Marriage is about Compromise
If you use compromise in your marriage, you not only suck the life out of your marriage, you suck the life out of your life. For example, your ideal vacation is spent in a tent in the middle of nowhere with only a compass, and your husband’s dream vacation is two weeks in a fancy hotel in Florida. If you compromise and go camping this year and to the fancy Florida hotel the next, this year you will both be miserable and next year you’ll be miserable too. If you are doing something you love with someone who hates it you’ll hate it too. If you compromise this way on every decision, you’ll realize one day that six months out of every year you are doing things you hate and for the other half a year you are doing something you love with someone who hates it. INSTEAD: Some decisions will have to be compromised, and if you have a good relationship you can tolerate a rare compromise, but instead of compromising on everything, communicate about your needs and find, as in the above example, a vacation that meets both of your needs. It’s not easy to find an alternative, but a third alternative will be better than either option because there is nothing like discovering and creating something you both enjoy.
Never Go To Sleep Mad
This is bad advice because if at midnight you are exhausted and you haven’t yet come to a solution, you won’t be doing any better by 2 a.m. INSTEAD: “Table” the issue. You need not finish your argument so that you come to a conclusion before you go to bed. Instead, agree to continue the conversation the next day—but really make sure that you do so. While people tend to agree that they will “table” the issue for the next day at dinner, they often avoid bringing it up again. That is a mistake that will dissuade your spouse from trying to “table” the issue the next time you are arguing at midnight for fear of never being able to finish the argument, just like the last time.
Marriage is a Partnership
Marriage is not a partnership; it is a relationship. Sometimes your spouse will fail to do what she said she would do. But don’t be a stickler about your spouse not keeping her “end of the deal.” INSTEAD: There are no “deal breakers” as there are in a business arrangement. Keep in mind your overall goals. It isn’t about who did what. You have to do whatever it takes to make it work.
Marriage is Give and Take
Marriage is not give and take. We are willing to give endlessly to our children without expecting anything in return, but don’t think of our spouse the same way. So long as you are thinking about what you are getting back from the relationship, it will never seem worth it. INSTEAD: Marriage is give and give—just as we do so willingly for our children. When you give in order to get something back the relationship is a taking relationship, and taking relationships aren’t meaningful or fulfilling.
Don’t Argue in Front of the Children
People are told not to argue in front of their children so that the children won’t think they are unhappily married. But instead, by never arguing in front of your children, you are propagating to them the idea that happily married couples never argue—which is absurd. When such children grow up and get married they think that an argument with a spouse signals an unhappy marriage. INSTEAD: If you want your children to know how to resolve an argument with their spouse show them how to do so. Many people find themselves stuck in this same scenario because they never learned from their parents how to resolve issues—because their parents waited until the children went to bed to argue. Therefore, you should argue in front of your children—the correct way. There are two caveats here: First, if the issue at hand isn’t appropriate for children, obviously don’t argue about it in front of them. Second, if the decibel level gets out of hand so that you wouldn’t want your children to hear it, it is a conversation you shouldn’t be having at all. It means you need to calm down.
You Can’t Change Your Spouse
You can’t live with anyone for any amount of time without having to have significant changes. If you are married to someone for long enough, eventually you will find in yourself the very thing you never worked on in your life. The only way that your spouse will change is if you change. INSTEAD: Your spouse is like a mirror, telling you what you are doing wrong. Your spouse sees clearly what you are doing wrong in life as clearly as you can see it in him. The solution is to ask your spouse: “What is it that you see about me that I’m doing wrong in life?” The more you show your spouse how to listen the more he will listen. You will be teaching your spouse how to listen to you. We all want to change; we just don’t know how to.
People Get Divorced for a Reason
People think that there are certain things that cause couples to get divorced and if they stay away from those things they’ll be okay. This is a huge mistake. Marriages don’t break up because of one big thing; it is because of lots and lots of little things (like compromise!) that eventually degrade the relationship to such a point. INSTEAD: Don’t worry about the big things that might break up your marriage. Worry about any degradation in the quality of your relationship. Any small degradation in the quality of your relationship is a major issue. Be mindful of the small things that interfere with your relationship and work on them.
It Takes Two To Tango
This is a myth. “I would do x,y or z, but my spouse is totally unreceptive,” is a common complaint. People assume that they cannot improve their marriage unless both spouses are willing. INSTEAD: It takes one to tango. In marriage you tend to follow a pattern. You end up responding in a typical way—the same predictable way hundreds of times throughout your relationship. So the best advice is to change your reaction so that your spouse will react differently too. Don’t blame your spouse; every aspect of your relationship is within your ability to change. It only takes one of you to make it right.
Let’s just Agree to Disagree
Agreeing to disagree is a death nail of marriage. What ends up happening is that a couple will do this with every single issue because it is easier to do than work out the issue. This can build up, and the couple doesn’t learn how to talk things out. The end result is a couple that has nothing to talk about. It is the small issues that help you figure out how to talk to each other, and the process of working through a disagreement that is the process of becoming happily married. When discussing something that isn’t that important to you, you can discuss it without getting too upset; this is a training ground for when the bigger issues come up. Couples will say, “We can’t agree on anything.” But that is totally not true; you simply don’t talk about the things you agree on. INSTEAD: If you were dating someone and came upon a disagreement you would continue the conversation and talk it out. So turn an issue you don’t agree on into one that you do agree on. Work it out!