The Worst Marriage Advice We’ve Ever Gotten

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Today, we’re talking about some of the worst marriage advice we have heard or our friends have heard. We talk all about the true foundation and goal of marriage, how to make compromises (or not) with your spouse, and sacrificially loving your spouse.

Let’s dive right into this list of the worst marriage advice we’ve heard!

1. Marriage is a 50/50 split

Basically, this advice is saying that both spouses have to give 50% equally to the marriage or it won’t last. This feels like such a contractual arrangement!

This is not good advice, especially from a biblical perspective. As a whole, marriage should be relatively evenly split, but it will never be 50/50. This just isn’t how life works. Who makes the money won’t be 50/50. Who does the chores won’t be 50/50. We know that the sentiment is just that both spouses are contributing things equally. But at times you will be giving more to the marriage than your spouse, at other times, your spouse will be giving more to the marriage. You will go through different seasons in your marriage!

Marriage is Mutual Sacrifice and Fulfillment

It is much better to think of marriage as characterized by both people giving sacrificial love. 

Tim Keller explains that a marriage should be “mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.”

Tim Keller

We like this so much more than a 50/50 split, which sounds contractual. Instead, we’re called to have a heart that seeks mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice. Each of you should desire to love your spouse as much as you love yourself. Each of you should seek to grow in how you sacrificially love your spouse and demonstrate the love that Jesus had for us on the cross.

Marriage should be a consistent process of learning how to root out selfishness in your own life, while sacrificially loving your spouse and others. Maturity in Christians looks like not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less and thinking of others more. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Both spouses should seek to emulate Jesus, who lived the perfect life to rescue those that sinned against him, but he (through whom the entire universe was created) washed his disciples’ feet. This is the kind of sacrificial love we’re called to emulate.

Instead of focusing on what your spouse needs to do to serve you or make it 50/50, seek how to love your spouse and serve them. In execution, this is difficult! Selfishness is our default. This is why accountability and asking your spouse how you can serve them better is so important. We need people to help us and call out our weaknesses.

2. Follow Your Heart

We all hear this a lot, and Christians rightly hear pushback against this a lot too. As Christians, we believe that the heart is deceitful and we have a tendency to make poor decisions in isolation. When left to our own devices, our default is selfishness.

So what should we follow instead of our heart? How should we make decisions?

  1. Look at Scripture to see what it says. It may not tell you whether or not to get a pet, but look to Scripture to see if it sheds any light or gives any wisdom for the decision you are trying to make.
  2. Consult the Lord in prayer!
  3. Communicate all aspects of the decision with your spouse/significant other.
  4. Consult friends or trusted mentors who are strong in their faith. A lot of Christians struggle with finding or asking these people to speak into their lives.
  5. When someone gives you advice, ask where that advice comes from!
    • Can it be found in scripture?
    • Is it rooted in personal experience?
    • Did they learn it from others? Who? 
    • The best advisers and mentors and friends will ask questions to help you get clarity and don’t necessarily tell you step-by-step what to do for all things.
    • There are certainly occasions when people should call you out and tell you what to do and what not to do.

3. Your kids should take priority

This one isn’t always explicitly said out loud, but it is often demonstrated through our actions (kids get the most time and energy and your schedule revolves around them). This is the idea that your stated belief + actual practice = your actual belief.

There are times when this certainly can be the case, especially in the newborn phase- hopefully, you’re not giving more time, attention, and energy to your spouse than your newborn.

Another form this idea comes out in is that you can be a good parent without being a good spouse. We believe that the number one way you can start being a good parent is by being a good spouse! The greatest gift we can give our kids is by having a thriving, healthy marriage.

Healthy Marriages are a Gift for Kids

Nathaniel took a class specifically on marriage and premarital counseling, and there was an entire week devoted to this topic.  The idea is that healthy relationships naturally spill over into parenting and later adult relationships for the child. There is research (we don’t have the source for this, but it was discussed in Nathaniel’s class) that shows that the parent-child relationship and child behavior was improved more by the parents undergoing couples education and counseling than parent education and counseling.

What this means is that the marriage relationship should take priority and then the focus should turn to parenting children well. Your relationship with your spouse should set the culture for the rest of your family. Too often, when we focus on kids at the expense of our marriage, the big blowout fights and disunity will actually end up being more harmful to kids. Kids want to grow up in a safe home where their parents love each other and them.

