Despite what you may have heard or imagined, marriage isn’t always pleasant. There are times when you will feel stuck and hopeless. Sometimes, you may even feel like giving up and getting divorced. And one thing that can complicate your relationship even more is when you get terrible marriage advice, because it can leave you feeling more confused and could lead you to make some very bad decisions.
The Cheat Sheet chatted with some top relationship experts to learn more about marriage advice that just doesn’t cut it. Here is the worst marriage advice they’ve ever received or heard.
1. Everything will work out
The absolute worst marriage advice I ever received came from a couples therapist who told my spouse at the time and I that she was “sure we would work things out.” I was young, he was young, and she was dead wrong. She apologized profusely in the next session, but if I had not been smarter I might have continued to stay in a damaging, negative marriage. She meant well, and advice is often coming from that place of meaning well and wanting to be helpful. My point is that even the expert in the room can flub and say the wrong thing.
The better advice that we received from another couples therapist was, “Do you think you two have to hate each other if you split up?” We were young and we did think that we had to be miserable and negative — it turns out that we did not. If there is such a thing as a good divorce, we had one. We were married way too young, having succumbed to Catholic parental pressures to marry when we should not have. However, that good advice (thank you, Mike Zito, Ph.D.) helped us work together in peace and honor our almost 10 years together as we started new lives apart.
Advice comes from well-meaning people most of the time. At the end of the day, you need to take everything with a big grain of salt and decide what is, in your heart, best for you and yours.
Jeanie Winstrom, M.A., L.C.P.C., relationship expert at Talkspace
2. Don’t say anything
It’s one thing to bite your tongue when your hubby leaves his dirty laundry on the floor … again. It’s another to keep quiet when he “forgets” to pay the bills or skips out on multiple scheduled date nights. Speaking up about serious situations is the key to a healthy and honest relationship.
3. Air all of your complaints
The worst advice I’ve heard is: The problem is you need to communicate more. The problem is that communication becomes another word that also begins with the same three letters — complain. And when your spouse starts communicating all their complaints to you, you just shut down and don’t want to hear any more. And the spouse communicating to you gets more frustrated because they are not being heard.
What’s the answer? Instead of communicating your complaints to your spouse, look at how you need to change your own actions so the other person will respond the way you want. For example, let’s say a wife wants her husband to be more aware of what’s going on at home and not wait for her to tell him what to do (a common situation). Instead of communicating your complaints and having him feel attacked, just mention it to him. Don’t keep communicating to him about it. When he finally does it, say thank you.
Elliott Katz, author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants
4. Hide your feelings
This was not actually advice I received myself, but it was advice one of my girlfriends received from her so-called relationship counselor before we met. Her relationship counselor told her it’s OK to lie to her husband about her feelings. She followed the advice and ended up having a nervous breakdown. They were fine after they finally talked about it, and she fired her relationship counselor. Make sure to research somebody before you blindly give them your money just because they have a fancy title and letters behind their name.
Deborah Reynolds, dating and relationship expert and founder of Singles Bee
5. A marriage is about your happiness
The worst marriage advice I ever received: Life is too short to be in an unhappy relationship. I didn’t listen to the advice. There have been times I’ve been extremely unhappy in my relationship, but I am glad I stuck it out. We are extremely happy and deeper in love now than we’ve ever been. The difficult, unhappy times actually strengthened our love and our relationship. We stuck through the bad times, did counseling, and relied on the advice of older family members.
Don’t be so quick to give up on your marriage. Some of the most successful 40- and 50-year marriages have gone through unbelievable kinds of turmoil and trauma. Know that there will be periods of unhappiness, years even. As long as it’s nothing too major, stick it out as best you can. Rainbows always appear after the rain.
Gina Hooks, president of Salient Social LLC
6. Your partner should “complete” you
Business Insider notes therapist Hal Runkel says he hates when couples are told, “You are supposed to meet another’s needs … that is the most horrific piece of advice I can imagine.”
“I am a whole person. She is not powerful enough to complete me. I’m not powerful enough to complete her. She’s a complete person. That’s why I want her. Not because she’s half; she’s whole. … I don’t need my wife, which frees me up to want her,” he tells the publication.
Hal Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of Choose Your Own Adulthood
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Lauren Weiler also contributed to this story.
[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published December 2016]