Sunday, May 8, 2011

Unrealistic family myths about marriage, divorce, sexes

Myth : Marriage benefits men much more than women.
Reality :This destructive falsehood has led women to view their role in the relationship in a negative light, to assume they are martyrs to their husbands' needs, despite any experience to the contrary. The power of popular myths to alter expectations and perceptions of reality is astounding.Apparently, despite earlier reports to the contrary, both men and women live longer, happier, healthier and wealthier lives when they are married. 
Hopefully many women will be freer to acknowledge that they enjoy being married, to more fully appreciate the experience and to recognize that the giving that accompanies a healthy and strong relationship is a pleasure not a burden. It will also help redress potential imbalance if women no longer perceive themselves as generous donors with their husbands the sole beneficiaries.
Myth : Couples who live together before marriage are able to test how well suited they are for each other and have more satisfying and longer-lasting marriages than couples who do not.
Reality :Many studies have found the exact opposite to be true. Possibly people who cohabit have a greater fear of commitment, already established as a key element to a successful marriage. This attitude has other implications. Without commitment, how hard are you going to work at problems that arise? And the converse is also true: with commitment is there any problem that can't be faced? (Granted that some are harder than others!)."But how will you know if you are compatible?" is the frequent charge. This is magical thinking. There is no special test of compatibility, no amount of time spent together that will give any guarantees. The only thing that works is commitment (and hard work).
Myth: Divorced men can not be good fathers.
Reality: Divorced or unwed fathers can make a tremendous positive difference in their offspring's lives, especially if they continue to play a parental role instead of acting like a friendly uncle come to take the kids for a special outing. Fathers who are involved with their children can be effective parents even when they are out of the home.
Myth: A divorced mom or dad should get remarried to provide a new mother or father for the children.
Reality: While stepfamilies can be made to work effectively, they are not necessarily better than single parent families, and they can be worse if couples try to impose old nuclear family norms and gender roles in this new situation.
 Myth: Families used to stand on their own two feet and take care of their members without help from government.

Reality: The most successful families in history, from pioneers to 1950s suburban families, depended on generous government support systems. Moreover, elders never were taken care of adequately by their families. The elderly historically were the poorest age group of the population until the advent of Social Security.
Myth: A return to more traditional family values and gender roles would save many marriages and protect children.
Reality: Many problems usually blamed on the "breakdown of the traditional family" exist not because! we have changed too much, but because we haven't changed enough. The failure of men to share housework and child care with their partners, for example, is a primary source of overload for working mothers and a major cause of marital conflict.
Although having the wife quit work while the kids are young may have worked for couples in the 1950s, backsliding into traditional gender roles after the birth of a child tends to destabilize modern marriages, often sowing the seeds of a future divorce. Women get depressed, and men are cut off from crucial early experiences in becoming competent fathers. Men who accept traditional roles of male-breadwiner/female-nurtuer are the ones most likely to abandon children after divorce or remarriage. Fathers with egalitarian gender attitudes and a stronger identity as parents, by contrast, are more likely to maintain contact with their children following a divorce, and even after remarriage.
Myth : Marriage will make me happy.
Reality :An unhappy single person is an unhappy married one. Marriage is not a panacea. We bring ourselves with all of our baggage into the relationship and our spouse brings their neuroses as well. This is actually not a recipe for happiness or fulfillment.We have to work at being happy and cheerful, and at bolstering our partner's spirits in order to achieve happiness in marriage. All the secrets to good relationships that we have read about and practiced on our friends for years must now be brought into play -- letting go, being forgiving, ignoring faults, not caring who's right. Happiness is available but it doesn't come automatically with the ring.
Marriage can be an amazing experience, an exciting roller coaster ride. There will be joy and laughter; there will be poignancy and tears. But it must be approached seriously and with reasonable expectations. It's a paradox. In order to have real "fun" in marriage, we have to approach it with real seriousness. The benefits and opportunities of marriage are only obtained in the comfort and security of commitment. Other theories offer a tempting, easier way in (or out), but in the long run marriage is built on good old-fashion work.

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