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“If you love me… “Debunking the three myths of marriage

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It’s not something everyone wants to admit – but marriages can become toxic. In every marriage, we often imagine ourselves as the main leads in a Korean drama – man and woman meet, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. But the honeymoon period never lasts forever.

However, when mundane daily routines kick in after marriage and we begin to see the less than glamorous side of our spouse; we come to realise the reality and starkness of our differences, each other’s annoying habits, and the unending stresses of setting up a family or running the home.

That dream spouse you married turns into someone completely different. Whatever promises you whispered to each other during courtship dissipates quickly, and we start to wonder if love has waned. When and why did our love turn cold? If we genuinely love each other, shouldn’t we be living happily ever after? Our love should conquer all.

Dr. Gottman, in “The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work”, offers some tips on unpacking some of these myths and expectations:

Myth 1: If you love me, you should know what I want

Marriage does not turn your spouse into a psychic, and married life is not a game show where your spouse wins your affirmation for guessing your thoughts correctly and suffers your wrath and discontentment when they don’t. The truth is, assuming what you want or need can be highly stressful. To enjoy a higher chance of “winning”, we need to take out the guesswork by communicating and making our needs known.

Dr Gottman’s Principle 1 of making marriage work is to enhance each other’s love maps. Talk to each other about your joys, likes, dislikes, fears, stresses, life goals, worries, and hopes. Emotionally intelligent couples communicate all the time and are intimately familiar with each other’s love maps. Surprise your spouse with his favorite dish. Remember the major events in each other’s life. Understand each other’s hopes and aspirations. Without such a love map, you can’t know your spouse. Couples who have detailed love maps of their spouse are better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflicts. If you love each other, constantly explore the love maps of your spouse.

Myth 2:  If you love me, you will make me happy

To love and be loved is a happy feeling. Both parties must make attempts to keep the romantic feeling going. Do happy things together, such as taking a walk in the park, slouching on the couch, watching Netflix – together. We choose how we want to feel. Most of the time, we choose to be happy or otherwise. All relationships go through good and bad times. Love is both a feeling and a choice.

Dr Gottman’s Principle 2 of making your marriage work is to nurture your appreciation and affection for each other. Fundamentally, fondness and admiration are built upon believing that your spouse is worthy of honour and respect. It is getting into the habit of looking for qualities and actions that you can appreciate. Catch the everyday moments when your spouse does some little thing right and offer an appreciation.

“Thank you for making dinner tonight.” “Thank you for picking up the groceries on your way home.” “You look good in that new shirt.” “Thank you for listening to me.” It takes constant effort to remind your spouse of the qualities you see in each other during courtship and through marriage. You like him because he is hardworking, funny, outgoing. You want her because she is caring, capable, gentle. Continue to tell them the qualities you see in them. Many couples do not realise they neglect to show fondness towards each other over time. Constantly remind yourself to nurture respect and admiration for your spouse.

Myth 3: If you love me, you will change for me

Your spouse will change, and so will you. Your personality will remain largely the same, but your behaviors may be different. As a couple live long enough together, choices and preferences may align. We adopt or adapt to each other’s likes and dislikes, traditions, living habits, interests and so on. The husband accommodates his wife’s choice of movies, and the wife joins her husband at a soccer match. Some discover common interests, like running or cycling around the neighbourhood. Still, our personalities remain the same. An extroverted husband would engage in sports to expend the energy, but his introverted wife would rather stay home to unwind. Knowing each other’s personalities helps to create understanding.

Dr Gottman’s fourth Principle is to let your partner influence you. Allow your spouse to influence your decision making by taking into account their opinions and feelings. Find out your spouse’s preference. What are your spouse’s thoughts on an important matter? Letting your partner influence you is not about giving up power or letting your spouse rule over your life. It is about sharing power and making decisions together.  When there are differences or conflicts, search for common ground rather than insisting on your own ways. By turning towards your spouse and finding commonalities, you are expressing honour and respect. If you love each other, constantly turn towards your spouse, and let your spouse influence you.

Now that we have debunked some of the myths let’s work towards enhancing your partner’s love map, nurturing fondness and admiration and allowing your partner influence you.

Fei Yue Marriage Enrichment Programmes are endorsed and funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and are informed by research. To find out more, visit https://www.family-central.sg/courses/pe-mep/ or register your interest with us at http://go.fycs.org/MEP

Written by: Rachel Tan, Marriage Coach, Fei Yue Community Services


Gottman, J.M., & Silver, N. (2015). The Sever Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown