We’re always told that there’s some advice we should be following to ensure a happy marriage, but could it be that these myths are actually affecting our partnership? From never going to bed angry to the idea that your husband should be your best friend, experts reveal the most common myths about marital bliss…
1. Honesty is always the best policy
Forget the age-old maxim that you always need to be one hundred per cent honest for your relationship to be on the right track. There are times when the truth needs a little airbrushing, such as when your husband asks what you think of his newfound love of guitar-playing – and frankly, it sounds as far from Jimi Hendrix as possible. “There are some things that might not be wonderful for your partner to hear, so certain fibs can protect his feelings,” says Dr Terri Orbuch, relationship therapist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great (River Grove Books). And saying “I’m fine” through gritted teeth when it’s clear you’re not has become a visual gag in films and TV but on certain occasions it is better to conceal your true feelings. “If you’ve had a bad day at work, sometimes there just isn’t anything your partner can do about it and it doesn’t help you to mull over it either. Often their response can make you even more irritated!,” says relationship expert Dr Annie Kaszina (anniekaszina.com).
2. Never go to bed angry
You’ve been sniping at each other all evening over everything from bills to bin duties, now it has escalated into a full-on shouting match and you’re both furious. Traditional wisdom says we need to make up or at least call a truce before hitting the hay. Dr Orbuch disagrees: “When you’re irritated and upset, it’s almost impossible to problem solve effectively. In fact, you’re likely to say something you’ll regret. Instead of thrashing it out there and then, you need to say to each other ‘we’re not in a good place to sort this out now, let’s go to sleep and talk in the morning.’ That way, you’ll both be refreshed and better equipped to resolve the dispute.”
3. Your husband should be your best friend
Through the course of married life it can be easy to pile expectations onto your spouse – you want him to be the best of everything: friend, lover, husband, father. In fact though it’s crucial to maintain a sense of ‘otherness’ which will gives both of you strength and keeps you interested.
‘If you begin to feel your husband is an extension of you then you’ve more or less stopped seeing him which is not great for the health of a relationship,” says Dr Kaszina.
4. Too much rowing spells trouble
Guess what? Those seismic showdowns between the two of you don’t signal that you’re in a bad marriage. Relationship therapist Andrew G. Marshall says they’re necessary to keep your relationship ticking along nicely. “Couples are not arguing enough and it is almost as if proper arguments have been banned from many modern relationships,” he says in his book I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You (Bloomsbury). “Never falling out sounds wonderful but in reality, arguing is an important part of a healthy partnership; it uncovers the issues that really matter and enables partners to distinguish between minor irritations and serious problems. Although rows can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable that discomfort can be good.” So which rows are OK? Whether you’re arguing about money or his failure to move his mug to the dishwasher, you need to maintain respect for the other person and listen to their point of view, says Dr Kaszina. “Your partner’s ego shouldn’t be smashed and arguments shouldn’t be about winning the point. And there always needs to be a resolution afterwards,” she says.
5. Marriage is all about give and take
Expecting married life to be an even 50:50 division of labour is heading for disappointment. It’s not about keeping tabs on who last made the dinner or did the school run – it’s about giving each other mutual support to make life easier. “I can’t stand the ‘give and take’ mindset because it means that someone always has to lose out,” says Dr Kaszina. Instead, we need to focus on reciprocity. “In order to give generously, without investing in the Bank of Someday (and secretly expecting a fabulous ‘return on investment’ sooner or later) you have to be able to treat yourself like you matter, too, be able to ask for what you want and need, and trust that your partner will give you the same treatment in return.”
6. You need to turn the TV off for ‘quality time’ together
For years, we’ve been told to turn off the TV, put our phones away, dress up and get out of the house together regularly if we want our marriages to thrive, but, as it turns out, bingeing on box sets could be more beneficial than a cosy candlelit meal for two. New research shows that watching TV with your partner can actually strengthen your relationship. It’s especially beneficial for those with few friends in common – researchers believe that our favourite TV characters can act as a surrogate social circle, enhancing bonding opportunities. More of a bookworm? Reading the same books can have similar effects.