The Worst Myths

>> Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Note On the Ring: I like mine better, but apparently couldn't find a pic of it on my computer,
My favorite ring picture, Ryans ring with my ring at our reception, with my pretty sapphires. Well this will have to do for now.

Prologue: I do not profess to being an expert at being married. In fact I am incredibly guilty of slipping into these myths at different times. However, several people requested a copy of this so here it is. Also, I love children, I do not think they can damage a relationship like one of the studies below suggests, however, I do believe for those who term them wedges that they are sadly more commonly the scapegoat of our own shortcomings.

PS I wrote this way before I met Ryan, I don't think a study could have taught me all the incredible things Ryan has. He is after all my favorite, and I don't know how he deals with me sometimes.

PSS I pdf'd a copy I found whilst digging for another paper and happened accross this, that I have been looking for, for quite some time. If you want the works cited comment and I'll e-mail it to you, but seriously MLA formatting is the pits when dealing with research papers, methinks that is why I am an English major and an excellent utilizer of BS.

PSSS Who would think a paper like this could be so therapeutic for the writer? Or the typist copying the pdf copy, in fact if you have issues with some of the points that is ok, because this is my paper, I take full ownership of it and I think relooking at it taught me a lot about how much I have learned in my degree and myself as a person.

This all being said, enjoy.

The Worst Myths

From the time people are born to the day we die, we are introduced to an assortment of myths. A myth as defined in the Oxford University Press Dictionary is “a widely held but false belief.” These myths have brought joy to a child’s eyes but are confining to the full fledged happiness one may experience as an adult. The most destructive of these myths are those about marriage. As a child we are faced with the introductions of the life we thought we would have if we got married to “Prince Charming.” We might even go so far as to say that fairy tales have put a curse of spell on society in which we have been trying to live up to impossible examples. One example is the words “happily ever after”; they have left a detrimental mark on people even thinking about marriage. People have been shovel fed myths and legends for the ideal marriage relationships; however, there is a way to turn around such backward beliefs and keep them in check for the sake of our current and future generations.
The first step in seeing the problem is to evaluate rational information of the “myths” of marriage in their entirety. Skilled writers and researchers have established the effect myths have taken on people and for what reasons the have been applied to marriages in that way. This will be applied to show the outstanding proof of the myth’s negative effects. Merely a glimpse into this topic will not justify the true extent of this problem, as the problem is more than just skin deep.
On the other hand, one might see these myths as a healthy goal to aspire to. They might seem to be perfect, but as with every dark cloud that has its silver lining, every silver cloud has its dark lining. For an idealist this might work but in reality we have to have more realistic goals in mind as we enter marriage. We have to know that we will not be pulling all the weight nor should we expect our partner to do so. To enter any other way is asking for disaster.

Prior to Marriage

As those who perpetuate the myths have been misled on all the levels of marriage myths, we can first identify the scholars’ approach. In reference to Dr. Jeff H. Larson and Rachel Hickman’s “Are College Marriage Textbooks Teaching Students the Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality?”; the study conducted discovers that “4 out of 10 textbooks covered two thirds or more of the premarital predictors and none of the books used an integrative teaching approach consistently”(Larson and Hickman 385). They however, believe that this might be hard to fulfill in the 600 page books but still would advise writers of such books to revise to include a more thorough coverage on all of the topics (Larson and Hickman 391).
The main issues looked at in Dr. Larson and Hickman’s study were:
“1.How well do the teach students the premarital predictors of marital satisfaction and stability (i.e. marital quality)?
2. How well do they incorporate an integrative teaching approaching to assist students in learning and personalizing the text material on premarital predictors?
3. What improvements should be made in coverage of factors and the use of integrative teaching methods?”
(Larson and Hickman 385).
The one part looked at that was not found in most books was the integrative teaching approach. There were very few that had tried to seemingly teach the reader themselves as opposed to the more organized class setting.
People assume too much about marriage and let their assumptions get the best of them. Another study done by Dr. Lason in 1988 involves an experiment on a “student’s gender, level of romanticism and completion of a marriage and family,” has participants fill out surveys on 15 marriage myths and 5 facts and how college students react to them(Larson 3). Nearly all participants got around 47% incorrect and five particular points that need the most attention are:

“1. The changes in marital satisfaction over the life span and the effect of children on marital satisfaction….
2. The relationship of cohabitation to later marital satisfaction…
3. The effect of different kinds of self-disclosure on marital satisfaction….
4. The relationship of feelings and behavior in marriage…
5. The type of love that leads to marital satisfaction over the life of the marriage…”(Larson 6).

The fact of the matter is that on average people missed more than half of these answers. On these somewhat assumed common knowledge issues, there needs to be an advancement on what we really let ourselves believe.

