The 8 Myths of Marriage
Editor’s note: #1 New York Times Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre have agreed to share their thoughts on 8 “myths” that can be destructive to marriage and the 8 “truths” that can and should replace them. Today’s article is an introduction to these myths and truths, and then, each Tuesday for the next eight weeks, the Eyres will explore one of the myths and replace it with a corresponding truth.
Preface to the Series
We call it “marriaging” because it is a dynamic, happening word; while “marriage” is a static, happened word. Marriaging, like parenting, is a skill—or an art or a science—that can be continually and actively worked on, developed, and improved.
As we strive to build and grow our marriaging ability, there are some misconceptions that can get in our way—some misplaced beliefs or false paradigms that point us in the wrong directions and suck the joy out of our relationships. They do this through unrealistic expectations and false goals that cause dissatisfaction, discouragement, and frustration.
We call these misconceptions the 8 Myths of Marriaging. They all sound good—many of them are even disguised as wise advice or packaged as sage insights. Indeed we may have heard some of them so many times that we assume they must be true.
But they are not.
Some of these myths raise our hopes and expectations unreasonably; others oversimplify; and still others exaggerate a good direction so much that it turns back and harms our relationship instead.
The good news is that wherever there is a myth there is a countering truth. There is another side of the coin—the true side.
Sometimes knowing both sides, and considering them together, can clarify and illuminate. Sometimes we need first to know what not to do or think or believe in order to avoid the common pitfalls that often overtake a marriage.
Then, by contrast, we need to know what to do or think or believe in order to maximize our marriages.
In this series, we will first try to dispel the myths, then to capture the truths.
The Problem with Myths
Here is the problem with myths: They cause us to see ourselves and our world unrealistically and to want things that will never happen—or that might be bad for us if they did.
Unrealistic wants lead to dissatisfaction, discouragement, and frustration when we can’t get what we think we should have. Or the reverse may occur—when a myth tells us that things are not possible when they really are, causing us to accept mediocrity and to disengage from our dreams.
Myths of false ideals set us off in the pursuit of the wrong things or deter us from the pursuit of the right things.
Myths can blind us to the good and the possible and cause us to miss the best moments and the best opportunities.
However, if we can shove the myths aside, we will blast through the misconceptions that are making us unhappy in our marriages and then reveal hidden joys.
Here is a brief review of the myths we will expose and explode:
- The Clone Myth makes us wish for constant agreement and alikeness—which would actually narrow and dull our marriages; and it causes us to resent and be discouraged with the very differences that can bring growth and excitement.
- The Achievement Myth channels our energy toward things and away from people, causing us to seek the accolades and acknowledgement of achievement more than the love and sacrifice of relationships; and perhaps to work harder at parenting than at marriaging.
- The Independence Myth blocks unity and hides our vulnerability under a blanket of pride. This causes us to refuse to admit our need for each other and to fail to accept the beauty of interdependence with each other and dependence on God.
- The Perfection Myth makes us more aware of and more irritated by our spouse’s faults and too aware of our own needs and unaware of our partner’s happiness.
- The No-Waves Myth deceives us into hiding things from our spouse and smoothing over the rough edges that could give our marriage texture and grit; and it bottles up feelings that irritate, fester, and breed dissatisfaction.
- The Test-Drive Myth breeds criticism and judgement and encourages us to try to preserve all our options rather than make the very commitment that could make us more resil- ient and forgiving.
- The Equality Myth pushes us to compare and compete, to resent our spouse’s roles and opportunities, and to feel frustrated with our own success. It also makes us more aware of our partner’s weaknesses and undermines the possibility for synergy, complementing one another’s strengths, and compensating for weaknesses.
- The Demise Myth discourages us and drains away our hope for society, making us feel like misfits or dinosaurs in our own pursuit of a committed, lasting marriage.
Let’s Blow Up These Myths—One at a Time
In the columns that follow, we will take you through the eight myths one at a time— like stepping from one rock to the next in crossing a stream—and then it will expose, expel, and excise them, because . . .
One of the best ways to grasp and understand a truth is to explode the myth that opposes or blocks it. Only when the mists of a myth clear away can we see and hear the trumpet of the truth that it was hiding.
One reason marriage is discredited, discarded, and declining across society today is that too many believe these myths and are distracted, discouraged, and deterred by them.
These myths are all somewhat subtle and nuanced—often containing a half-truth—and each casts a spell that is easy to fall under. Dispelling (or dis-spell-ing) them is the best way we know to move past them and find better, truer paradigms.
We will couple each myth with its corresponding truth, and we hope you enjoy (and are somewhat relieved by) the discrediting of the eight myths and are refreshed by the exploration of their replacement truths.
Join us here next Tuesday, when we take a deeper look at the Clone Myth of thinking we should agree on everything, and discuss how to escape that myth and replace it with the truth about how we should relish our differences and learn from each other’s perspective.
By Linda and Richard Eyre