Author: Wayne Riendeau, LCPC
During the course of my work as a marriage and couples’ therapist and during my own 32 years of marriage, I’ve come to realize that a lot of what I thought and was taught about marriage didn’t match what was happening in my own marriage; you know, an actual, REAL marriage.
My wife and me, when we have had to deal with serious conflicts within our own marriage, in order to lighten the tension, will sometimes jokingly say to one another, “You know, this (issue, conflict, or argument) was NOT in the Marriage Brochure that I was given!”
But isn’t that the way life really works? I mean, before we go on vacation, we find all the glossy online pictures or brochures promoting how wonderful the amenities are at the swanky hotel that we’re going to stay at, the pristine beaches we’re going to frolic in, with pictures of happy couples and happy kids splashed throughout the website we’re viewing – only to find out that the experience we actually had came far short of what we thought it would be. I believe marriage is often like that: marriages aren’t just naturally enjoyable all the time, and they certainly don’t just naturally thrive; they require our best efforts if they are going to become the kind of marriage you and your spouse had envisioned when you both said “I do”.
In my own counseling experience as a marriage therapist who is a Christian and has worked with thousands of couples over the years (traditional, blended, etc.), I have come to realize that, regardless of your faith background, there are a number of ‘myths’ I believe need to be addressed if we’re going to improve our marriages and begin addressing the realities of the challenges that we all face within each and every one of our marriages. You see, there’s this other side of the story that needs to be talked about in order for couples to have the best chance for their marriage to not just survive, but to thrive as well.
So let’s address just a few marriage myths and compare them against the realities that I’ve observed as a marriage therapist over the years.
Myth #1: “My spouse and I have been married for 10 years; we thought we knew each other backwards and forwards, yet we still disagree and have lots of arguments over just about everything.” Truth: Every couple needs to work on learning more and more about their spouse on a daily basis. This often involves what are called “active listening skills,” such as: not interrupting your spouse during an argument; keeping an open mind to what you are hearing without planning your next response before they’ve even finished a sentence; letting your partner know you heard what they said by restating back to them what you heard; and making listening a priority by putting down the cell phone, magazine or shutting off the television show you have one eye on, while looking at your spouse with the other.
Myth #2: “Relational and physical intimacy should just be ‘natural’ when you’re married; why are we so emotionally and physically disconnected from each other?“ Reality: What doesn’t get worked on will get weak and atrophy, just the same way your body will get if you keep eating a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies 10 minutes before bedtime, or you own a health club membership but don’t actually ever show up there to put the work in your body needs to stay strong and fit.
Myth #3: “Now that we’re married, the hard part is over; at least we don’t have to ‘date’ each other so much anymore and can relax and allow our communication and love to just come naturally.” Truth: Anything – ANYTHING in this world worth achieving or maintaining takes very large investments of time and effort. I mean, think of all of the work involved in the various areas of our lives that we are proud of and enjoy substantial rewards for: if we want to raise healthy, smart, well-adjusted children; if we want to make more money for ourselves and our family; if we want to grow in our friendships with others, or in our faith – all of these require intentional, focused effort if we’re going to reap the rewards of our hard work.
The reality for those of us who are married, engaged to be married or dating and considering getting married need to face the reality that marriage, like everything else worth achieving in our lives, takes dedication, focus, perseverance and just plain hard work throughout the entire course of our lives. To think one can just “fall into” a great relationship and have it last for a lifetime without daily working on the relationship in all of these areas is living in a fantasy world.
It is my hope that every couple will realize sooner rather than later that the kind of focused, dedicated and at-times exhausting work that makes a marriage last is worth your absolute best effort, because nothing in this world worth accomplishing comes without paying a huge price; and it’s that kind of effort and dedication that makes a great marriage the most cherished and blessed thing we can experience in this world.
Wayne Riendeau, MA, LCPC received his MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Concordia University Chicago. His counseling background includes extensive experience working with couples, adults, adolescents and children in private practice, as well as behavioral healthcare settings, including inpatient and outpatient counseling for adults and adolescents. Learn more here
Couples, Adults, Adolescents, Children, Families