Today, I am sharing with you the worst marriage advice I've ever received. Now, I'm not a professional psychiatrist or anything, but I'm sharing what works for me, and how my husband and I use common sense in our marriage.
"Once a cheater always a cheater"- While I haven't had personal
experience with this, it is still a sentiment that bothers me greatly. The line, while being quite pithy and quotable, is explicitly saying that people can
never change, never grow, never learn from their mistakes, and that we
need to be militant in our judgment of others. The statement is being made that if a young man cheats on his girlfriend in college, at the age of 20, then you can never expect him to be faithful to a marriage; not at age 30, or 40 or even 50. He made a mistake and must be judged and held accountable for that mistake for the rest of his life.
"But wait!" I know you're thinking, "You're saying that if my husband/wife cheats on me, I should just take it and be okay with it?!?"
That's an incredibly personal decision that relies on a lot of factors, most importantly (I believe), the penitence of the "cheater."
I think the phrase should be "Once a cheater, usually a cheater." It's difficult for people with abusive or pathological behaviors to change those behaviors. Therapy can help, time can help, but setbacks are likely, and not everyone can stand by and support that kind of behavior on the road to recovery. Nor should they have to, frankly.
I know that our lives are filled with shades of gray. I know that I would never want to be judged forever for my worst moments, my biggest mistakes, my heaviest regrets. In my experience,
forgiveness and compassion are a very, very big part of a successful
marriage, and there's not a lot of room for this kind of all-or-nothing judgment.
"When you get mad, just start kissing passionately, you'll forget why
you were mad"- I've actually heard this from several sources, some of which are shocking in retrospect. I just think it's terrible advice, though. I think it's bad for a lot of reasons (and remember, I am not a trained mental health expert, this is opinion, based on a lot of reading of psychology textbooks and self-help type stuff).
1) You never actually solve the problem at hand. What if you're mad because he spent all the rent money on magic beans and green stockings? If you start kissing before you can discuss it, you never solve the problem of the beans and stockings. Bad choices become bad habits, bad habits drive wedges between happy people... and you know where that leads.
2) You start using sex instead of communication. Physical intimacy is important, but so is emotional and intellectual intimacy. Replacing the latter two with the first leaves two big, gaping holes in your marriage.
3) You develop an unhealthy attitude about sex and intimacy. This doesn't really take a doctoral degree to figure out: if you closely associate romance with anger or disappointment, it won't be long before those two are interchangeable and inseparable. Any romantic activity can easily make you feel angry, emotionally frustrated or disappointed.
"Never go to bed angry" - This is probably the
most common marital advice given, period. I also happen to think it's
some of the worst advice, period. I understand where it's coming from:
you should talk about problems or conflicts as they come up, instead of
waiting until you reach a boiling point and you "explode" (or "implode,"
depending on your personality type). However, when you vow to never go
to bed angry, you are vowing to stay up all night long until you reach a
solution that makes you both happy. No matter how long it takes. No
matter how wrong or stubborn either of you are.
This, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster.
Fatigue and frustration are a bad combination. Inevitably,
somebody will say something they regret; an unkind word or phrase, an
agreement to something they aren't happy about, or an outright lie, just
to make the night and the fight be over. And you can never really take
back the things you say. Even if you apologize, those words are still
out there, bouncing around in your partner's head.
Instead, my husband and I sleep on things. If we're having a heated discussion
that is important, but it is getting late, we say "I love you, but we're
not going to fix this tonight. Let's get some rest and talk about it
again tomorrow." A little bit of time and rest can help give us some
perspective. Things that seemed big or daunting at 2 AM, probably aren't
so bad in the light of day. Plus, we woke up next to each other again,
so we know that we still have a partner by our side for whatever this
problem is :)
This post was inspired by a discussion on 20 Something Bloggers. All the content here is based on my answers. If anybody would like to share their opinions, or their answers to that discussion, feel free to comment or get in touch with me, and I'll host you as a guest blogger.