Though marriage is becoming less common in our society, our culture still has a lot to tell us about it.
Unfortunately, a number of myths are among the things our culture tells us about marriage. If we believe these, then our marriages will pay a price because our expectations will be unrealistic.
What are some of these myths? Here are five common ones and their corresponding truths.
Common myths about marriage
Myth #1: Once you get married, you’ll live happily ever after.
All it takes is viewing popular films or reading romance novels to see that couples are supposed to live happily ever after. Couples may face obstacles on their way to marriage, but once they manage to make it to the altar to exchange vows, they’re set.
The truth: There’s nothing wrong with the concept of living happily ever after—this is entirely possible! However, unlike in films and books, it doesn’t happen without effort. A wedding doesn’t mark the beginning of an obstacle-free relationship. If anything, it ushers in a new host of obstacles! Thankfully, if we have unwavering commitments to our spouses, then we can overcome these obstacles and have enduring, happy marriages.
Myth #2: Healthy marriages won’t have conflict.
According to our culture, compatible spouses will live in perfect harmony. They won’t experience conflict because they will be in perfect agreement, always wanting the same things.
The truth: A marriage brings together two different individuals with different backgrounds, different personalities, different habits, different idiosyncrasies, and different expectations. These two are both imperfect individuals who have different sin struggles. Conflict within this relationship is supposed to be avoidable? Inevitable is more like it. We shouldn’t preoccupy ourselves with trying to avoid conflict. Instead we should invest our energy in learning to communicate well (see Proverbs 15:1, Matthew 5:37, Ephesians 4:29, and James 1:19) so we can resolve conflict in loving, constructive ways.
Myth #3: Sex happens infrequently in marriage.
Common quips, jokes, and narratives inform us that unmarried individuals have sex frequently because they are free to indulge in sex whenever they want and with whoever they want.
The truth: It may seem like the perceived freedom of being unmarried leads to frequent and satisfying sex, but the opposite is actually true. Researchers have found that about 25% of married people have sex 2-3 times per week, while less than 5% of single individuals have sex this often (source). This frequency is no doubt due to the fact that married individuals have convenient partners with whom they share emotional intimacy and freedom from fear of rejection. If we are intentional about investing in physical intimacy with our spouses, then we just might find ourselves proving this stereotype wrong!
Myth #4: Love is all you need.
In recent generations, love has replaced motivations such as creating family alliances, increasing financial security, or obtaining political gain as the foundation for most marriages. This change has popularized the belief that love is enough to sustain a marriage. As long as spouses love each other, they’re supposed to be able to weather any storm.
The truth: Love is neither sufficient nor necessary for a successful marriage. This sounds terribly unromantic, but it is true. Love isn’t sufficient. Spouses must also be committed if they are to have a long-lasting marriage. Though it is nice to feel love for each other, technically couples who don’t have feelings of romantic love can still have successful marriages if they are committed and choose to care about each other.
Love is very important. The Bible wouldn’t address it so much if it weren’t (see Matthew 22:36-40, John 13:34-35, Romans 13:10, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 1 Peter 4:8, and 1 John 4:8). We learn from all these verses that love isn’t about warm, fuzzy feelings—it’s about choosing to give of ourselves and put the needs of others above our own. If we focus more on this choice and on commitment, we won’t find ourselves “falling out of love,” which is a commonly cited reason for divorce.
Myth #5: Happy marriages happen when contributions are split 50/50.
The intense focus on equality in our culture spills over into marriage. The “fair” approach is for both spouses to contribute and benefit equally. Therefore, couples will be satisfied when housekeeping, childcare, breadwinning, etc. are all split 50/50.
The truth: It is certainly true that both spouses must contribute in order for their marriage to be a success. However, which spouse contributes what and how much is going to depend on personality, ability, and season of life. Practically, there is no way to divide work evenly. Do you divide it based on how long it takes to complete tasks? How much physical effort it takes? How much you like or dislike various tasks? More important than this practical aspect, though, is that we aren’t supposed to seek an equitable distribution of tasks. We were each uniquely created by the Lord (Psalm 139:14) with different abilities and capacities for completing work. We are supposed to value others and look to their interests (Philippians 2:3-4). What this tells us is that the best approach isn’t a 50/50 split, but that each of us should strive to contribute 100%.
Our marriages won’t be successful if we are passive. We must actively invest in them and be on guard against the aspects of our culture, including these myths, that threaten to destroy marriages.
Can you think of other common myths about marriage? Please share these with us below.
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