What if the traditional keys to a happy marriage, such as always share a bed, don't go to bed angry, honesty is the best policy, the kids come first, and so on, are wrong?
Sometimes, those rules for wedded bliss can actually be outdated, even damaging.
And, on "The Early Show" Thursday, Jaimee Zanzinger, special projects director of Woman's Day magazine, disused several common marriage myths.
If there's no spark, you're doomed
Many married couples understand intellectually that they won't always experience that I've-been-drugged-by-love feeling in a long-term relationship. But many still believe that when the spark dies out, it means they're in the wrong relationship. But it turns out the happiest couples are friends who share lives and are compatible in interests and values. According to research from the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, the idea that marriage success rests on romantic love and good luck is a myth. In reality, most couples say that their long-term marriages are successful because of commitment and companionship. In other words, long-term relationships survive on commitment and trust, out of which grows love. The mistake here is to believe that you can live forever on fireworks, or even just love, alone.
Solution: Instead of thinking all love is lost, calm down and remember that long term marriages are successful because of commitment and companionship, not spark.
Partners should share the same hobbies
New studies show that increasingly, modern couples are looking for relationships that help them accumulate knowledge and fulfilling experiences, a process called "self-expansion." Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partners, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship. That concept explains why people are delighted when dates treat them to new experiences, like a weekend away. In fact, a study from University of California at Santa Cruz found that new relationships literally broadened the way their test-takers looked at themselves.
Solution: Pursue your separate interests and find activities you both enjoy. Varied interests and hobbies can actually be a good thing- especially if you talk about them with your with partner.
Never go to bed angry
Trying to work through a problem when you're tired and stressed won't get you anywhere. When people are overwhelmed by anger, they experience a physiological response that causes the heart rate and hormone levels to increase - and it becomes almost impossible to resolve a conflict fairly. How do you know when you're not getting anywhere? When you find yourself using words like "always" and "never" in an argument.
Solution: Agree to disagree for now, and to revisit the issue when you're rested.
You should never sleep in separate beds
It's a myth that couples always sleep better and more cozily together than apart. One partner may be a toss-and-turner, or one may hit the hay early while the other keeps a reading light burning till the wee hours. In fact, according to a (2005) survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 31 percent of couples sleep in a separate bed, bedroom, or on the couch to ensure that they both get a good night's rest It's not the end of your marriage, if one of you occasionally decamps to the guest room. Just be sure a separate-bed habit isn't about avoiding sex or physical intimacy.
Solution: Don't sweat it. Getting a good night's sleep is crucial to the health of your mind, body and marriage.
If you fight, you're headed for divorce
That's a total myth! Studies show that it's not whether you fight but how you fight that matters: research from the University of Michigan shows that the fighting style most likely to lead to divorce is -- when one partner tries to face problems directly and the other partner withdraws and avoids the issue. Interestingly -- the study found that the spouses who deal with conflicts constructively may actually "view their partners' habit of withdrawing as a lack of investment in the relationship rather than an attempt to cool down."
Solution: Find ways to fight healthily and productively (without blaming, name-calling and the like), but that said, being committed to respectfully airing out conflicts is a far better rule than keep your mouth shut.
Once you have children, they come first
Most of us have seen the couples who feel like they have to put their relationship on hold in order to be good parents, but those couples may have it backwards. Making your relationship top priority is better not just for you, but for your children who need to see you in charge and who feel safer and more secure with parents who have a loving relationship. Research has shown that new moms who spent markedly less time alone with their husbands were more likely to report a decline in satisfaction with their marriages. Obviously there may be economic reasons for why a couple can't spend more time together (babysitters are expensive), but some mothers may have extended networks of friends and family who can pitch in with kids .
Solution: Create couple-only time during which you do not discuss bills or children, where you do fun activities and enjoy each other's company." The kids'll be all right.
Always be 100 percent honest
In marriage, no-holds-barred honesty is not always the best policy. For example, "you don't need to share details of past relationships. "That invites comparisons, and when you compare, someone comes up short."
Solution: You need to be polite and caring when it comes to your partner's feelings.
Never vacation without each other
The received wisdom here is that if you have time off from your jobs and lives, you should naturally prefer to spend it together. One problem with this rule is that you and your spouse may not have the same definition of a great getaway (you like to ski, he's a beach bum). The other danger, is the belief "that you have to be each other's everything, and that's just not realistic."
Solution: Just be aware! Sometimes, you need a spa weekend, and he may want to go camping (or vice versa). Just be sure that you don't always take off without each other.
Boring is bad
The problem with this so-called rule is when couples confuse a calm, predictable union with a bad one. A drama-filled relationship may feel exciting, but in the long run it's not likely to be healthy. Isn't it better to "boringly" know where your spouse is every night than to be "excited" by constant ups and downs? "Better to have a safe, relaxed, 'boring' life together in the everyday.
Solution - You can always inject excitement with vacations and activities.