by Jo, Guest Contributor
I have a confession: I hate (the vast majority of) marriage advice. Hate it. I’ve only been married for a year and a few months and in that time, I’ve come across a lot of bad, contradictory marriage advice. If you’ve been married longer than me, you’ve probably come across even more bad marriage advice for military couples.
What should we do with all this terrible marriage advice? Get out a hammer as we smash these terrible ideas for the last time.
On second thought, get a brownie and a glass of milk and snack while you read. It’s much more satisfying than a hammer.
4 Rules for Military Marriages Worth Breaking
BREAK THIS MARRIAGE RULE: Don’t Let Him Forget You’re a Woman
If my husband forgets I’m a woman, we have bigger issues to worry about—like Alzheimer’s at age 30. But really, the point of this kind of advice is to keep gender roles intact in your marriage. Let’s bypass the controversy and the drama that I know is probably brewing and say what makes sense: who cares about gender roles when it comes to getting stuff done?
The military lifestyle is crazy. Our spouses may work weird hours, have random training schedules, go on deployments…the list goes on and on. And it doesn’t take into account what we need to do to keep our families afloat—which often includes keeping our careers buoyant too. So really, who cares if he makes dinner and she changes the flat tire? If she’s better at the finances and he’s better at quieting a fussy baby? If he paints her toenails because she can’t reach them over her pregnant belly? At the end of the day, what matters is that the household is functioning—not a smoking crater of frustration and chaos.
BREAK THIS MARRIAGE RULE: Always Greet Your Service Member with a Smile
While I’d love it if every day could be fantastic and wonderful, there are some days that are hot messes—when the only good thing about those days is that my husband walked through the front door.
Do I greet him with a hug and a kiss? Yes. Do I greet him with a smile? Not always. And he doesn’t always have a cheery grin for me, either. It’s part of the grand adventure—and equality—of being partners who hide nothing and share everything. Even on our crappy, can’t-muster-a-smile, no-good, very bad days.
BREAK THIS MARRIAGE RULE: Make Sure the Water Pitcher’s Filled
This amazingly terrible piece of advice was in a book I read for military spouses before I was one. It is one of the most ridiculous analogies I’ve ever read and is a downright dangerous way to think about marriage. The basic premise is this: Wives have pitchers full of water. Husbands have empty cups. Wives need to pour their husbands’ water so they won’t become thirsty and… go to another woman’s pitcher for a cool glass of “water.”
No, just no.
Not only does this advice put all of the emphasis and blame on the wife for any marital issues, it ignores the fact that men are strong enough and civilized enough to control themselves. This suggestion is at best, an unhealthy way to conduct a relationship, and at worst, justifies marital rape.
BREAK THIS MARRIAGE RULE: Keep the Home Fires Burning
This particular advice feels old fashioned and it should have gone the way of telegrams and telephone operators. Still, I think this is something that we internalize a great deal as military spouses—even if we’d never admit it.
In fact, someone recently emailed me, asking for advice about this exact thing. She is working 2 full-time jobs, sending care packages and trying to hold everything together while he’s deployed. When they have time to talk, they have little to talk about because they’re both working so much—life is stressful and feels repetitive. Still, her husband told her that she needs to engage him—to be more exciting— because he’s the one who’s deployed. She was worried that he no longer thinks that she is enough to come home for.
Talk about unfair expectations. Both people in a relationship have the responsibility to keep the home fires kindled. Just as it is with a relationship, during a deployment, both people have to make an effort—even if it’s not an equal one because of circumstances. Set expectations, know what you each need to feel loved and respected and be honest with each other. Is it tough? Is there give and take? Can it be done? And, is it worth it? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
When it comes down to it, marriage advice is only good if it fits your relationship and your circumstances. You’ve heard my complaints about bad marriage advice.
Now I’ve got to ask—what are the worst marriage tips you’ve heard? (And what are the ones that are so good you must pass on to others?) Share in the comments.
Jo is the author of Jo, My Gosh! a blog about her journey as a newlywed military wife. When she’s not working from home, she’s writing, reading, trying new recipes, watching sports or cross stitching. Catch her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.