People love giving unsolicited marriage advice.
Especially when they interact with newly weds. I remember when John and I were a few months away from our big day – everyone and their mother seemed to have some profound bit of marriage advice they wanted to give us.
But the problem is, so much of it was really terrible. Horrible. Bad advice. So bad, that if we actually would have applied it to our lives, I’m certain we wouldn’t be standing here today.
And while there are certainly some incredible marriage books and fantastic marriage advice out there (if I do say so myself ), you’ve really got to make sure you don’t just take what everyone says and apply it to your life, even if it’s lingo that’s been going around for a while. Because in some aspects of life, what works for someone else, may not work for everyone.
Let me tell you some of the worse marriage advice we’ve heard along the way:
5 Bits of Really Bad Marriage Advice
#1: Happy Wife = Happy Life
I was at a dinner party the other day when an engaged couple came up to me, with my book, Choosing Marriage, in-hand. The couple had just committed to reading through this book before they got married and the husband-to-be looked at me, then looked at the book he was holding, then looked at his wife and chuckled, “happy wife, happy life, right?”.
No, sir, that’s not exactly right. Not at all, actually. And if you actually read this book in your hands, you’ll find that out very quickly. No, I didn’t say that right then and there – but that’s what I was thinking.
I am so tired of hearing this phrase going around. A phrase that somehow elevates the needs of the wife as the one and only thermostat for the temperature of the home.
There’s no denying that in marriage we’re called to put the needs of others before our own. We’re called to make the WE greater than the ME. But this type of bad marriage advice encourages passivity in men and domineering in women. It’s downright unhealthy to view marriage through this lens of unequal power and it quickly seeps into other parts of life.
You want a happy life? Then stop elevating SHE and belittling HE, or vice versa. “Learn to see marriage through the formula of WE > ME.”
#2: Women are Emotional and Men are Visual
Here’s another phrase that’s unnecessarily messed with my head over the years. Ever since I can remember, it’s been drilled into my mind that when it comes to how we think and express: men are always visual, and woman are always emotional.
The problem with that mentality is that it puts SUCH a wide chasm between men and women. Not only that, it leaves no room for responsibility and ownership of who we are and what we do.
Men are visual, therefore they will always struggle with porn, want sex, and lust after other women.
Women are emotional, therefore they will always create drama, deal with uncontrolled emotions, and make decisions based on how they feel.
I’m sick of such rigid phrases that pin us to a series of struggles we were never meant to own.
While it may be true that certain genders tend to exhibit certain struggles, truth be told we all have layers of these struggles! Setting such rigid stereotypes leaves no room for understanding and connecting with one another in our shared struggles and experiences.
In a healthy marriage women have to be just as deliberate about taking responsibility for their thought life, and having accountability for what their eyes take in.
Men have to be just as deliberate about learning to tap into how they feel and express themselves in a healthy way.
We are BOTH visual, and we are BOTH emotional, and we’ve got to learn to honor God in how we manage each of those things.
#3: Married Couples Need To Go On a Weekly Date Night Out
In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I literally couldn’t afford a weekly “date night out”. By the time we could factor in gas money, dinner money, and babysitting money – our budget was completely in the red. In these later years of our marriage, juggling careers, ministry, and three children – we don’t always have the opportunity to go on a weekly date night out.
But going OUT isn’t the solution to a healthy marriage. GOING IN is the solution. – Click to tweet
What I mean by that is it’s not about how often you go out together, but how often you draw in together. In confession, in communication, in dealing with conflict, in encouraging one another, serving one another, and making each other feel special.
It’s less about getting dressed up and going out on the town, as fun and as important as that might be every now and again, because what really sets couples apart is those who are willing to go deeper and do the work of communicating and connecting on a regular basis. Married couples don’t need a weekly date night out to have a healthy marriage, but they do need to learn to prioritize each other day in and day out. I wish someone would have told us that early on.
For details and next steps on what it looks like to prioritize your relationship in practical ways, check out my latest book: Choosing Marriage.
#4: Find Someone Who Completes You
This terrible marriage advice would have completely ruined my marriage, and mostly because I’d still be single if I took it to heart. We have such an inaccurate romanticized view of marriage when we look at it through the lens of something that can “complete” us.
Such a perspective fools us into thinking that we’re half-full people, needing someone to fill us up. But that’s way too much pressure to put on any human being, because no one can give us what it takes to fill us. When we go into relationships with the mentality that they will complete us, we open ourselves up to codependence rather than interdependence.
But hear this loud and clear: codependence is not the same as oneness.
We don’t enter marriage out of need, we enter marriage out of love. And we don’t enter marriage because we’re incomplete without each other, we enter marriage because we’re better together.
#5: Marriage Is About Your Happiness, And You Shouldn’t Be With Someone If You’re Not Happy
This lingo has become such a common part of our culture that I heard a married man on TV say (regarding whether or not he was going to stay in his own marriage), “I shouldn’t be with someone if I’m not happy…” and it made my stomach turn.
What an accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in, everyone believing that their main goal in life is THEIR OWN personal happiness. What a small and shallow way to live.
Marriage isn’t about your happiness, it’s about something so much bigger. So much better.
We live in a world that DESPISES the sacrificial side of marriage…and tries to wish it away. They teach to strive for power, control, and the upper hand in a relationship; tell us to do what feels right, and not to tolerate anything less. They fool us to thinking that love is about doing what makes us feel happy.
But love, true love, is more often than not an action – a decision – rather than a feeling.
If you’re getting married with that as your main goal, to make yourself happy, you will be disappointed in a severe way. Because like it or not, there will be a moment, a day, a week, and even a season in your marriage when you probably won’t be happy.
Don’t marry someone who will “make you happy”, marry someone who you will love and who will love you no matter what life will bring your way.
Not all marriage advice is good marriage advice. So do yourself a favor learn how to know the difference.
What bad marriage advice have you heard along the way?
A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on February 20th, 2019. Used by permission.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!