Does The Perfect Marriage Even Exist?

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Does The Perfect Marriage Even Exist?

Debunking marriage myths

By Susan Koh | 13 April 2021

Someone once asked a riddle on the difference between love and marriage, and the answer? Love is blind and marriage is an eye-opener.

My husband and I had a good laugh when I shared this with him because the punch line was both so relatable and accurate. If it brought a smile, there’s a good chance you can identify with this.

For my husband and I, our rose-tinted glasses on marriage came off shortly after we became parents, three years after tying the knot. Coincidentally, it was around the same time when the both of us went for a lasik surgery to correct our myopia. We often joke that the surgeon must have removed our rose-tinted lenses in the operation, giving us clearer vision all-round.

Definition of rose-tinted glasses according to the Oxford dictionary: Used to describe an idea or a way of looking at a situation as being better or more positive than it really is.

As new parents, we discovered that things often don’t go according to our plans. In fact, whatever ideals we had about being perfect parents were swiftly thrown out of the window because our daughter turned out quite different from what we had read in parenting books. She had her own personality, complete with tantrums and strong-willed character, and simply did not behave the way we anticipated.

On hindsight, our parenting experience became less exasperating and more enjoyable when we gave up on the fixation with doing things perfectly.

We learnt to accept and appreciate our child for who she is, not who we wanted her to be.

This same principle of letting go of unrealistic expectations flowed into our marriage when we gave up romanticising marriage and recognised that a marriage can be testing and rewarding at the same time.

Perfect marriages only exist in fairy tales. In reality, we are all not perfect and it’s unfair to place impossibly high expectations on our spouse.

Common unrealistic expectations on our spouse

While we would never admit to dreaming of a happily-ever-after marriage, we can ask ourselves if we have any of these expectations on our other half.

  • Do we think that our partner will never disappoint us?
  • Do we expect them to know what we are thinking all the time?
  • Do we avoid conflict at all costs?
  • Do we feel our spouse must meet all our emotional needs?

I’m not suggesting that we have zero expectations of our partner either. Instead, I believe healthy expectations can be helpful because nobody desires for their marriage to stay stagnant or mediocre.

Setting expectations give us a clear direction on how to steer the relationship forward and avoid settling into complacency just because the chase has been sealed with a ring. Instead we can reframe unrealistic expectations and exchange them for healthy ones by tackling these three common marriage myths.

Exchanging idealistic expectations for healthy ones

  • Marriage Myth #1 - Everything eventually gets better after marriage
    As marriage mentors to pre-marital couples, my husband and I have met couples who are certain that their current issues will get ironed out after marriage – somehow.

    These issues can be anything from unhealthy habits to conflicting priorities or poor time management. The reluctance to deal with problems head-on usually comes from the fear that some issues are too thorny to be discussed. However if unresolved, the issues can escalate over time, and like a ticking bomb may have explosive consequences in the future.

    Instead of bottling things up or ruminating about the problem, let’s be honest with our partner. The key to a successful marriage lies in open and honest communication.

    If there are matters that have been swept under the carpet, bring them to the surface now. Approach the issue with an open mind and state our willingness to work towards resolution amicably.

    Instead of bottling things up or ruminating about the problem, let’s be honest with our partner. The key to a successful marriage lies in open and honest communication.
  • Marriage Myth #2 - Conflicts are undesirable and should be avoided
    Early in my marriage I would go out of my way to avoid any conflicts with my husband. I believed that conflicts were detrimental and quarrels signalled that we were headed for trouble.

    But I gradually understood that conflicts are inevitable and it is possible to navigate conflicts positively. The key is choosing to respond to conflicts in a healthy manner.

    According to Dr. Gottman’s study of couples for 6 years, the first three minutes of a conflict discussion is an indicator of how a marriage will turn out. If a conflict discussion begins with a “harsh startup”, that is, with negative emotions such as criticism or sarcasm, the chances of a couple staying together are much lower.

    Conversely, when a couple avoids criticising or blaming each other and focuses on the issue at hand, they tend to have a more stable and thriving relationship.

    Before the next conflict arises, learn about each other’s conflict resolution style. Come to an understanding that we can agree to disagree. Remember that marital happiness is not determined by the number of conflicts a couple has but how these conflicts are handled.

    The key is choosing to respond to conflicts in a healthy manner.

  • Marriage Myth #3 - Your partner should know what’s on your mind Our partner may know us well enough to finish our sentences or know what’s on our mind, but it is presumptuous to assume that people will not change their minds no matter how well we think we know them.

    One-sided expectation is unfair as it distracts us from appreciating our partners when they respond differently from what we imagined. Cracks can surface in a relationship when we start thinking negatively of our partner because we feel let down whenever they fail to catch our hints.

    The only way your partner can know what’s on your mind is if you speak your mind. Be honest with your expectations and ask your spouse if they are reasonable and realistic.

As the saying goes, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Instead of chasing a perfect, fairy-tale marriage, let’s focus our energies on creating a great marriage, which takes hard work, intentionality, and humility to build.

By releasing unrealistic expectations, you may rediscover a side of your spouse that will remind you of why you chose him or her in the very beginning.

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

 

Life can be overwhelming. Having a listening ear can bring relief, help you feel supported, and improve relationships. Make an appointment with a counsellor today.

Susan is a self-confessed C+ mum who lives for coffee, chocolate and heartfelt connections. As a mum of one she believes that the best parenting style is parenting with intention and shares her motherhood journey on her blog A Juggling Mom.

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