11 Dumb Things People Believe about Marriage

by | Jul 6, 2022 | Marriage, Preparing for Marriage, Resolving Conflict | 33 comments

11 Things Dumb People Believe about Marriage
Merchandise is Here!

Lots of people believe a lot of dumb things about marriage!

I’m in the middle of moving our site to our new Bare Marriage domain (we should be up and running by the end of the month!), and we’re only taking posts from 2018 and forward with us, leaving over 1000 posts behind.

So I’ve been combing the archives seeing if there are any older ones I’d like to save, and for July I’ll be tweaking them and rerunning them! Here’s one I originally wrote in 2017. Back then I had 13 things rather than 11, but i decided to leave 2 out of the rewrite! 🙂

I asked on Facebook, “what are some dumb things people believe about marriage?”, and tons of you replied! (Thank you so much! It makes it much easier to write my posts when you all give me the ideas! 🙂 ). Think of this post, then, as a collaborative effort between all of you and me.

11 Dumb Things Smart People Believe about Marriage:

1. Marriage is a lot of hard work

We hear tons of pessimistic statements about marriage out there that talk about it as if it’s always going to be one hard slog that you have to get used to. But that’s not necessarily true. One woman said:

I’ve been married 12 years, and people don’t believe me when I say it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. I definitely don’t fit the “marriage is hard” crowd. Of course we fight and argue, but so did I with my sisters growing up, but do you ever hear “being a sibling is so hard. It takes a lot of work.” No, you don’t. Don’t let what others say keep you from wanting to get married. It’s mostly fun!

What I found is that marriage WAS hard work at the beginning, because you had to get used to new habits. But once those habits become natural, it can stop being hard work. That doesn’t mean that for everyone marriage feels fun and easy; some people are married to those with difficult personalities. But on the whole, if we each put in effort to learn new habits, marriage can be amazing!

2. Marriage shouldn’t be any work

While lots of people believe that marriage will always be work, some believe it shouldn’t feel like work, or else it’s not real love. One woman wrote:

People believe that the honey moon never ends. My niece thinks is should always be gifts flowers no arguments and telling her how great she is, she refuses to believe that is a fantastic lie.

The key to marriage eventually feeling easy is learning how to think of the other person until it becomes natural. Here’s how one woman summed it up:

I’ve been married 21 years. It’s not hard…life is so much better and so much easier being married than it was being single (and I thought single life was good). With that said …no taking for granted. Say thank you, please, I love you. Ask yourself what can you do to make your spouse’s life better today…and do it.

Exactly! And that shouldn’t feel like work. If simply doing kind things for your spouse feels like work, the issue is not with marriage. The issue is with selfishness.

(Now, if you have a big problem you’re working through, that’s different. But on the whole, thinking of someone else shouldn’t be work! If you find, however, that you are consistently thinking of your spouse and they are never returning the favour, or you are putting all the work into the marriage and they are putting in very little, that’s something that should be addressed. Marriage should make you better people; if one spouse is sliding through, that’s a red flag.)

3. Marriage is all downhill from here

This was a common response! One woman wrote:

Some seem to believe that every marriage is brutal work, full of selfishness, bickering and serious sex issues.

Yep. Not only is marriage a ton of work, but it’s also miserable.

People believe that the longer you’re married the more problems you have or the farther apart you’ll be. Friends have asked me if we have a lot of arguments yet. I said we didn’t, and their reply is, “Just wait! That time will come!”

Actually, in the surveys I did for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that in the sex department, at least, the best years in marriage are 16-24. They’re long after the honeymoon years; long after the kids are all sleeping through the night. It’s after you’ve spent a decade and a half with this man, and you’re able to be super vulnerable. And that’s when things often start to really work!

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4. There’s only one correct way to divide up the chores and the work

We are all different personalities, with different giftings. We all have different callings on our lives. And so it’s hardly surprising that families will look different.

However, we have this idea that marriage should only be done one way. Maybe all wives should be stay at home moms–and stay at home moms should also do all of the housework. Maybe people believe that all wives should work. Or maybe we believe that the husband must always earn the majority of the income, or that housework must always be split 50/50.

When we try to chase after a certain model of marriage rather than trying to figure out what our particular partnership will look like, we inevitably feel resentment, because we’re trying to fit into a mold that perhaps wasn’t meant for us.

The key thing is not who does what, but that you both share the combined load. No one person should be working harder than another, and no one person should have way more leisure time and freedom than the other (with the exception, of course, of certain jobs which may keep someone away from home for months at a time, leaving them with little freedom!). Split the mental load and the labor--whatever that looks like for you.

