Marriages are strong and marriages need work for all kinds of reasons. Sadly, few marriages got the distance and even fewer are happy. A lot of that has to do with expectations of marriage (before and during) but many of the issues in marriage stem from lies we believe about marriage.
Lie #1: My spouse will complete me. This is one we are fed from the time we start to notice the opposite sex. It is in movies, books, articles and deep down, we hope that we will find someone that will meet all our needs, be everything we want, but the reality is, no one can do that. It is not possible for someone to meet all your emotional, spiritual, and relational needs. There will always be a gap and this is why our spouse’s inability to meet all our needs points us to Jesus. On the flip side of this, we can’t meet our spouse’s every need, so we can’t save our spouse (as many try to). We can’t change them, we can encourage them, but we can’t make them do something, although many try.
Lie #2: My happiness is my top priority. From our earliest age, many people are taught that they can win at everything, do whatever they want, get a trophy for showing up, so life becomes about my happiness and what I can get. This isn’t reality. This becomes a litmus test for how we feel about our marriage. In fact, the moment that we are unhappy we assume something is wrong. Something might be wrong but you might also be married. Marriage doesn’t always bring happiness but it does bring joy, which is very different but more important because joy is long lasting and not fleeting.
Lie #3: There is only one right person for me to marry. This is born in fairy tales that somehow there is one person on the planet for you to marry and if you marry the wrong person the entire axis of the universe will be thrown off. Few people say this, but many people subtlety believe it before and after they get married. They put enormous pressure on “finding God’s perfect person for them” that they are paralyzed from experiencing community and relationships. After they get married, couples struggle when hard times hit and they wonder if they married the wrong person. First off, how arrogant do you have to be to think you could marry the wrong person and start a cosmic destruction? This also gets into figuring out God’s will (which is another post but I think we put too much pressure “God’s perfect will” for our lives). Let me say, there are so many things you can do for God that instead of sitting around wondering if it is God’s perfect will, you should just start doing something.
Lie #4: What I do on my own time won’t affect my marriage. This gets at the selfishness many people feel in their lives. The idea that once you get married, you still stay a single person, you just happened to be married now. This is why many couples keep separate bank accounts, their own calendars and “do their own thing.” The reality around separate bank accounts is that you are always keeping one foot out the door, not letting go of some trust issue in your past. And, if you don’t trust your spouse to share a bank account, there is a deeper issue that needs work, the bank account isn’t the issue. The reality is, how you spend your time, money, how you think about yourself, whether you protect yourself to stay pure in your marriage has an enormous impact on your marriage.
Lie #5: A great marriage doesn’t take work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this after a sermon or counseling a couple and every time it is heart breaking. Often, we look at couples who are happy, handling the ups and downs of life well and wonder how they did it. Like seeing the success of Steve Jobs without any of the struggles. Idealizing marriage can be like that. It takes work. It is hard. In fact, I would say there is not a great marriage on the planet that was not filled with seasons of difficulties.
Lie #6: My past has no impact on my marriage. This is one I encounter a lot in premarital counseling. The thinking that your past relationships, porn addiction in college, the father issues you have not dealt with yet, the divorce your parents went through or you went through; that those things will have no bearing or minimal impact on your present and future marriage. Not true. All those things have an enormous impact on how you see yourself and your spouse. If you are a woman and all your life men have broken promises and used you, that is exactly what you will expect your husband to do. If you grow up and are abused and see sex as something dirty or something that is a way to live out selfishness instead of a place to give and serve your spouse, that will have an enormous impact. Lastly, most of what people do in a marriage is either a reaction against what their parents did or what they saw their parents do. It is what we know, so until we see that, see it for what it is, evaluate if that is healthy and then deal with it, we will continue the cycle of the past.
Lie #7: You can’t choose who you love. Typically when someone tells me this lie they have already sinned or are about to. It is often used to excuse why they are getting divorced or committing adultery. Yet, when we take this lie to its fullest extent, we would never want someone to love us this way. We wouldn’t want our spouse, kids or Jesus to show us love only when they feel like it. Yet, for many couples this is how they live their married life. The reality, the truth is that many days you will wake up in marriage and have to choose to love your spouse because they will not be lovely, they will not be easy to love, there will be a big piece of you that does not want to love them because you want to be selfish, you want them to stop doing something or at the very least, you want life to be easier. But love is a choice followed by an emotion.
While there are many more, these are just a few I’ve encountered that bring a lot of hurt and damage.