Modern marriages typically begin with a romantic relationship. Unlike marriages of the past, which were often arranged for political purposes or financial stability, marriages in the Twenty-First Century revolve around the initial rush a couple experiences while falling in love. Unfortunately, as so many licensed counselors and therapists already know, romance isn’t enough to sustain a marriage.
There are many factors at play in a successful marriage besides romance, but today’s engaged and married couples may not understand how prominent those factors are. As the butterflies of engagement and early marriage give way to broken expectations and disillusionment, couples often chase and grieve those early romantic feelings.
The first step to helping couples joyfully embrace a more realistic view of long-term marriage is to help them identify and bust common myths about romance. When we’re young, we often see one another through rose-colored glasses. But when the reality of real-life marriage strikes, it can feel deeply disappointing.
If you’re working with engaged or married couples, here are four myths about romance you can help them explore.
1. IF A COUPLE IS IN LOVE, THAT MEANS THEIR EXPECTATIONS FOR MARRIAGE ALIGN.
Couples need to know that being in love does not mean their expectations align. In fact, each individual’s expectations may lead to tension down the road. It’s imperative that engaged couples in pre-marriage counseling understand where one another stands. And if your couple is married, then they need to explore their own expectations, and whether they are the source of frustration in the relationship.
Explore the couple’s spoken and unspoken expectations. What is their understanding of gender roles in marriage, for example? How do they expect chores and responsibilities to be distributed? Who do they think should handle the bills, the cooking, or putting the children to bed? What personal expectations for behavior or intimacy does each individual have?
2. THE GOOD PARTS OF THE RELATIONSHIP WILL KEEP GETTING BETTER.
Many of the good things couples experience in dating and early marriage revolve around an idealized view of one another–which begins to fall away after the wedding, when everyday life sets in. Couples are often distressed when they realize how profoundly each individual can change after the initial romantic rush begins to fade.
Life circumstances change, people change, and marriage includes trade-offs and worries that single people simply don’t have. Your couples should not assume that the good things will continue getting better over time.
3. MARRIAGE WILL HEAL THE COUPLE’S STRUGGLES.
Many dating and engaged couples subscribe to the belief that getting married will solve their problems. Instead, your couples need to know that oftentimes, struggles and problems become worse after marriage. In part, this is because the rose-colored glasses do eventually come off. Suddenly, it’s apparent that romance can’t solve major issues the couple might have been ignoring.
4. SPOUSES WILL COMPLETE ONE ANOTHER.
It’s not possible for any person to complete another, or to make another whole. The responsibility for becoming a healthy adult lies solely on the individual. Encourage your couples to become healthy individuals so they may show up as their best, healthiest selves in their marriages. A marriage made up of two healthy, whole individuals is infinitely better than a destructive, codependent relationship–which is what spouses create when they expect the other person to complete them.
ARE YOU READY TO HELP YOUR COUPLES BUILD MORE SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGES?
Our latest book, Helping Couples, was written in collaboration with Dr. David H. Olson of Prepare/Enrich. It’s a handbook of proven strategies for counselors, coaches, and clergy who work with engaged and married couples to both prepare for a healthy, lifelong marriage, and to nurture existing marriages. The book is available now, and you can order yours here.