We all woke up to the sudden announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates were divorcing and as envisaged, theories have begun to be bandied about as to the factors that have led to the death of their marriage. It is a sad thing when a marriage breaks down, especially one that has lasted for a long time and in which the partners portrayed happiness and fulfillment with one another. It tends to challenge and question our theories and beliefs as to what makes for a lasting and happy marriage.
It wouldn’t surprise me, if the Gate’s are themselves bewildered by the turn of events in their lives as I have discovered that many times the factors that lead to the death of a marriage are varied and are not immediately apparent to the parties. I have however come to the realization that we all believe in myths about marriage which can undermine and form the basis for the collapse of our marriages. There are many myths about marriage but I will focus on those which are not overly popular but are insidious and do much damage.
Marrying your friend guarantees marital success and/or there is a Mr or Mrs Right somewhere out there.
I was a firm believer that marrying one’s friend guaranteed a fulfilling and successful marriage and though I still subscribe to the belief that one should marry their friend, I am hesitant to guarantee that marriages between friends will work out automatically. As a friend pointed out to me lately, marriage is hard work and there is no ready made Mr or Mrs Right. It seems that people have the notion that marrying one’s friend precludes them from the hard work needed in nurturing a relationship with their spouse. This is more so because we tend to take our friends for granted and treat them anyhow because we feel they will better understand and tolerate us. My friend is of the opinion and I agree with him that rather than becoming fixated on marrying one’s best friend (who may not want to marry us) we should work at making our spouses our friends having in mind that friends can and do turn into enemies.
Premarital counseling help to prevent conflict.
When I was getting married, it was the belief that couples must attend premarital counseling and that without it they will not succeed in marriage. I still hold on to that belief that premarital counseling is vital but I have found through my experience that most couples go through these programs halfheartedly or with their hearts fixated on the wedding day and that the marriage advice given in these sessions flow in one ear and out the other. I have and will continue to advocate that post rather than pre marital counseling will do couples more good as they become faced with the realities of living life together.
Every failed marriage is attributed to factors such as abuse, lack of money, sex or adultery.
Whilst most marriages breakdown because of the above mentioned factors, some marriages pack up because both or one of the parties have evolved and do not have aligned values, vision or desires. It is difficult to imagine but sometimes people just outgrow each other and decide they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives with one another. Most often they will remain friends are civil and courteous with one another but will prefer to go their different ways before resentment begins to build up towards their spouse.
In this situation time may make them grow apart rather than together.
Having Children help to cement a marriage and will make couples happy.
This is both true to an extent. For some people, the advent of children bring with it complications into the marriage, the couple are overwhelmed with the emotional and financial needs of their children that it becomes the mainstay of the marriage and they hardly have any common interests aside the children. Whilst this may seem good at the beginning, it becomes obvious when the children have grown and the couple is faced with an empty nest and a stranger opposite them. Also some people think having children will make their spouse more responsible as a parent but an irresponsible person may or may not change even when the children come along and the presence of children may further complicate things between the couple.
Your spouse will fulfill you.
Spouses take a good chunk of space in our hearts and rightly so but they are not meant and cannot be everything to us. We are not less lonely because we are married or in a relationship, Likewise, we cannot fill gaps in each other’s lives just because we are married to them. Each person is responsible for their growth and happiness irrespective of their partner’s actions, attitudes and lifestyle.
All issues and all conflicts can be resolved.
This is one of the major reasons people stay in dead marriages because they have bought the belief that with more understanding and patience, their spouse will either change or they will become more accepting of their faults. The truth is that it takes the active participation of both parties to work at saving the marriage. One person cannot do all the work and sometimes our patience wears thin and we cannot accommodate the other’s fault any longer. Some people are just unsuited for one another and sometimes a second marriage brings a joy and fulfillment that was absent in the first.
Love is enough
Hollywood has helped to propagate the belief in happily ever after, however, anyone who has been married for a length of time knows this is not true yet we all romanticize love and seek it fervently ignoring the many other factors such as respect, commitment, responsibility, discipline that are the pillars of a good marriage.
Possessiveness and jealousy is a sign of love.
This is one myth that people married to narcissists believe in and whilst it is true that we are naturally protective of and jealous of undue attention by our spouse towards another, most times possessiveness and jealousy are signs of dysfunctional behavior borne out of the other person’s insecurities and not because of the love they have towards us.
Once separated or divorced you can’t come back together again and if you do it wouldn’t work out.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and for some people they need to leave each other to appreciate what they have together. However, the heart wants what it wants and some find themselves still in love with their spouses even if they have offended them greatly. I have heard of couples that legally obtained a divorce and later remarried and couples that left one another to go live with another person and came back together not because one was ill or dying but because they realized they still had a thing for one another that indiscretion and time could not take away.
Marriage is heart and hard work. Sometimes we are blessed in having a fulfilling and satisfying marriage which lasts our lifetime and brings us joy but it never comes easy and it doesn’t happen for every one.