Controversial Truths About Marriage That Therapists Won’t Tell You

Controversial Truths About Marriage That Therapists Won’t Tell You

Marriage isn’t all sunshine and roses, despite what Hollywood rom-coms and obnoxious Instagram influencer couples would have you believe. Marriage therapists focus on solutions, but they may not fully prepare you for the harsh realities of long-term love. With that in mind, here are some of the unspoken truths most couples encounter at some point in their relationship. Being aware of these realities can help you be more self-aware as a couple and help you build a stronger foundation.

1. Love isn’t enough.

Sure, love is important, but a successful marriage requires a hell of a lot more than just loving each other, as Psychology Today points out. You need shared values, compatible lifestyles, mutual respect, and the willingness to put in the hard work, day after day. Without those other key ingredients, all the love in the world won’t keep your marriage afloat.

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2. Your partner will never complete you or make you whole.

That’s an unrealistic fairytale that sets couples up for disappointment. You need to be a whole, emotionally healthy person on your own first. Then your partner can complement you, but they can never fill some void inside of you. That’s your job — and that’s the way it should be.

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3. Marriage won’t fix your relationship problems.

If anything, marriage magnifies existing issues. Don’t think that putting rings on your fingers will suddenly make you communicate better, argue less, or have a more fulfilling intimate life. The opposite is more likely — marriage will put a spotlight on the problems you already have and potentially make them even worse.

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4. It’s okay to go to bed angry sometimes.

The whole “never go to bed angry” advice is well-meaning but impractical. Sometimes you need a break and a good night’s sleep before resuming a difficult conversation. Staying up all night to hash things out when you’re exhausted and upset usually does more harm than good.

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5. You will have doubts and second thoughts.

At various points, even in the happiest marriages, you’ll find yourself wondering if you made the right choice. Did you pick the right person? What if there’s someone better out there? What if you end up like your divorced parents? This is normal. Don’t freak out, but don’t ignore those doubts either. Examine them to understand where they’re coming from.

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6. Your partner can’t read your mind.

They just can’t, no matter how much you want them to intuit what you’re thinking and feeling. You have to communicate your needs, clearly and directly. And you have to tell them more than once. No one is a mind-reader, not even the person who knows you best.

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7. Spending time apart is just as important as spending time together.

The strongest marriages strike a balance between “I” and “we.” You need time to nurture your own friendships, hobbies and interests, independent of your spouse. If you spend all your time joined at the hip, your marriage will quickly grow stagnant and codependent.

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8. You’ll get bored of each other once in a while.

No matter how scintillating the conversation was when you were first falling in love, after a few years, you’ll have heard most of each other’s stories. Some days you just won’t feel like talking. Some nights you’d rather watch TV than gaze into each other’s eyes. Boredom in a long-term relationship isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Get used to it and don’t panic.

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9. You’ll fantasize about other people.

Being married doesn’t mean you stop being attracted to other humans. You’ll develop crushes, you’ll flirt, you’ll daydream about the road not taken. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you don’t love your spouse. It just means you’re still alive and your libido hasn’t been completely extinguished by the daily grind of married life.

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10. There’s no such thing as unconditional love between spouses.

People love to toss that phrase around, but the truth is, all romantic love is conditional, Esther Perel explains. If your spouse starts abusing you, cheating on you, or completely neglecting your needs, you’ll fall out of love pretty quickly. As you should. The idea that you have to love your spouse no matter what is a dangerous myth.

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11. Compromise isn’t always 50/50.

smiling couple on sunny beachShutterstock

Sometimes it’s 80/20. Sometimes it’s 0/100. There will be times when one of you has to sacrifice a lot more than the other to reach a resolution. And that’s okay, as long as it balances out over time. Marriage isn’t a scoreboard where everything is perfectly even. It’s a constant ebb and flow of giving and taking.

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12. Your intimate life will change.

What used to be a crackling fire will eventually settle into slow-burning embers. You won’t tear each other’s clothes off every night. You’ll schedule intimacy and then pencil in “groceries” over it. But that doesn’t mean your life inside the bedroom is doomed — it just means you have to work harder to stoke those embers. If you put in the effort, the fire you do build will be warmer and steadier in the long run.

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13. You can’t change your partner.

People are who they are. If you marry someone with the expectation that you can fix their flaws or mold them into your ideal mate, you’re setting yourself up for frustration and resentment. The best you can do is inspire them to want to change for themselves. Any other approach is a losing battle.

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14. Kids will rock your world, and not always in a good way.

mom and dad talking to adult kids

Children are a blessing, but they can also put a wrecking ball through your marriage if you’re not careful. Suddenly you’re sleep-deprived, stressed out, and neglecting each other’s needs. Date nights become a distant memory. It’s hard, but you have to work extra hard to make your relationship a priority, even when you’re in the thick of diapers and tantrums.

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15. Forgiveness isn’t always noble.

People love to say that marriage is all about forgiveness, and to a certain extent, that’s true. You have to be able to let go of the petty stuff. But the idea that you should forgive your spouse for anything, no matter how egregious, is dangerous. Betrayal, abuse, chronic dishonesty—these are valid reasons to walk away, no matter what anyone tells you about the sanctity of forgiveness.

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16. Marriage isn’t for everyone.

There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t want to get married, or if you try it and realize it’s not for you. Marriage is wonderful for some people and a disaster for others. It doesn’t make you more or less of an adult, more or less of a success. Don’t let anyone pressure you into thinking that marriage is the only path to a fulfilling life. It’s not. There are a million ways to live and love, and you get to choose your own adventure.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.