Some of you may remember the song "I can love you like that" — made popular in the 90s by John Michael Montgomery and All-4-One. The song is catchy and the message is sweet, but this song also contains a prevalent and dangerous message often found in our popular culture — a message that has harmed countless relationships.
The song begins, "They read you Cinderella.You hoped it would come true, that one day your Prince Charming would come rescue you." You might be thinking this line seems rather harmless, even romantic. But reread that last line again...
"...one day your Prince Charming would come rescue you."
Now, ask yourself, what dangers await the woman (or man) who views marriage as some kind of great escape?
Deadly expectation #1: Everything will be better once I am married
A story is told of a young woman sighing blissfully on her wedding day, "Mom, I'm at the end of all my troubles." I can almost hear many of you chuckling now as you think, "Oh, you silly girl." Those of you already wedded know that married life is challenging for each of us.
Why is this first myth so dangerous? Can you imagine how incredibly difficult life must be for the spouse of someone who has such unrealistic marital expectations? If someone expects a life of ease, constant bliss and an absence of trials, how could anyone ever hope to make him or her happy? Unrealistic expectations poison marriages before they even begin.
Sadly, too many marriages have ended unnecessarily because one or both spouses had unrealistic fantasies of what marriage should be like (while not being willing to work for relationships that, while imperfect, were wonderful in their own right).
Teaching marriage classes at the university level is both enjoyable as well as challenging. Each semester, I meet students who long to be rescued. However, just as dangerous (and possibly even more prevalent) is the expectation of marital failure...
Deadly expectation #2: Marriage is bound to fail
A study of high school students found that some of the respondents gave themselves a 100 percent chance of divorce if they married in the future. Yikes! How can some people have such a negative view of marriage?
For me, this question has been partially answered through years of teaching university students. Some students confide in me that they are absolutely terrified to marry because they have never seen a happy marriage and have witnessed so many divorces.
With divorce rates having hovered near 50 percent for the last 30 years, it is understandable that some would assume their marriages are doomed.
You may have heard of the term 'self-fulfilling prophecy' — a prediction that causes itself to come true. In other words, when we expect certain outcomes (often negative), we behave in ways that virtually guarantee those outcomes.
So, if a high school student, a university student, or any of you expect that marriages are doomed to fail, those marriages may indeed be at great risk — ironically, due to those very expectations.
What is the solution?
You have to believe that wonderful marriages exist. There are so many of them!
Find those marriages, and look at what makes them strong. Then, form some realistically high expectations for your own marriage. Expect your marriage to be wonderful — then nourish it, prioritize it, and treat it in such a way that it will become wonderful.
Remember to expect challenges and trials rather than becoming disenchanted with marriage when life gets hard. Strive to find joy in facing life's challenges hand-in-hand with your best friend — your spouse.
This article was originally published on familygoodthings.com. It has been republished here, with permission.
Rob Stewart has taught marriage classes at BYU-Idaho for the last decade and is a co-founder and contributor at familygoodthings.com. He is also the author of the popular new eBook "3 Things You Can Do Today to Create a Ridiculously Happy Marriage."