Myths? …or mythical thinking?

The article, 3 Myths About Happy Marriages on PsychCentral introduced myths that are based on the work of John Gottman, Ph.D and his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I think these myths, although possessing some truth, are a bit of a slippery slope.

Myth 1: Better Communication Will Not Save Your Marriage

If the marriage is on rocky footing, talking will not bring in the rescue copters.  And, as the article states, it is difficult to remain calm and rational in the midst of a perceived attack (I know those “I” statements well, after growing up with a counselor for a mom, and even I can’t maintain that poise in a heated discussion).  My concern comes from the implication that communication is not important;  that a marriage can exist in the spaces between withheld information.  I cannot work well with a coworker when there is not adequate communication; I’m not sure how a marriage is supposed to thrive.

Myth 2: Avoiding Conflict Will Kill Your Marraige

Not every need can be expected to be met, and sometimes conflict is just because of a grouchy mood,but there is a danger to not addressing legitimate concerns.  In retrospect, I realize that my marriage was conflict-avoidant; I tended to shy away from problems due to anxiety and my ex-husband refrained from conflict in order to not trigger my anxiety.   As a result, the problems grew too large for anyone to face.

Myth 3: Reciprocity Underlies Happy Marriages

I once knew a couple who kept a scorecard on the fridge to keep track of the “he dids” and “she dids.”  I don’t think they were very happy!  However, I do think reciprocity is essential in a marriage  in terms of mutual respect, and that this respect takes the form of acts of service or kindness for the other person.  Tallies shouldn’t have to be drawn, but each person should be operating with the other in mind.

All marriages are different (my current relationship is quite unlike my marriage in many ways), but I think that each of these myths has a place in a healthy relationship.

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