I learned about marriage myths by watching the relationship of a friend of mine who has been married for almost 30 years. She married fairly young and fairly quickly. I remember when she was about to hit her 15-year anniversary. Her marriage was in a bad place. But she stuck it out. Eventually, the marriage bounced back, deepened and took her and her husband to where they are now—a very contented, loving place.
To get through the tough times in our marriages and to make the most of our marriages in the good times, we need to have the right mindset. Dr. Gary Chapman shows us how to do that with these 4 Marriage Myths You Should Bust.
Myth 1: My circumstances determine my state of mind.
The commonly held view of our day is that we are all victims of our environment. This myth is expressed in the following statements:
“If I grew up in a loving, supportive family, I will be a loving, supportive person.”
“If I grew up in a dysfunctional family, then I am destined to fail in relationships.”
“If I am married to an alcoholic husband, I will live a miserable life.”
“My emotional state depends on the actions of my spouse.”
This kind of approach to life renders anyone helpless in a hostile environment. It prompts feelings of hopelessness and often leads to depression. In a desperate marriage, this victim mentality leads a spouse to conclude, “My life is miserable, and my only hope is the death of my spouse or divorce.” Many people daydream of both.
Your environment certainly affects who you are, but it does not control you. Rather than being a helpless victim, you can overcome an environment cluttered with obstacles, whether blindness (Helen Keller) or polio (Franklin Roosevelt) or an alcoholic parent, whose abuse has influenced your attitudes in marriage. Your environment may influence you, but it need not dictate or destroy your marriage and your life. Read our 3 Ways to Detox Your Marriage.
Myth 2: People cannot change.
This myth purports that once people reach adulthood, personality traits and behavior patterns are set in concrete. Those who believe this myth reason that if a spouse has demonstrated a certain behavior for a long period of time, he or she will continue to act this way.
A wife assumes that her husband, who was sexually active with multiple partners before marriage and sexually unfaithful after marriage, is addicted to this behavior and cannot change.
A husband assumes that his wife, who has been irresponsible in money management for the first fifteen years of marriage, will always be financially irresponsible.
If you accept this myth is true, you will experience feelings of futility and hopelessness. The fact is, you can go to any library and find biographies of people – adults – who have made radical changes in their own behavior patterns. Saint Augustine once lived for pleasure and thought his desires were inescapable. Charles Colson, the Watergate figure, repented and began an international agency to offer prisoners spiritual help.
People can and do change, and often the changes are dramatic. (To have hope that your husband can change, you need to work on forgiving him for his past wrongs. Here are 5 steps to forgiveness in marriage.)
Myth 3: In a desperate marriage, I have only two options – resigning myself to a life of misery or getting out.
Those who believe this myth limit their horizons to two equally devastating alternatives, and then become a prisoner of that choice. Thousands of people live in self-made prisons because they believe this myth of limited choices.
Shannon and David believed this myth. For fifteen years they experienced misery and contemplated divorce, but as they left my office after six months of counseling, David said, “I used to leave your office with rage in my heart toward Shannon. Today I leave realizing what a wonderful wife I have.”
Do not let yourself believe that you have only two options in a desperate marriage. Don’t simply settle for misery or divorce.
Myth 4: Some situations are hopeless—and my situation is one of these.
The person who accepts this myth reasons: Perhaps there is hope for others, but my marriage is hopeless. The hurt is too deep. The damage is irreversible. There is no hope. This kind of thinking leads to depression and sometimes suicide.
I listened with tears as Lisa, a thirty-five-year-old mother, shared her story of watching her father murder her mother and then turn the gun on himself. Lisa was ten when she experienced this tragedy. No doubt her father felt his situation was hopeless.
You may have struggled in your marriage for years. You may feel that nothing you have tried has worked. You may even have had people tell you that your marriage is hopeless. Don’t let yourself believe that. Your marriage is not beyond hope.
Let’s Talk: What marriage myths have you believed?
Taken with permission from Dr. Gary Chapman.