Marriage is like driving a car: Even if you’re in the front seat, you may not understand what’s going on under the hood.
Many times, it’s the myths about marriage that mess a marriage up before you even get married. If you can deconstruct these myths, it will help you make a wiser choice about whom to marry—and how to do marriage better once you say “I Do.”
Myth 1: Marriage is Work
There’s a lot of “marriage is work” talk thrown around these days. Sure, marriage is not simple. But be careful believing marriage is work. This feels to me like marriage is this 8-to-5 drudgery where every day you’re punching your time card. Because for most of us, we can’t wait to leave work.
Metaphors are powerful. Be careful what you’re comparing your marriage to because that very well might have a big impact on your marriage.
You will have to work at elements of your marriage, but marriage is not all work.
Marriage is play. Marriage is an adventure. Marriage is a partnership. Marriage is a creative incubator.
Create marriage metaphors that bring life, not drudgery. Whether you’re dating or married, what do you want your relationship metaphor to be?
Marriage is the metaphor that you make it.
Myth 2: Your Spouse is Your Best Friend
Don’t force your spouse to be your best friend.
Yes, I do believe your spouse should be the closest friend you’ve ever had. If friendship isn’t your foundation, when those first waves hit, your relationship’s sexy wall décor will be floating out to sea.
Yet, many of us are determined to make our spouse our best friend, which really means trying to mold and mash our spouse into acting the way we think a best friend should.
Keep your best friends your best friends. Make the friendship with your spouse into an elite category of its own. Not solely based on your perspective and previous experience, but on what works for both of you.
As I wrote in 101 Secrets for Your Twenties, “Your wife might not tell jokes like your college roommate did. Your husband might not talk for hours into the night like your best friend from home. That’s all right. Like drinking wine or a cup of coffee, they both might taste delicious, but each will have an entirely different flavor.”
Bonus Secret About Marriage: You only get weirder as you get older. If you can’t stand each other’s quirks now, you’ll be sleeping in different rooms later.
Myth 3: Marriage Completes You
If you’re looking for a relationship to complete you, you will consistently feel very lacking. Your spouse is not God, a magic genie, or a unicorn with wish-granting abilities. Your spouse is a human.
If you’re putting unrealistic mythical expectations on your relationship, it might end up more Greek tragedy than romantic comedy. A good relationship should not complete you; it should inspire and challenge you to work on filling in the cracks on a daily basis.
My wife can’t complete me, and I don’t put that heavy expectation on her. But my wife does give me the encouragement and strength to strive to be better every day. And my wife helps give me peace while I continually work on my incompleteness.
Bonus Dating Tip: As I’ve written before, “Is the person you’re dating like a magnet trying to bring the best of you to the surface? Or are they trying to bury you under a pile of dirt? A spouse should be like a proficient gold miner, able to go beyond the surface to uncover the invaluable stuff underneath.”
Myth 4: Whom You Choose to Marry is the Most Important Choice You’ll Ever Make
Choosing your spouse is extremely important. Choosing your spouse every day after the wedding is even more so.
There are so many moments throughout the day when you have a choice to choose your spouse. Or not.
When you have a computer in front of you. When you start flirting with that co-worker. When you just consistently choose to stay at work a little later every night.
Love is more an intentional choice than a tingly feeling.
Marriages don’t fall apart because of one big compromise. They fall apart due to a thousand small ones. Like a windshield crack, the longer you drive on without addressing the issue, the more shattered your relationship will become.
Bonus Relationship Question: Do the fights in your relationship have a point? Or are they just jaggedly pointed, jabbing each other over and over in the same tender spot? Stop focusing on the weeds on the surface and start digging up and removing the real problems.
Myth 5 Marriage is a One-Time Thing
One of my mentors loves saying that he’s been married seven times to the same woman.
I never understood what he meant when I was single. Now, I get it.
Marriage is not static. It’s not a one-size fits all pair of jeans that will always wear the exact same. Your relationship will change, because people change.
In marriage, you have to be willing to re-adjust and re-commit to new seasons. Sometimes that change is screaming in your face (a.k.a., a newborn). And sometimes the change is more subtle and nuanced. It could be a promotion, a death, a diagnosis or a new city.
We have to adapt and grow as people, and so do our relationships.
The conditions in your marriage may change, but your commitment should not.
This article originally appeared at allgroanup.com. Used with permission.