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Around Our Town...Family



In February, 2003, Michael McManus wrote an article for Ethics and Religion entitled "Eight Myths of Marriage". In this column, I would like to explore two of those myths and cover the other six in subsequent columns. McManus was trying to not only dispel myths about marriage but present the "true meaning" of marriage in an effort to help curb the divorce rate in our society and solidify the family. I will acknowledge that the "true meaning" of marriage is from a Judeo-Christian perspective. I believe that it is impossible to be "values free" when addressing any subject – an individual's world-view or belief system will almost always come through even when attempting to be open and objective! It would be very difficult to counsel couples in distress without any sense of what indicates health and dysfunction in marital relationships.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the first two myths of marriage proposed by Michael McManus:

1. The purpose of marriage is our personal happiness. We live in a cultural environment that would certainly support this idea. Many individuals strive for continuous personal happiness as their #1 priority in life. This carries over into a marital relationship and puts a great deal of strain and pressure on a marriage. We want to be happy and we want it now – when the feeling of being happy isn't there, it's time to look elsewhere. There is another view, however; one that requires compromise and self-sacrifice. This view maintains that marriage is more than being happy; it is primarily a commitment on the part of two unselfish individuals to give up their individual rights to a point and become "one flesh". They still maintain their own unique personalities and their differences are seen as assets and complementary to each other. The goal of marriage then is "oneness".

2. The goal of married life is to get my mate to submit to my way of thinking. This myth, like the previous one, is based in a self-serving manner of thinking and believing. McManus quotes Dr. Glenn Knecht of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda as saying "If your marriage is a tug of war, drop your end of the rope, so your spouse can win. Submission is the most demanding, most difficult and most important assignment in the school called marriage. It is a giving up of rights." Sometimes it is like walking a tightrope when deciding when to stand up for ourselves and when to give in. One of the main problems in addressing this myth is that there are unhealthy marriages where one person is a taker and the other is a giver. To go even further, one may be an abuser and the other a victim. The main thrust of this concept of "submission" or "dropping your end of the rope" is to get out of the power struggles by not participating in them. Listening to another person's point

of view, giving in when it really isn't very important, and looking for ways to affirm the value of your spouse's ideas, opinions and beliefs are part of building a solid marriage. It is not a good idea to submit to a person who is abusive (verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually). If you are in danger, there are agencies like the Self Help Center that can help (phone: 235-2814). If you are stuck in patterns of conflict and power struggles, and would like some assistance getting "unstuck" contact a professional marriage counselor.

We will continue for the next three columns with this discussion on the eight myths of marriage. As always, I would welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

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