When we get married, we expect that everything good in our lives will get better, and that being married will make the bad things disappear. Since our behaviors in marriage are fueled by our (often false!) beliefs about marriage, it’s important to shed light on unrealistic expectations and myths surrounding it.
One of the greatest and most common myths we tend to believe (but don’t often express) when entering marriage is that we’ll somehow be completed or made whole by our husband or wife. As romantic as that concept sounds, it’s simply not true–and resting all your hope for happiness on your spouse is a tremendous amount of pressure for one person to take on!
Happiness is a habit that each individual in a relationship must take responsibility for and learn to cultivate. Here are 5 reasons why your spouse can never be the source of your happiness:
Your marriage was never designed to make you happy.
Whoa–wait a minute! What?
We like to say that your marriage isn’t a magical “happy pill.” It’s a sacred bond established by God that is meant to refine the two of you spiritually, give you a place to cultivate intimacy, and allow you to create your own family.
Is marriage capable of making us happy? Absolutely! But not without a lot of work from both spouses.
It’s neither of your responsibility to be one another’s end-all, be all. Marriages were created to glorify God, and through a God-honoring marriage, both spouses may find joy.
Individual well-being is critical to marital health.
You and your spouse must both be healthy individuals for your marriage to thrive.
Our dearly-held, all-too-common myths about marriage dictate the opposite: that marital bliss creates two happy individuals, coexisting beautifully as one in a dreamlike, happily-ever-after state. Many couples are led astray by this perception.
In order to bring more balance and happiness to your marriage, the two of you must commit to getting healthy as individuals, whatever that means for you. It might mean getting your physical health in order, or participating in hobbies or activities you enjoy. You might need help becoming more emotionally healthy. Having healthy relationships with friends and family outside of your marriage could also be beneficial.
Whatever your individual needs, work together to support each other in becoming healthier people. In turn, your marriage will grow and thrive.
An enmeshed, dependent marriage is toxic.
In Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, we outline three different types of marriages. One unhealthy marriage type is what we like to call the “A-frame” (dependent) relationship. (A-frame marriages form as a result of the couple neglecting their individual well-being.)
In an A-frame marriage, the spouses lean on one another like the long lines in the letter A. This appears very romantic, especially to people on the outside looking in–even the couple idealizes and romanticizes this leaning. But once they get married, this leaning in gradually shifts to pounding down on one another.
Unrealistic expectations and co-dependent patterns emerge. Spouses point fingers and place all the blame for marital issues on one another. You might find yourself thinking or saying things like, “If you were a good husband/wife, you would do/say/feel this,” or, “Maybe I just married the wrong person.”
Eventually, one person will stumble under all that pressure, and the entire relationship will collapse.
Your self-esteem is your responsibility, not your spouse’s.
Healthy self-esteem goes hand-in-hand with the concept of individual well-being, but it deserves special attention. Self-esteem goes to the root of who you are, and encompasses every part of your being and every interaction you have with the world around you.
Since self-esteem heavily influences the relationships we develop, it’s critical to pay special attention to yours. And while it’s wonderful for husbands and wives to encourage each other as often as possible, you just can’t rely on your spouse to develop your self-esteem for you.
Having a healthy, godly sense of self-esteem will help you to be able to identify unhealthy patterns in your relationship. If you’re not yet married, it will be a critical tool in helping you choose a healthy spouse, and potentially avoid creating an unhealthy marriage.
God is the source of true happiness.
Our Heavenly Father is the only One who can truly complete us; no other human can do that job. But you two can certainly help one another grow!
A great verse to illustrate your roles for one another in marriage is Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Spend time in the Word, and work together prayerfully with your spouse to shift your focus to God as the source of your joy. Get involved in your church together, have private devotionals at home, and seek out ways to help one another grow spiritually.
Shedding the myth that your spouse is the source of your happiness will actually make the two of you happier as you move forward and work together to become healthy individuals sharing a blissful marriage.
For more ideas on cultivating a happy marriage, check out our book, Making Happy.