While I am sure there are some universals when it comes to marriage, every marriage is going to look a little different. How you interact, how you argue, your dynamic---it's all influenced by the two unique people in that marriage. Values, personalities, ambitions---there are so many factors. No two marriages are going to be identical.
Over the last several years, especially prior to getting married myself, I often asked older couples if they had any advice about marriage. It was always interesting to hear the variety of feedback given from one couple to the next. It was funny (and a little scary) to hear couples say very different and contradictory things. I remember one couple adamantly advising me to always do our budget together no matter how hard. If they could leave me with only one piece of advice, they insisted this was crucial. That same week another wife explained that she lets her husband do all of their finances and that's how they'd always done it. She had no issue with this, it seemed to work for them.
So even as I write this list, I know that everyone will have a different dynamic and different opinions. And that is totally fine. These are just the things people told me before I got married that I'd say would have been terrible advice for us to follow in our marriage. I thought it would be fun to write them down.
The Worst Marriage Advice I've Ever Received
1. Don't go to bed angry
Sometimes, you just need to get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning. Things won't seem so bad once you've cooled off. Fighting in the heat of the moment is not always best. I understand not wanting to leave things unresolved but at some point in your marriage you might discover that talking it to death won't lend perspective half as well as a good nights sleep. Sometimes, things look different in the daylight.
2. Don't have separate bank accounts
Okay our accounts are "connected" so we can see what the other person is doing with their money. But we do have separate checking accounts. It's easier for us. Based on what our separate income is we split the bills and we're responsible for those bills. This works better for us than having one big pool.
3. The first year is the hardest
Okay, maybe this was actually good advice because we went in a little terrified that the first year would be really hard and soon realized that this just wasn't going to be true for us. That first year is really difficult for a lot of couples but it has a lot to do with personalities and expectations.
Okay about how about the best advice?
1. Have weekly date nights
Date night doesn't have to mean going out and spending money. Even if it's just a a week night that you stay at home, turn off your cell phones, eat dinner together, watch your favorite tv show, or go for a walk. Making a point to purposely spend alone time together can do wonders for the health of your relationship. We have busy lives. We see each other every day but it's often in the context of commitments and other obligations. I don't always feel like I'm spending time with John Paul even if we're together. The busier we get, the more important this becomes.
2. Expectations can kill a marriage
The phrase "I thought" comes up a lot in marriage counseling. I thought marriage would be this way. I thought we'd celebrate Christmas with my family. I thought he'd be more romantic. Whatever it may be, coming into marriage with a lot of expectations or putting a lot of expectations on your spouse can lead to a whole lot of disappointment. It's not that you don't have standards or expect good things out of your marriage and spouse. I expect my husband to be faithful. I expect my husband to respect me. I expect my husband to be honest. It's okay to expect some things. But you have to remember that the person you married is flawed. They're gonna make mistakes. They were raised differently from you. And they may have different expectations about what marriage is suppose to look like as well.
3. Don't share your marriage problems or trash your husband to your friends
My mom once told me that you shouldn't talk about your marriage problems to your friends. This is a bit controversial but I think it was generally good advice. Maybe there is a place for sharing with friends when you are going through a difficult time but it has to be with the intent of finding healing, not just selfish justification. And I don't think it's ever okay to trash your spouse to others.
One of the biggest reasons not to do this is that you're only giving one side of a situation and potentially giving your friends a poor impression of your spouse. You may just be venting, but if they don't hear anything else but your complaints, they're going to start making judgements about your husband. I've noticed that I've unintentionally done this with some friends of mine who constantly complain about their husbands. And how would you feel if you overheard your husband trashing you to his friends or family? You'd probably be pretty pissed or hurt.
If you're having serious marriage problems then seek the appropriate counsel, but otherwise try to build each other up to others. You don't have to give a fake picture of a perfect marriage or act like you have no problems, but you should be respectful of each other with your words and remember that words have power. Words, once said, can be forgiven, but they can never be taken back or unheard.
What's the best or worst advice you were ever given about marriage?