get married.”
We never really know if we are healed until we are married. We may think we have healed, only to discover when we are married that our spouses are lovingly and unknowingly pulling triggers in us for the pain we thought was healed a long time ago. Time heals physical wounds, but when it comes to emotional wounds, time only makes us forget that we are hurting, and marriage will remind us how broken we really are so that we can experience total healing. It therefore doesn’t really help to wait until you are healed to get married.
Bear in mind that we acquired all our childhood brokenness within a family environment. Therefore, it will take another family environment to reveal those emotional wounds so that we can work on healing them. Marriage is therefore a replica of the system that broke us, and it is the system in which we can uncover our emotional wounds and treat them until they don’t hurt anymore.
It is within the context of marriage that people discover their deep-seated wounds so that they can heal completely. Although we may work on our emotional wounds prior to the marriage, it is in the marriage that we know with absolute certainty that we are truly healed. It is to the detriment of our own marriages that we believe people are totally healed when they tie the know with us.
More than any other journey a person can take, marriage is the journey of self-discovery, and as we allow the marriage to help us identify our emotional wounds, we can rest assured that marriage can help us heal completely if we are willing and committed to do the internal work. I have to clarify that marriage is not the healer, it is just the mirror. You remain responsible for your own healing, and while you heal, it is your conjugal duty to protect your spouse from your own brokenness.
7. “Conflict must be avoided at all cost.”
Marriages fail not because couples fight too much, but because they don’t fight enough. They had rather sweep things under the carpet until they become unmanageable. Avoiding conflict between us generates conflict within us, and in this way, it will burst out bigger and stronger between us in ways our marriage may never be able to recover from. Conflict should not be avoided, it should be confronted. The conflict you avoid at all cost will cost you more that your peace, it will cost you your marriage.
8. “Only death should end the marriage.”
I don’t know about you, but this sounds to me like one of the many reasons why people stay in marriages where they are dying. Our tendency to praise people who stay in marriages where their partners are abusing them or having unprotected sex outside the marriage is one of the reasons why many children have become orphans today. People are dying before they live just because they feel they cannot disappoint the society and get out of the marriages that are killing them. I’m a firm believer in marriage, but I don’t believe that the marriage should cost people their lives. A good marriage is much better than divorce, but divorce is much better that the marriage that’s killing you.
Apart from dying before time, staying too long in a toxic marriage will gradually turn you into a toxic person. We become toxic in our desperate attempt to adapt to a toxic marriage, and our children also become toxic trying to survive our toxic marriages. When we stay too long where we are victims, we become perpetrators as we learn to survive the abuse. We must learn to leave the toxic marriage before it leaves toxicity in us.
Others say they are staying for the sake of the children. Well, it does more harm than good to children when they have to keep on witnessing their parent being beaten and cheated on repeatedly by their other parent. Over the past 17 years as a marriage therapist and mental health professional, I have seen my adult clients in the therapy room who said to me, “I hate my father for what he did to my mother, but I will never forgive my mother for always taking him back. Now I have become toxic trying to survive my father’s toxicity, and it’s all because my mother kept on giving him undeserved chances.” Just as we can stay for the sake of the children, sometimes we need to leave for the sake of the children.