In healthy homes with healthy marriages, parental authority is increased, parenting energy is shared, children’s self-image is healthier, parenting message is reinforced, kids are more likely to succeed academically and have physical and emotional health, and are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, commit suicide, get pregnant or get someone pregnant as a teen, etc…

4. You should make sure you are sexually compatible before marriage

“I wouldn’t buy a car without taking a test drive…” We talked about this in Episode No. 10, but this is such an objectifying, transactional way to think! “But, I need to make sure they meet my sexual desires before I’m willing to marry them.” It goes back to the idea that this is such a selfish way to think. Rather than seeking to sacrificially love and serve your spouse in the bedroom, you are selfishly focusing on how they can serve you. Your personal relationship with the Lord and sacrificial love should be the foundation of your marriage.

People are not always sexually compatible, but this is something that couples can grow in. We’ve mentioned this in a previous episode, but sex was difficult for us early on in marriage. Through honest and transparent conversation, growing in intimacy outside of the bedroom, and learning together, this is an area we’ve grown a lot in. TBH if we would have followed this advice we probably would not have gotten married. We’re so thankful that we didn’t and for the growth we’ve had! 

5. Marriage is all about compromise

Overall, this is not the worst advice, and there is some sort of truth to it. There are times when each spouse is sacrificing their own desires. There are times when both spouses are sacrificing their own desires to reach a middle ground (aka compromise).

But this is very similar to the 50/50 split, or a tit-for-tat mentality. You shouldn’t think of decisions as someone winning and losing or keeping track of who has sacrificed and who hasn’t. This goes back to what we’ve been saying about the foundation of marriage- Jesus’ sacrificial love and seeking to emulate it.

Another reason this is bad advice is that there are some things that you just can’t compromise on. For example, do we move or not? When we were talking about moving to Wisconsin or staying in North Carolina, there was no middle ground of moving to Ohio instead. We decided to move to Wisconsin! Other examples include whether or not to get a pet or take a job. There are ways to find a middle ground on these issues, but for all of them, one spouse is getting more of what they want.

When you focus on compromise, you’re focusing on how much you or your spouse are giving up. Instead, you should focus on seeking to love your spouse sacrificially. How do I love them sacrificially in this decision?

This goes back to making decisions that we discussed earlier. We need to redefine the object of marriage as based on sacrificial love. There should be times when each spouse is making sacrifices in order to love the other spouse well. This responsibility ultimately falls on the husband to ensure that this is happening. It can be very tempting and easy for the husband to live selfishly while the wife is forced to live sacrificially (the husband pursues his own hobbies/interests while the wife takes care of children, house, etc.). Of course, this could be the other way around, but the husband especially needs to demonstrate what sacrificial leadership and love look like.

6. “Don’t tell me husband/wife” mentality

This is the idea that there are things that are best kept secret. Your spouse should be your best friend and they should be the person you are most vulnerable, most open with, etc… There is nobody that knows us better than each other.

The only things that Nathaniel doesn’t tell Xan are the things we’ve agreed on ahead of time. With accountability, Xan doesn’t want to hear about lustful thoughts, because that would be more damaging. However, we have drawn a line: If 1) it ever gets so pervasive or 2) if it ever manifests itself in something physical (masturbation, pornography, hitting on someone/flirting, etc…) then Nathaniel would confess to Xan.

Marriages must have transparent communication and trust.  It is especially important to present a united front to kids. No, “don’t tell your mom” or “don’t tell your dad”. You and your spouse should always be a united front/team when it comes to your kids.

7.  The person you marry will be the same person 20 years from now

We can kind of understand what this advice is saying. If your fiance lies to you, don’t expect that marriage will make them truthful. If your fiance is a slob, don’t expect that marriage will make them a clean freak. Don’t expect that marriage will fix your significant other’s problems immediately or completely. You should be willing to live with the person/be married to the person as they currently are, living with their faults and not rushing into marriage thinking it will magically fix them. 

But, we all change and grow throughout life. We’ve heard this quote before, describing it well: “my wife has been married to five different people, all of them have been me!” None of us will be the same people 20 years from now. When we get married we are vowing to love our spouse through all of the changes that we undergo. This mentality also discounts the radical change the gospel and the Holy Spirit can instill in people’s lives.

8. “Don’t get married…. And if you do get married, don’t have kids.”

Someone told our friend this! Yes, Paul does indeed say that personally, he wishes more people were like him and that it is better not to marry because you can be more devoted to the Lord. But more often than not, selfish desires are at the root of this advice.

Some of the most faithful people we know are not married, so we aren’t saying that you need to get married. However, marriage and children are two instruments that the Lord uses to sanctify and grow us. 

Marriage and kids are tremendous blessings from the Lord. Even though they are challenging, they are so rewarding.

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Ask your spouse how you can grow in sacrificially loving them. Then, implement some of those things!

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