Helping Your Son and Daughter to Avoid the Myths of Marriage*
I wanted to present from What a Son Needs from His Dad, five myths of marriage our sons and daughters should be aware of before entering the marriage commitment. Some of these myths have been compiled by my friends Nick and Nancy Stinnett in their bestselling textbook Relationships in Marriage and the Family (Old Tappan, N.J.: Macmillan, 1991, pp. 56-62).
Myth #1: Problems Galore. According to the Stinnetts, the problems-galore myth says marriage and troubles are synonymous. As a result, people tend to view marriage very negatively. If they internalize the myth, people can marry expecting many problems. This, in turn, becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy in which we tend to consciously or subconsciously behave in a manner that brings about what we expected in the first place. They suggest that to achieve a rational and realistic approach to marriage, the positive as well as the negative aspects must be acknowledged.
Myth #2: Marriage Is a Downhill Experience. This myth, says the Stinnetts, maintains that as time passes the marriage relationship becomes progressively less satisfying and exciting. Contrary to the downhill myth, social science research reports that many husbands and wives find the joy and contentment in their marriage increasing with time because the relationship has a chance to grow in depth and meaning.
Myth #3: Marriage Is a 50-50 Proposition. According to this myth, marriage is a 50-50 proposition and with any disagreement or difficult situation the husband and wife should meet each other halfway. The Stinnetts remind us, however, that most marital situations cannot be settled on a 50-50 basis. Relationships work better if each partner in a marriage is doing more than his or her “fair” share.
Myth #4: The Great Sex Difference. By stereotyping each other (such as, women are more emotional than men, or men are better at abstract thinking, etc.), couples in a marriage end up relating more to the stereotypes than to each other. I recommend that we find out who we are as created in the image of God—I suggest that you pick up a copy of the Penner’s book The Gift of Sex.
Myth #5: The Successful Marriage Has No Conflict. Marriage therapists tell us that holding back a disappointment can actually harm a relationship. It’s not conflict that’s bad; it’s how we handle it. We must teach our sons and daughters that conflict will be inevitable. The goal, therefore, is to not eliminate conflict but to manage it in a positive and effective manner. As someone has wisely discerned, “Attack the problem, not each other.”
(This article is adopted from Dr. O’Donnell’s new book coming out this October, What a Son Needs from His Dad by Bethany House/Baker Publishers, and was recently published as an article in the June 2011 issue of The Colorado Catholic Herald.)