Worst Marriage Advice I've Ever Heard

Marriage is not as complicated as we often make it. Contentment breeds simplicity, while selfishness breeds complexity. If you feel your marriage is a labyrinth of intricate land mines intermingled with sheets of black ice and patches of vaporized Ebola, it might be because you are making it that way. Marriage can be ridiculously simple. I'm not saying my marriage is perfect, but I think we're pretty happy. Sure, we're learning from our mistakes, but that's the only way to improve! 

Many people--including people that have been married longer than my wife and I--give terrible marital advice. For me, it's best to smile, nod, and keep the thoughts of how stupid their advice is cordially enclosed inside my head. It's not my job to correct everyone else or critique their marriages; but it is my job to be careful about what advice I listen to and filter out the garbage. 

This post is supposed to be somewhat lighthearted, but it also deals with a serious issue--marriage. I like to have fun in my writing, even if it's a serious topic. Enjoy it as best you can, or hate it passionately; but always feel free to share your two cents at the end.

#1 It's normal to keep secrets from your spouse.

I have actually had people ask me to keep secrets from my wife. I'm not talking about surprise birthday parties. I mean they will say something to me and then end their statement with, "Don't tell your wife I said this." My answer to them is, "Not making any promises." It's not that I tell my wife every single thing in my mind, because when I try to do that she get's really irritated! But if it's pertinent, I will tell my wife because she is my closest friend. She deserves to hear news first. 

There are at least two reasons I think secret keeping is a bad idea in marriage. 

First, secrets foster distrust. If you find out your spouse has kept important or pertinent information from you, you start asking, "What else is he/she not telling me?" And perhaps more disturbing is the question, "Why did he/she keep that information from me?" These thought processes lead to bad places quickly. Most conflicts in our marriage have arisen from either distrust or miscommunication.

Second, keeping secrets gives you practice at secret keeping techniques. It's difficult to become good at something you never do. I am very happy to tell you that both my wife and I are terrible liars. Neither of us have worked under cover or practiced espionage. I'm not saying we've never lied. That's absurd; but deceit and withholding of information is not standard procedure in our marriage! If you start keeping secrets about "small" things, it will be infinitely easier for you to keep secrets later about "big" things.

#2 You should have separate bank accounts to keep things "fair."

I understand the rational for this advice, but I still think it's terrible counsel. You are telling couples that instead of resolving their issues and setting financial goals together, they should both fly financially solo because after all, we can't really trust each other.

Money is a big deal. It is also a perfect opportunity to send a message to your spouse that says, "I trust you. I think you are a responsible person." If you can't honestly say those things, why did you marry that person? Oh, right, romance. Life is just like "The Notebook" and every time you kiss it rains. I like romance. I love seeing my wife's eyes light up when I write her about my love for her! However, I also know that most moments of marriage are not about poetry and diamonds--they are about schedules, financial statements, and grocery shopping. If you can't jive with all those other things, the romantic stuff probably won't happen much either.

Immediately after we were married we combined our bank accounts and credit cards. We still have combined accounts, and we budget our money together. That budgeting time is a great time for us to discuss our priorities and plan for our future together. It's not all pulling teeth and dragging fingernails on a chalk board--it's actually a beneficial exercise.

#3 It's fine to fantasize about other men/women. Your spouse will understand.

Nothing solidifies the bonds of marriage like staring at another man or woman and communicating to your spouse that you think that other person is so much more desirable. It sickens me. How dare you trample on the foundation of your marriage by insulting your spouse so flagrantly! It's not normal. It's perverted. It's not "just for fun", it's just because you're acting like a selfish three-year-old who is always eyeing the toys they don't have.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your [lifestyle] be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have...

Along these lines, it is important to do your best to stay attractive to your spouse. I like to dress up and groom myself in such a way that makes my wife happy. I want her to want me. And she feels the same way. She asks me if I like a dress or an outfit before she buys it. Married couples should try to keep each other happy and satisfied. For this reason, it also sickens me when people say...

#4 You're married. It doesn't matter how you look.