5. Women must empower men to make all the decisions

That’s another huge belief that kept popping up! People believe that submission in marriage means that his desires matter while hers don’t (Hint: the belief that her feelings don’t matter will doom a marriage). 

I came into marriage having been taught to submit in every way to my husband. I was so paranoid of getting out of my place that I didn’t even want to give him my opinion on which restaurant to choose when we went out to eat. It didn’t take long for me to discover he didn’t want a cheerfully smiling puppet. He wanted a WOMAN and teammate!

And what happens if women do disregard their feelings and only care about men’s? It’s like this attitude:

Whatever your husbands asks for ( sexually or any other way ), he shall get it. So I’ve seen many marriages falling apart because of this “commandment”.

The key to loving someone is wanting the best for them. What is best is that people learn to compromise and to love. If someone is learning that their feelings are the only ones that matter, then they will not be loving. They can easily become cruel. A great marriage needs two people who learn to love and cherish each other. If we make our life about primarily doing whatever a spouse wants, without consideration of the impact of that on others or on the kingdom, that’s not loving. That’s idolatry. 

6. Men need mostly respect while women need mostly love

Similarly, this one was mentioned a number of times. The truth is that you cannot have respect without love, and you cannot have love without respect, and for most people, they are interchangeable. 

There’s a more fundamental problem with this belief system, though, in that it can make women responsible for how men feel and act. If he is angry, it’s because she’s not respecting him. If he is weak, it’s because she’s not respecting him. And if he does anything wrong that requires confrontation–well, she can’t do that because that wouldn’t be respectful.

As I explained in my post about why the concept of unconditional respect in Love & Respect doesn’t work, there is such a thing as “tough love”. If someone is acting badly, you can enact boundaries and still be loving, because it is not loving to enable someone to continue in sin. However, there is no equivalent of “tough respect”. So while a husband can deal with a wife who is damaging the marriage, a woman has no way of dealing with a husband who is damaging the marriage. And that’s not safe.

How about this? Let’s both love and respect each other. That will give us a great marriage!

7. Marriage will change him into a good person

Marriage does not make everything better; marriage actually exacerbates any problems that are already there, because now the person doesn’t have to impress you anymore. And as you live day in and day out together, the little things will start to add up.

Marriage will not suddenly make a guy quit porn, get a job, handle finances well, stop drinking so much, or stop playing video games so much. It will likely make him do all of those things more.

8. As long as you marry a Christian, the marriage will be fine

That being said, both of you being Christian is not a panacea for all problems. One woman said the biggest myth is this:

People believe that ‘compatibility’ is a myth, and as long as you’re both Christian everything will be hunky-dory. Yeah, if you’re 100% committed to making a long term relationship work with someone who it will be a constant struggle to live with it *is* possible, but why would you choose that from the start? Maybe I’m underselling myself but if our baseline wasn’t *easy* I don’t know how we would have gotten through the tough times.

I agree! And our idea of what a “Christian” is can be warped, too. If someone isn’t demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit, even if they can quote Scripture, they likely aren’t a good spouse. Yes, choose a believer–but make sure that believer is someone who is easy to be with because you both care for and are kind to one another. 

Just because someone says he is a Christian doesn’t mean he is one!

9. Kids will make the marriage worse.

Kids make LIFE harder. You get less sleep. You have less disposable income. You have less free time. Kids can have their own unique health challenges or other challenges that bring stress to a marriage. Absolutely.

But kids can also be something that bond you together like nothing else! And kids don’t have to rob you of romance. We have so many great memories of bike rides as a family after dinner. Sure, we may not have had as much one on one time, but we had great time as a family that made Keith and me feel closer anyway.

10. Don’t go to bed mad!

The Bible does say we aren’t to let the sun go down on your anger. But if you’re up at 2:00 a.m. fighting, the sun has already gone down. Maybe it’s better to get some sleep so you have a clear head in the morning!

I used to believe this. It took me many years to realise that sometimes my husband needs to go into his cave (metaphorically speaking) for his anger/hurt/frustration to subside and only then can we work through whatever particular issue we are having at that time.

Decide that this issue isn’t bigger than your marriage, and certainly make a commitment to revisit it. But not everything has to be solved before you go to sleep!

11. Divorce is never, ever an option

Yes, marriage is sacred. But God does not love the marriage more than the people in the marriage. And sometimes marriages do have to end.

