Q: I got married a couple months ago and am really happy! But in the back of my mind I can’t get this narrative out of my head that “marriage will make you miserable” and will ruin the love my husband and I have for each other right now. Both of our parents are still happily married and the majority of our friends also have parents who are still together, so in my daily life, this fear has no real basis, but it still looms. I feel like all we see in popular culture are examples of husbands cheating on wives, parents who argue constantly and hate or resent each other, divorce being the assumed outcome of every marriage (how often do we hear the phrase, “You know fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, right?”…) and I feel like it is pounded into us that we should expect to fail. But there are clearly lots of people who are happy and make it work. Where’s a girl to turn to get some positive marriage reinforcement in this world (besides APW of course)? Where are these voices in our society? Is there a source of happy married people information out there that I’m missing?
Not So Negative Nelly
A: Dear NSNN,
You know, as a group, the staff at APW couldn’t really think of anywhere in mainstream media that reinforces a healthy view of happy marriages—which I guess just goes to prove your point, doesn’t it?
There’s probably a bunch of reasons for that, of course. People like to complain. Have you met people? That’s pretty much all they do. I know folks who have entire conversations of just back-to-back complaints. Sometimes it’s cathartic, sometimes commiseration feels like an easy way to bond and be relatable, but sometimes people are just flat out whiners. Besides the complaining, tragedy is just funnier than happy stuff. If I’m gonna make a funny movie about marriage, it’s easiest to just show how tragically bumbling the husband is and how shrewish and biting the wife is. They’re miserable! It’s funny! Happiness isn’t entertaining. Then of course, there’s the fact that people just plain don’t want to hear the good things. Your marriage is happy? Thanks for shoving it in my face, braggy.
So, what do we do? First, we need to stop relying on the frigging media to ever get anything right. It’s always going to be distorted. And then, we fill the gaps ourselves—that goes for anything in life, ever. You see a need; you be the one to fill it. Start talking about your own marriage, openly and honestly! Ask the (apparently awesome) people in your life about their marriages and why they work together so well.
More than that, though, we need to start being frank about the hard parts of marriage, too. It might be counter-intuitive, but a big reason we have no healthy positivity around marriage is because we have no healthy perceptions of the rough spots.
Think about the depictions of marriage around us. Either you’re chained to a lifelong naggy, tense misery or you’re doomed for a shiny, happy marriage that suddenly and for no reason plunges into divorce. I don’t know about you or your parents or your friends, but that bears absolutely no reflection of what my marriage is like. My marriage isn’t conflict-free, but it’s a mostly smooth road with some bumps and rough patches and sometimes some seriously bleak spots. Until we start acknowledging that constant hard times are not normal, but occasional hard times aren’t predictive of doom, we can’t really get a straight idea of what a healthy marriage is like.
That part sounds daunting, right? We all want to have more folks talking about happy marriages, but do any of us really want to share the dark scary spots of our own? I’d argue they go hand in hand. And I’d also argue that the second piece of that doesn’t need to be quite so very scary (just maybe a little tricky to navigate). Not everyone needs to share the inner workings of their married fights right here on the internet (in fact, maybe don’t until you check in with your partner to make sure it’s okay). Figure out with your partner how much of your bad you feel you can share with folks outside of the relationship, and more importantly, who those folks you can share with are.
So, yes, Miss. Unfortunately, I’m turning this one back around on you a bit. It really sucks that there isn’t more marriage-positive discussion out there. But that being the case, it’s our job to facilitate it on an individual, personal level. And that means opening yourself up to talking about the good and the bad.
Team Practical, do you have any awesome resources of marriage positivity? How do you speak about your marriage in a way that tears down those negative social narratives?
Photo: Emily Takes Photos.
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!