The speakers of this lavish stupidity are either trying to be funny (and doing a poor job) or they genuinely believe that the pursuit of their spouse was more exciting and meaningful than the life together with their spouse. It communicates a disconnect between husband and wife. It insinuates more of an interest in "winning something" than in the person being won. It diminishes the value of the spouse and exalts the value of selfish pride. I know these statements all seem very harsh and somewhat judgmental; but sometimes the truth is harsh. Our actions and sometimes our twisted forms of comedy communicate a deep and disgusting truth that is embarrassing when we put it into sentences.

It does matter how you look. You don't need to pursue the standards of physical appearance purported by Hollywood and fashion magazines, but you should pursue a physical appearance that pleases the eye of your spouse. It's hard to work at it if your relationship is dismal because of other maladies--I get it. So fix up the core issues, if you have any. 

Communicate. Love. Sacrifice. Invest. Think.

By analogy, consider your car as your marriage. First, fix the engine components, the transmission, the brakes, the tires, and everything else that will keep you from destroying everything! Once those things are good, don't most of you want your car to look nice too? Yes, of course; but first things first. AFTER the internal aspects are "firing on all cylinders", then you ought to spend some energy and time making the outside nice to look at. Ask your spouse what they would like to see, then go for it. 

It should go without saying, but be reasonable with your spouse. Don't tell your husband you want him to go from not working out to bench-pressing 400 lbs. Men, don't ask your wife to lose 95 lbs. before your summer vacation. Get real.

If #s 3 and 4 get ignored, you'll start hearing people say...

#5 It's normal to get sick of each other.

If by "normal," you mean pathetically status quo and marginally mediocre, then you might be right. "Normal" in 21st-century America is a 50% divorce rate with many of the 50% marriage rate being pioneered by people who are functionally roommates with extreme emotional distance/dysfunction, and subterranean animosity toward one another.

I'd prefer to be abnormal. I never want to be sick of my wife. I sleep in the bed with her, talk to her at night and in the morning. I call or text her during the day to see how she's doing. I come home and talk to her more, play with our son to give her a break, help her, listen to her, support her, tell her my problems and needs, ask her for help and advice, and ask her out on dates. On weekends we spend almost every waking moment together, and I wouldn't have it any other way. When we are apart it hurts. I feel dissociated, like part of me is missing. This is what I intend to foster for the years that we both shall live. 

#6 Don't let your marriage hold you back.

There are people who have decided that career or pursuit of passion is more important than marriage. That's okay. I cannot criticize that. This world is full of all different sorts of people; but that choice needs to be made before marriage vows are said. Once those sacred vows are made before God and mankind, it's not about you anymore. It's about that person you swore to accompany through life and support, through thick and thin. That's your new priority.

I refuse to let my career hold me back from my marriage. If my job ever demands circumstances that jeopardize my marriage, I will demote myself or quit. No salary is worth losing the greatest blessing God has ever given me. No amount of recognition or achievement is worth turning my back on what I believe is the paramount capacity of humanity--to love. We are not special merely because we are intelligent or strong. We are not distinguished because of our inventions or our theories. We are the deepest creatures to inhabit this planet because we can feel each others sorrow and joy and sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Marriage is a fantastic arena to display this premier human ability. Take advantage.

#7 Retaliate

As I mentioned earlier, I know marriage is not all roses, poetry, and dainty prose. It's laundry, dishes, vomit, stress, bills, and poorly-chosen words. It can be a barrage of bad circumstances followed by misplaced blame and foolishly-timed comments. I'm not trying to sugar-coat marriage.

We don't need someone to give us this advice. The pitchfork-carrying demon figurine on our left shoulder screams it into our psyche. Sure, let's blame Satan; but really it's us. Our wonderfully-fashioned human minds are so keen to shred in pieces the one who cramps our style, or hurts our feelings.

It's bad advice. Next time your spouse makes you want to scream or curse (or both), shut your mouth, ask God to give you grace, and fashion your retaliation into an act of love, kindness, forgiveness, and understanding. 

Come to them with the overwhelming message that, "I am on your team, and I need you to be on mine." 

Tell your spouse, "I chose you, and I intend to keep choosing you every day."

Image credits:
Couples therapy image from http://www.womansday.com/sex-relationships/dating-marriage/traditional-gender-roles#slide-3