Some things are unforgivable and a total deal breaker. Sometimes you must leave to save yourself.

But I want to end on a lighthearted note, with this one.

That your wife won’t throw cold water on you in the shower. Love being married. Never a dull moment.

Love that! And I hope you all can find joy in marriage, too–and avoid the mistakes that can cause marriage to falter.

Did I miss any? What would be #12? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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33 Comments

  1. Irene

    To add to #4, be flexible with the roles so that as things change, the roles can change. All marriages go through seasons and the way we sort out who does what needs to be able to adjust.

    Reply
    • Becky

      Yes! The pastor who did our premarital counseling (married to a physician) emphasized this. He told us that at one point in their marriage his wife was in residency and working more than full time, and he worked part time and primarily was home with the kids. People thought they were very liberated and radical. At another point, they lived in a country where he had a work visa and she didn’t, so she was home with the kids. People thought they were very traditional and conservative. Instead their emphasis was on doing what was best for their family at that time. It was very good advice, and my husband and I have changed our assignments numerous times over 21 years. What stayed consistent is that whomever gets home first makes dinner! I did the cooking for many years when my husband had a very long commute and unpredictable hours. Now that he works part time from home (and does the laundry, shopping, house cleaning), I just cook on weekends. The key is to talk about it and rework things together as life circumstances change, and not make assumptions.

      Reply
  2. Somewhere lost at sea

    My husband and I have been married 6 years now. From the beginning, we were surprised at how easy it was. We kept waiting for the hard season, when the honeymoon phase end. But year after year, it never came. Sure we argued about who was taking out the garbage and holiday plans, but it never felt hard. My husband still comes home with flowers here and there.

    Our marriage hit its first huge test this year. We had a 24 week premie and spent 4 months in the NICU. In the beginning, it was very rocky. We were both severely traumatized, hurt, angry and scared. There was a period of time that I honestly didn’t know if our marriage would survive. It was brutal. We were told that divorce rates were higher among parents of premies. I understood why.

    But we ended up fighting harder to save our marriage. To be intentional about not losing each other in the midst of it all. It was not easy. And I was sad about that. We are 6 months into parenthood now. We are doing tremendously better. But there were some dark days.

    Sometimes I wonder if we had it too easy in our marriage. But it ended up being one of the things that held us together. We knew that wasn’t us. We didn’t want to throw it all away. Had it not been lol that I honestly don’t know if our marriage would have survived. It became a lighthouse of sorts. We were lost at sea in a hurricane, and it helped us find our way home.

    Reply
    • R

      We’ve had a similar experience (minus the premie baby etc). We’ve just been so happy together. We’ve had some stressful times, we’ve had busy times because of children and/or work when we haven’t been able to spend much time together, and of course we’ve had things come up that could have come between us – but we’ve been blessed to be able to communicate lovingly with each other to work those things out.
      11 years married and still very much in love.

      Reply
  3. Codec

    I know that with all the insanity of things like the abuse Johnny Depp went through and all of the ways that people can manipulate each other that people can get pretty cynical. Still, I think that that cynicism can only get so far. I think that marriage can be and is a force for good in this world.

    Reply
  4. CMT

    How about this one: All hell will break loose if you and your spouse don’t adhere to your respective god-ordained roles in the marriage. Especially you, wife! Overstep your bounds and you’ll emasculate your husband, screw up your kids, ruin your “witness,” make yourself miserable and, don’t forget, god will be mad at you too!

    The pressure to “get it right” is so counterproductive. I am much more free to do my part building a good relationship since I realized that God does not expect me to squash myself into a prescribed role.

    Reply
    • Thankful Reader

      Yes! My husband and I were considering a pretty large decision together and our pastor said *multiple times* that he thought it was a bad idea and that *I* would be leading my family astray and we’d have a worse judgment seat for it. My husband went to him alone the first time to talk to him and didn’t mention my name once, yet I was still brought up as the one that was surely going to be the reason my future family wouldn’t be in church or serving the Lord.

      Reply
      • CMT

        Wow. Laying it on pretty thick, there, pastor. Your family will have a worse judgement seat because of you?? Screwed up on so many levels, from the theological on down. And “you’ll be to blame for the hypothetical apostasy of your currently nonexistent children” is just taking mom guilt to a new low. Like subterranean low. That’s gross. I sincerely hope that you are not under the influence of unhealthy people like that anymore.

        Reply
  5. Amy

    Such a great list.

    In regard to divorce is never an option, if divorce is never an option, then a healthy marriage isn’t truly an option either. It’s like the cliche, if you can’t say no, then you can’t truly say yes. That’s not to say that threatening divorce is a weapon you can use in a moment of anger or frustration, however if your spouse is choosing a pattern of destructive behaviors, divorce needs to be an option for the safety and protection of the good-willed spouse.

    The Christian world needs to get past the notion that all people, and especially those who claim Christ, are automatically good-willed towards their family.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      While people should not live in fear of their spouse walking out on them, and people who got married gave their words “til death do them part,” I think there’s a lot of value in understanding the voluntary nature of the relationship.

      A lot of fine, reasonable people destroy their marriages by dragging things out. If “divorce isn’t an option,” there’s little incentive to solve uncomfortable problems before they fester. Why make sex good for your wife in the first year, rather than fifteen years from now? It’s not like she’s going to leave you over it, because divorce isn’t an option. Why put boundaries on your overbearing parents now? They can run the show for the next decade, because it’s not like your husband is going to divorce you over it. Why buy your wife flowers or rub her back like you did when you were dating? She’s stuck with you!

      Reply
      • Cynthia

        Absolutely.

        A lot of panic about the rising divorce rate came during the period right after divorce laws were changed to make the process easier. Initially, a lot of people who had been in bad marriages DID divorce. Many articles were written about how marriage was doomed.

        It wasn’t. The divorce rate peaked around 1991 in Canada, and then started to fall. People didn’t get married as quickly, and were more often prepared to work on the marriage and have different expectations. People who get married today are much more likely to succeed than those who got married a generation ago.

        Reply
  6. Jane Eyre

    The myths I will add:
    1. Being married for a long time means you understand other people’s marriages. No, you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, and what worked for you doesn’t always work for everyone else.

    2. Newlyweds are all the same. As someone who got married later in life, I can definitively say that I got better advice from my never-married friends than from people who got married at 22. The latter group, Sheila and Rebecca excluded (though I’ve never met you) are out to lunch. “Willful stupidity” would not be taking it too far.

    Reply
    • Elle

      Regarding your number 2 point

      Are there any exceptions to Christian marriage resources being written by people married in their early 20’s?

      I don’t know of any even though the average age of first marriage now is years later than early 20’s (in the US at least).

      Disconnect there for sure because the experience/advice needed for newlyweds is often imho different for each age group.

      Reply
      • Lisa

        Yes! This! Also the dating/engagement period can be vastly different in, for example, your late 20’s compared to your early 20’s or late teens, and require very different advice.

        Reply
    • Angharad

      Yes, and along the same lines, I have great difficulty in keeping a straight face when I hear pastors who got married at 21 preaching on ‘the difficulties of the single Christian life’!!!

      As someone who didn’t start dating until I was well past 40, I found a good 75% of marriage books completely irrelevant. So many of them assume that you’re moving straight from your parents house or a college houseshare into the marital home, whereas my husband & I had been living independent, single lives for decades.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s one reason I don’t want to write about being single. I need to get some guest writers to write about it! What I’d say may very well be true and evidence-based, but I have no personal knowledge of it.

        Reply
  7. Phil

    Hey Sheila – thoughts for your new website – I search up your old post to find your amazon link. I am not aware of it being anywhere on the TLHV site other than that post. Maybe you should ditch that post and put a link in an accessible area?

    Reply
  8. Jo R

    Meet his needs, and he’ll meet yours.

    🤢 🤮

    Reply
    • Stefanie

      It took me way too long to figure out that wasn’t working.

      Reply
      • Jo R

        Don’t feel bad. My unit of time measurement is “decades.”

        Reply
  9. Cynthia

    #4 was key for us! My husband has many strong points, but visual/spatial skills were a challenge and it got worse after he lost vision in one eye. That meant that, man or not, being a handyman assembling and fixing things was not going to happen. It also meant that, egalitarian or not, I would be the one to load the dishwasher. He does a lot of other stuff, we just learned to divide tasks by abilities and not pre-conceived ideas.

    I would add as #12 that some of the most intimate/romantic stuff won’t look stereotypically romantic and may come during the hardest times. I will always remember how he dropped everything including cancelling his attendance at an important conference to run to my side when I had my first miscarriage. It was a horrible experience but it left me even more convinced that I wanted him to one day be the father of my children (which he is, and he has been an amazing dad).

    There will be hard times. Ideally, marriage will be a source of support during hard times and not a cause of the hardship.

