A word to the wise from marriage therapists: Don’t buy into every piece of relationship advice you read in a magazine or hear from a well-meaning aunt. (For instance, “don’t go to bed angry” is total malarkey; it’s probably better for you and your partner to address the issue in the A.M., when cooler heads prevail.)
Below, couples therapists take to task common beliefs about marriage that couples should ignore.
“I’ve heard this one on my couch so many times that it’s starting to drive me nuts. Usually, one partner (or both) will come in telling me that their relationship isn’t 50/50 and they feel like they’re carrying more than their fair share. But marriage isn’t a 50/50 compromise and you certainly shouldn’t be keeping track of who is doing more in a tit-for-tat fashion, either. Sometimes your partner will have difficulties and you’ll have to carry your partner for a while until they sort things out. This means you’ll carry more than your share for a while. But usually, they’ll do the same for you while you struggle with your challenges, too.”― Aaron Anderson, a marriage and family therapist in Denver, Colorado
“It’s true, we all do need love. But despite what most pop songs and movies have taught us, healthy marriages need way more than just love in order to thrive. In addition to love, couples need respect, compatibility, good communication skills, humility, safety, chemistry, acceptance, play and diligence ― and that’s just naming a few qualities.” ― Andrea Wachter, a marriage and family therapist in Northern California
“Oftentimes, couples that are struggling in their relationship are led to believe that if they have a child, it will bring them closer together but this isn’t true. Children will exacerbate whatever is already present in the relationship. If you have a good relationship, a child will make it better but if you have a bad relationship, the demands of a baby will make it worse. Having a child adds a great amount of stress to a relationship and unless there is a collaborative effort to share the care-taking responsibilities, it becomes a breeding ground for resentment and disagreement.” ― Olga Bloch, a marriage and family therapist in Rockville, Maryland
“As a marriage counselor, this is one of the most common ones I hear on my couch every day. But it is just downright silly. Whoever came up with this seems to expect you to get over problems within a day but the truth is, couples have problems ― real problems ― and not all of them can be solved in 24 hours. Sometimes it takes weeks, months or even years to solve them. You can’t expect to solve all problems in a day but you should expect your partner to try to make repairs whenever they do damage to you or the relationship.” ― Aaron Anderson
“It’s widely known that opposites attract. But while that keeps things exciting in the beginning, in the long-term, those differences can create conflict. That conflict can leave you feeling like you don’t belong together or are incompatible but if you put in the work, conflict can be your portal to becoming a better spouse. Attempting to understand what your partner feels and wants from you will lead you to a more satisfying stage of the relationship. You love more consciously.”― Jeannie Ingram, a couples therapist in Nashville, Tennessee
“Everyone has heard that sex is like a well that dries up after you get married. But in fact, the opposite is true: Couples in long-term relationships actually report having more sex than their single counterparts. The biggest problem with this myth is that when couples stop having sex or being intimate, they shrug it off as normal instead of seeing it as a sign that something is wrong in the relationship.” ― Aaron Anderson
“Many people live with the expectation that their spouse should simply know what they need and then they feel resentment when they don’t. But our partners cannot possibly anticipate, know and meet all of our needs. Getting our own needs met from various healthy sources (including ourselves) and voicing our needs in a respectful, mature manner can help dispel this common, wrongheaded belief.” ― Andrea Wachter
“Yes, it’s a delicious feeling when you feel loved and love someone, but genuine love is demonstrated through actions. It’s about choosing to be thoughtful and demonstrating tender behaviors. The truth is, the feeling is the result of the action. If we want to feel love, we need to be loving.” ― Jeannie Ingram
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