Marriage really can be wonderful!
I’m definitely in favor of marriage and the joy that can be found in it. Unfortunately, a few sneaky myths can fatally harm a marriage before it even begins. For example, think about the dangers that could await the woman (or man) who views marriage as their great escape! Expecting life to magically become perfect once you’re married is as unrealistic as it is dangerous.
Let’s look a bit more closely at this first deadly expectation.
Deadly Expectation #1: Everything will be better once I am married
Over the last decade, I’ve taught hundreds of university-age students. While these students are wonderful and a joy to teach, some of them fall into the “I’ll be happy when ___” trap. And, while this can be “I’ll be happy when I’ve graduated” or “I’ll be happy when I land my dream job,” far too often students believe “I’ll finally be happy when I’m married.”
Dangers of Deadly Expectation #1
Can you imagine how incredibly difficult life must be for the spouse of someone who has this unrealistic marital expectations? If someone expects a life of ease, constant bliss, and an absence of trials, how could you ever hope to make him or her happy? Unrealistic expectations can poison a marriage even before it begins.
Sadly, too many marriages have ended unnecessarily because one or both spouses had an unrealistic fantasy of what marriage should be like — while not being willing to put forth the effort to make the marriage wonderful.
Deadly Expectation #2: Marriage is bound to fail
Teaching university marriage classes is both enjoyable and challenging. Not only are there some students each semester who long to be rescued (myth #1), but, just as dangerous (and possibly even more prevalent) is the expectation some students have that their future marriage will be doomed to failure.
A study of high school students found that some of the respondents gave themselves a 100% chance of divorce if they married in the future. Yikes! How can some people have such a negative view on marriage?
When covering the topic of divorce in my marriage class I do an attention-getting activity to start the lesson.
First, I have the students move their desks into a semicircle and I place a box in the middle of the room. Next, I give each student four Starbursts (one of each color). I also write on the board something like this: red = 1, yellow = 2, pink = 3, orange = 4+.
The students then make a tally of the number of divorces experienced by family members or close friends. Finally, on the count of three, I have them toss the appropriate Starburst into the box.
Each time I do this exercise, almost every student ends up tossing a Starburst at the box. Many even toss in the Starbursts that represent a higher number of divorces.
This is always an eye opening exercise for me and for my students. With so many divorces in society today, can you see how some people start to lose hope in having a happy marriage?
Dangers of Deadly Expectation #2
You may have heard of the social science term “self-fulfilling prophecy.” The term can be defined as a prediction that causes itself to come true. In other words, because we expect a certain outcome (often negative), we’ll do things that virtually guarantee that outcome.
So, if a surveyed high school student, a terrified college student, or any of you believe that marriages are doomed to failure, your marriages may indeed be at great risk – ironically due to those very expectations.
What’s the solution?
You have to believe that wonderful marriages exist! (There really are so many of them.) Find those marriages and find out what makes them strong. Then, form your own realistically high expectations for your own marriage. In other words, expect your marriage to be wonderful – then nourish it, prioritize it, and treat it in such a way that it will become wonderful.
However, please also remember to expect challenges. Then, rather than becoming disenchanted with marriage when life gets hard, you can work to find joy with your spouse. As you work together to face challenges hand-in-hand, your marriage truly can be wonderful!