Doesn’t everyone want and deserve happiness in their marriage? Yes we do! To that end, we seek advice, yet, it really goes without saying, not all advice is created equal!
Giving Advice at Weddings
As a church leader, I am called upon to conduct weddings, but far less often than I would like.
I want to conduct more weddings because they are joyous occasions! To be invited to a wedding is a privilege. To be asked to conduct one is an honour I do not take lightly.
A wedding is a special moment for any couple taking marriage seriously. It is a privilege to contribute to making such a day special, therefore setting a marriage between a man and a woman on a solid foundation that will last.
However, one element of the wedding which is quite intimidating is the sermon. Since a wedding is, essentially, a worship service, a passage from the Bible is read and the minister is expected, therefore, to comment on the relevance of that passage to a couple’s marriage.
It is really quite common for a minister providing the sermon during a wedding to include some wisdom and advice. I do my best to offer wisdom and advice from my own experience of having been married to my wife for over 25 years. However, I am always conscious I too need advice and on a daily basis I am sure my wife would tell you so too 😀
Two Examples of Bad Marriage Advice
In his article, “Conservatives Don’t Know Much About Intersexual Dynamics”, Aaron Renn makes a convincing case that,
Conservatives often give the worst advice to men because they have a completely false model of intersexual dynamics.
Renn targeted his article at conservative Christians, and his point is quite true from my experience. He has specifically highlighted the advice, often given in such contexts, that men who do more traditional housework enjoy more sex in their marriage. Renn argues this is bad advice and proves his point by drawing attention to research that demonstrated,
both husbands and wives in couples with more traditional housework arrangements report higher sexual frequency, suggesting the importance of gender display rather than marital exchange for sex between heterosexual married partners.
While I too have heard this advice given in conservative Christian churches, I am pretty certain conservatives are not the only ones who give bad marriage advice. So-called progressive liberals are just as prone to bad marriage advice.
Another piece of bad marriage advice I want to highlight here is another I have often heard: Happy wife, happy life. This advice is given to men and most often by men. Yet it is telling that it is given with a sigh and received with a knowing sigh. This is a sigh of agreement but it is also a sigh of resignation. And therein lies the problem.
While it is absolutely true a man and husband should concern himself with his wife’s happiness, it is not true this should be at the expense of his own.
I have never heard women say the same for their men and husbands: Happy husband, happy life. Surely women are not so selfish and self-centred they cannot recognise how detrimental to their marital bliss such thinking is. If a husband is not himself happy, how can he give what he does not have?
Be Open and Honest
If marriage is the union of equal partners for life, then the happiness of each is the shared concern of both.
Yes, a man should be ready and willing to set aside his own wants when made aware of his wife’s needs. Yet, similarly, so should a woman be ready to set aside her own wants when made aware of her husband’s needs.
If spouses are both ready to self-sacrifice for their partner, then both are made happy because they each show care and concern for one another. Is that not what is meant by equality in marriage? Not that a husband’s needs are sacrificed always for his wife without any expectation of reciprocity, but that a husband has an expectation that, when the time is right, his wife will similarly care for his needs.
Doesn’t everyone want and deserve happiness? Yes we do!
To that end, we all need advice because learning this lesson would be so much easier and quicker if a respected mentor or friend were open and honest about his own marriage experience.
Sadly, married persons, especially men, are quicker to offer sarcasm and humour, and rarely offer openness and honesty.
If someone offers such lame advice to you as, “Happy wife, happy life!”, or such obviously wrong advice as, “Do more housework, get laid more often!”, please check with them whether they are having fun with you. Then invite them to try again.
While bad marriage advice is almost always offered with the best intentions, after allowing a little fun at your expense, test that advice against the actual behaviour of real people in real and successful marriages.
When approached for marriage advice, after having fun at another’s expense, please make sure the ailing husband or fiancé understands you are poking fun. Then give them honest advice because he has approached you with a real and understandable need. Men, let’s support each other with sincerity!
Where to Find Good Marriage Advice
Last year, I completed certification to offer pre- and post-marriage counselling by Prepare/Enrich Australia, a leading relationship assessment and skills-building program I had often heard about but had not taken seriously. Prepare/Enrich offer great programs, backed by significant and trustworthy research, for the purpose of building strong and healthy relationships.
If you are considering getting married and recognise you could use some good advice, after talking to your well-meaning friends, talk to a professional or certified marriage counsellor. I am always available and you are genuinely welcome to contact me. Prepare/Enrich has a list of certified counsellors on their website.
If you have been married for some time, Prepare/Enrich also offers a “Couple Checkup” service and blog. They provide tons of great advice and the quiz will help you make an honest assessment of the quality of your marriage relationship. They will also make recommendations you can implement today!
Not all advice is created equal. Don’t settle for bad marriage advice. Give you friend or mentor a second chance to be open and honest about their experience in marriage. But do not hesitate to find a professional or certified marriage counsellor because your happiness depends on it!
. Aaron Renn, “Conservatives Don’t Know Much About Intersexual Dynamics”, The Masculinist, 2-Aug-2021, https://bit.ly/3jsKYTr (accessed 30-Aug-2021).
. Sabino Kornrich, Julie Brines and Katrina Leupp, “Egalitarianism, housework, and sexual frequency in marriage”, American Sociological Review 78, no. 1 (2013): 26-50.
. Visit https://www.prepare-enrich.com.au/ for more information.