“Marriages today are in trouble precisely because of some misleading, even damaging advice that’s been foisted on couples for way too long,” writes Hal Runkel in ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer. “…our families hand down these false truths, teaching us that ‘finding someone’ is the key to having a full life.”
In ScreamFree Marriage, Runkel describes three myths about being married. I love this book because it shows you how to be married in a way that doesn’t depend on finding agreement with your spouse, but rather on embracing conflict as the growth opportunity you and your marriage need.
Is Your Marriage Good or Bad?
If you’re wondering if your marriage is good or bad – or if you should leave your husband – think about these marriage myths. Maybe you’ll discover that your expectations and faulty beliefs are leading you to think your marriage is bad.
Maybe it’s not the marriage or your spouse who needs to change…maybe it’s you. More specifically, maybe it’s your perceptions about being married!
Marriage Myth 1: “Spouses are supposed to meet each other’s emotional needs.”
This is definitely a myth about being married that I’ve bought into! I thought Bruce’s job was to make sure I’m emotionally fulfilled, connected, and fit. But according to Runkel, spouses should not need each other to fill their needs. A good marriage consists of two strong, healthy, mature adults who don’t need each other.
I think it’s about interdependence, not dependence. “Spouses are supposed to be grown-ups, capable of meeting their own emotional needs through a variety of relationships and pursuits,” writes Runkel. “We cannot place all of our [security, self-worth, community, and connection] needs upon one person. Especially if that person is putting the same expectations and requirements right back on us.”
Instead of needing your husband to fulfill your needs, maybe you could figure out what your needs really are, why you have those needs, and whether they can be fulfilled by someone other than your spouse. I’m not saying your needs are the reason your marriage is bad (or good) – I’m just giving you something to think about!
Marriage Myth 2: “Trust and safety are the most important qualities in an intimate marriage.”
Wow – that’s a myth about being married? That trust and safety aren’t important qualities of a good marriage? At first this was the most confusing myth for me – and it turned out to be my favorite one.
“Self-respect and self-representation, at the risk of rejection, are the essential qualities that can actually lead to a growing, vibrant marriage,” writes Runkel in ScreamFree Marriage. “Every step toward your spouse is a huge risk on your part – whether it’s a step expressing negative feelings about him or a step expressing something positive.”
Runkel explains it in detail in his book, but what I took away is this: I am free to be my authentic self in my marriage without being guaranteed that Bruce will accept everything I say and do. I’ve always held back a little – tamped down my personality, suppressed my true wants and plans – because I was worried that I’d rock the marital boat.
The most important qualities of a good marriage aren’t trust and safety. Those are the myths about being married. More important is being yourself, genuinely and sincerely, without holding back.
Runkel writes, “What keeps a marriage breathing is adventure and mystery in the form of risky self-representation – without knowing how your spouse is going to respond.” I LOVE this statement. I love the freedom it gives me to be myself – truly, deeply, and madly.
Marriage Myth 3: “Oneness means having no boundaries, no separation, no individuality.”
This myth was easy for me to accept. I love being married, and I’m learning to love that we are separate individuals with unique characteristics, personalities, opinions, and perspectives. A married couple isn’t the unity candle that is symbolized in so many wedding ceremonies.
Here is Runkel’s example of oneness:
“We found a hand-carved statue in Siberia. Viewed from afar, it looks like a tall, singular person with a leather belt around his waist. Upon closer inspection, however, you see that this singular person is actually made of two individuals, carved to fit together so closely that they appear as one….these are two separate statues, two whole people. They are completely capable of standing alone…or together.”
Isn’t that a beautiful image of marriage? Attached and connected, yet strong enough to stand alone. The myth about being married is that we are one person. The healthy reality is that we are two separate, strong, fulfilled individuals who choose to be together – but who don’t need each other.
To learn more about making a bad marriage good – or strengthening a good marriage – read ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer. It’s an excellent book about being married, whether you’ve been together for five months or 50 years.
What do you think about these marriage myths? Do they change how you see your own marriage, and whether it’s good or bad?