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      Your number 12 is one of the reasons I am getting divorced. During a time when my mom was the primary caregiver for her mother (who needed basic needs taken care of by someone else) and my stepfather who was fighting a brain tumor my husband left me alone to take care of my grandmother and our four children. My mom had taken my stepfather out of state for treatment at a hospital with higher success rates than what was near us. So I was now the primary caregiver for my grandmother. The reason he told me was the conference he was attending would be good for his career and get him some great contacts for job opportunities later. Come to find out he had a girlfriend who he took with him. So left his wife alone at a time of great need and support so he could spend time with his girlfriend. 😡

      Reply
      • Nessie

        Tiffany- I’m so sorry. That is terrible.

        Reply
      • Cynthia

        Ugh, that’s awful! I’m a divorce lawyer, and hate it when some people complain that women are more likely to file for divorce. Guess what? You don’t need a divorce to have an affair or abandon a spouse or be abusive. You do need to file for divorce if your spouse did any of these things and you need to move on with your life, get papers showing you have custody of the kids, seek child support or go after property claims. The person who files for divorce is often NOT the person responsible for ending the marriage.

        My dad and his dad had both told my husband that he could go to the conference, and the family would help me. He never considered doing that. First, he knew that I needed him with me. Second, it was his loss too, and he needed to deal with that. He was a medical resident at the time, and his was supposed to be doing a poster presentation at this conference, which was the major American conference in the sub-specialty he wanted. I knew that this could be important for his career. Ultimately though, his decision reflected his core character traits, and it was those same character traits that have made him a successful husband, father and physician (in the sub-specialty that he wanted – where patients know that he will drop everything if something is truly important, and act like a caring human being).

        You deserve better.

        Reply
    • Amy

      Love your #12. One of the most romantic things I have ever witnessed is my brother-in-law feeding my sister while she was in the hospital after an accident she was in. She injured her arms and they were all bandaged up (she’s ok now).

      Reply
  10. C

    I wish people would stop saying that you give your husband as much variety and frequency that your marriage can survive anything.
    I wish people would stop promoting their own version of “respect” teachings as the way to a happy marriage. Or that a woman should make herself metaphorically small so that her husband can be happy in the marriage.
    Also—I wish we would stop with so many men this/women that teachings. So many things can cause one to struggle in their marriage that have nothing to do with gender.

    Reply
  11. EOF

    Number 8 really hit me. I believed that lie — just because we were both committed Christians, we’d have an AWESOME marriage. Never mind differing political views (though politics weren’t nearly as polarized then as now), or that we grew up with drastically different family dynamics, nearly a decade age difference, him being a parent and me not, etc. etc. etc. The two of us getting married was a ticking bomb waiting to go off. And it did. Oh, did it. And the church made it 1,000x worse than it would’ve been otherwise. No exaggeration.

    Number 10 was detrimental as well, although ours was worded slightly differently — don’t leave when angry. HORRIBLE advice!! Not only would the space have given us time to cool down and think, but it wouldn’t have kept me locked in an apartment for literally HOURS on end every weekend with a husband screaming and swearing at me. And of course if I would only have been more submissive, he wouldn’t have acted like that. 🙄🙄🙄 All my fault. Obviously I WANTED to be traumatized like that.

    Anything to do with gender roles also goes. All people are different, all have different weaknesses and strengths. Why not let husbands and wives figure out what works from THEM rather than forcing star-shaped pegs into square holes?? Because then it would be less likely that those church members would be so easy to manipulate and control!!!

    Christ wasn’t about authority and power, but boy oh boy, is today’s church! Most leaders love their power and authority!

    I had a flashback to one time my husband telling me, “You were CREATED to help me! You never do!!!”

    No! I was created to bear God’s image. To bring glory to God. How I wish I hadn’t been brainwashed back then. I’d have loved to be able to tell him that. Instead, I felt like a worthless wretch.

    I am SO SICK of these ridiculous ideals forced on women, backed by twisting scripture! This garbage needs to stop!

    Reply
  12. Donita Fogle

    •Your spouse wants you to be successful or even to have God’s healing.Unfortunately you may become the competition in an unhealthy way.

    Reply
  13. Em

    Will you be saving any of your original posts about vaginismus? That’s how I originally found you years ago.

    Reply
  14. Anne

    Adding to the sun down on your anger thing; I think that in practice sometimes maybe that just means you’re lovingly committing to working with the person the next day whether or not it’s perfectly resolved at the moment. Maybe the best decision for the relationship and peace is to make decisions at a better time/mental state.

    Reply

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