During Marriage

“Great Expectations” are good to have for one’s future spouse; however, once there, one should not be so petty to let a dispute be the beginning of the end. In Polly Shulman’s article she quotes Frank Pittman as saying “Nothing has produced more unhappiness than the concept of the soul mate” (Shulman 570). So we have to be realistic when we see where we are and what we have. Although it is cynical, a marriage is like a business merger with companies that have different interest; it is true. Comparing people to a “soulmate” has ultimately brought about some of the most unhealthy “business mergers”.
Surprisingly when we said “I won’t be like that…” in regards to how we were raised, it is shocking to discover that we innately rely on the examples we saw from our parents while we were growing up in our own marital relationships (Jacobs 38,41). There are of course exceptions to this as there are with all guidelines and situations. The majority of the time the pattern continues from generation to generation. Although it is agreed that certain issues will change, for the more demanding ones, the past will repeat itself.
We have to build mature relationships where we realize that we will not always get what we want from marriage(Shulman 574). Seeing the truth is a good basis to go from in this instance. It is unhealthy and unrealistic to continue imagining ourselves in a better life or situation. Of course, people imagine they can keep the fantasies to themselves, but it is noticeable and “leads to negative interactions”(Hamamci 314). This is harder for people with “irrational or dysfunctional beliefs” (Hamamci 313). “Disturbed marriage occurs when one or both spouses hold irrational beliefs” (Hamamci 314). Although one person with irrational beliefs can put a strain on the marriage, two however can damage it to the point where both members decide to end the relationship. This is irrational as with certain measures most problems may be fixed.
People grow and change daily, so while we make mistakes, we have to be able to work harder on the relationship before we can expect our marriage partner to(Jacobs 41). Like with farming we must first sow our seeds, tend to them and then reap the benefits, so it is with marriage. It is not a one-way street and must be treated equally, but if we do not first change to be more accommodating then how can we expect another to do all of the work? We cannot. Instead, we must practice what we preach and be willing to compromise.
Honest speech is nice for couples but we must be able to tell the difference between harmful feelings and helpful ones. “The truth is that brutal honesty often encourages brutality more than honesty”(Jacobs 41). With this being the case, there has to be a compromise. A possible compromise is to focus more on the positive when explaining a possible conflict. Others would argue that as long as we are expressing ourselves, we are in a healthy relationship, but many more things are solved with rational thinking than through emotional.
Equality is a nice idea but a hard one to put into action when deciding who will do what specifically in the marriage. This is usually harder for idealists to deal with as they believe that you can make anything possible. We can make anything possible; it is just hard to determine what that anything is. Others might argue that in this day and age, we are closer to equality than we ever were before. This all depends on what you determine as equality and how that is then put into action.
Having children can put a major strain on marriage. Yes, it is true that those children who we believed strengthen a marriage can put a “wedge” in it (Jacobs 42). J. Guttmann and A. Lazar found a different result saying parents are usually happier with marriage than someone who is married without children. This was determined by “the greater satisfaction of the parents’ group with only two of the six satisfaction factor”(Guttmann and Lazar 153). Controversially, Jacobs argues that with children adding into the already busy schedule, people see their spouses less and do not spend as much time together. He suggests that “your children cannot always come first..your marriage..must come first, not only for your sake but also so that your children have the best chance to grow up in an intact family”(Jacobs 42). Some have argued that children strengthen a family and give couples more in common with each other, but with all of the conflicts parents deal with, it is surprising they can survive. A suggestion is to have a scheduled date night once a week in order to maintain knowledge of who our spouse is.
When we do not spend time with our spouse it is not hard to sense the consequences that may come.
True marital fidelity is even harder with the images the media has introduced us to through pictures, television and movies specifically. These images that are bombarding us are hard to deflect and some sink in deep into our minds. Very graphic films have made it so that we know what we are supposed to be experiencing and anything less than that is wrong for us. Sadly, people do believe this fallacy and when people believe something enough it becomes true (Jacobs 42). This can then lead to problems in our relationship as we may feel that there is something better out there for us.

Rerouting Myths and Legends

Ways in which we may correct the myths include talking with our companion about issues as they see them to be important. If it is important to them then, no matter what it is, we should have concern over it as well. This is not to say that when our spouse is doing something we do not enjoy that we have to be right by their side, but you should respect his choice to indulge in the things he enjoys. Likewise it should go both ways. A better example is to make a meal for someone who has different eating habits than you do. You are not going to change the whole menu just for them, but you will respect them and have options that fulfill their needs.
Find out what the spouse expects from the marriage. Maybe you are getting into marriage for reasons that your partner is not; if this is the case you should know. You might realize that your reasons are too different and cannot be compromised. If you do decide to stick with it, you will have a better understanding of what values are most important to the two of you.
During arguments, try to say something funny and/or positive. Janice L. Driver and John M. Gottman conducted a study I which they talk about in the article “Marital Interactions and Positive Affect During Marital Conflict Among Newlywed Couples” in which they observed 49 couples who when coming across a conflict were able to resolve a conflict when humor or happiness was used. This is very important to predict the outcome of a relationship. However, the couples who accomplished this treated their partner with same manners outside of arguments as well. Those who are not positive the majority of the time could not try to do so during an argument.
Couples need to set aside time to reconnect and continue to know each other. For example, in Sarah Brandt’s research on religious homogamy, where both adults have the same faith, she found that it was not so much people being of the same religion that was a strength. Instead, it was the time spent together and the likelihood they will both “form common social networks and avenues of support through their places of worship”(Brandt) This will in turn give both adults common ground in which to fortify their relationship on. This aside, spending time together with your spouse is of great importance. You have to work at being married to your spouse and remember why you wanted to make this commitment in the first place.
Once people have gotten to a comfortable point, you usually forget about all the work you have put in to get there. In this case with marriage, we must repeat the cycle that got us to our happy state. If we let off, then we will fall back into old habits. There is no quick fix but through hard work and repetition of this cycle, we can bring ourselves to a healthy marriage with realistic values. There will always be hard times and life will not always go exactly as planned, but we will have regained a standing point that myths and legends will not be able to influence so dramatically. It is once we have realized that the “idealized marriage” is not rational or reality that we begin to climb above them and beyond to a much better marriage.


Colin Meeks March 7, 2008 at 6:08 PM  

thanks angie I really learned alot from reading this research paper.

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