I've been married for five years now, and in a relationship with my husband for more than ten. While I'd love to tell you that our marriage has been all sunshine and beach vacations and expensive bottles of wine, it hasn't. That doesn't mean that I love my husband any less by admitting that our marriage isn't "perfect," it just means that, despite the media's ridiculous depictions of marriage, it isn't an extended, romantic, booze-filled honeymoon. It's hard. In fact, sometimes it's really hard.
My husband and I have definitely had our ups and downs, but throughout them I feel like we've learned a lot about each other and ourselves. Our relationship changed after we had a baby, which I was sort of expecting but I admittedly didn't necessarily understand. Most soon-to-be parents assume there will be alterations to their lives after their baby is born, but I didn't realize how deeply some of those changes would affect my marriage and the life I share with my husband. Marriage is so much harder after having kids. It just is. That doesn't mean that it's not still great, or that it's not even better now, but having kids has inevitably made our marriage more difficult.
Something that doesn't help married couples overcome their own hurdles is the way the media depicts marriage. I get that television shows and movies and magazines are meant to entertain us, but I feel like a lot of what we're exposed to in mainstream media is missing the marital mark and, instead, creating unrealistic expectations of marriage. Instead of depicting what a real married couple looks like by highlighting their real struggles, their real highs, their real lows, and their real in betweens (which are just as important as everything else), the media is filling our heads with unrealistic delusions of "marital perfection." I can tell you from experience; "marital perfection" as television shows, movies and magazines show it, doesn't exist.
I'm not buying any of the following nine lies we've been told about married couples, and I hope you aren't either. Honestly, if your marriage is going to work, especially after having a baby, the best thing you can be is realistic.
The Angry Housewife And The Successful Husband
I love me some Jon Hamm, but the whole Betty and Don Draper marriage portrayal made my blood boil throughout their entire dysfunctional marriage. First of all, not all "housewives" are angry or resentful or unfulfilled. Second, not all husbands are the breadwinners of the family. (Yes, I understand Mad Men was a show set in the past, where most men were the breadwinners, but still). Some couples (in fact, most couples) share the load of making money equally, some husbands make more, and some wives make more. Personally, my husband and I have both played the role of the primary provider of finances, and watching Don Draper manipulate others with his money and power irked me every time. Kudos to Jon Hamm for executing that depiction seamlessly, because I bought every misogynistic bit of it.
The Incredibly Witty Couples
I appreciate a person's wit more than most people probably do, but watching the couples on TV go about their conversations with one another with the quick wit and pithy one-liners, like they're doing stand-up, is just a little far fetched. No one is that on point all the time. No one.
Most importantly, married couples aren't always "synced up" the way those couples are. Yes, sometimes you really can be on the same page or have full conversations with one another without saying a word. But other times, you're just "off."
The Gay Couple Who Makes All The Gay Puns
I am personally in a heterosexual marriage, but I know many gay couples who either are married, or plan to be in the future (or some who are in long term committed relationships, because not everyone wants to get married). Out of all of these friends, I can't say that I've heard them use any puns pertaining to their sexuality.
Gay couples have the same problems that straight couples do, so why are so many television shows trying to make gay couples poking fun at their own sexuality a thing? If people are uncomfortable with a gay couple on TV, that don't make a mockery of their homosexuality, they're more than capable of changing the channel, so we can just stop with the token gay couples who make fun of themselves for the comfort of others to boost ratings.
Making Celebrity Marriages Out To Be Fairy Tales
After the news broke about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, numerous celebrity news channels went on a 24 hour spree of obsessively critiquing every aspect of their marriage. "They seemed so in love and so perfect for one another," one reporter said as she was trying to come to terms with her shock. What we see in the media about celebrity couples isn't what actually happens behind closed doors. People reporting on their "perfection" does nothing but disappoint all of us in the long run, whether the relationship survives the long run or not.
The Couple Who Never Disagrees
Even the healthiest of relationships have their discrepancies from time-to-time, and even frequently. Depicting TV couples who live their lives together in symphonic harmony, finishing each other's sentences and doing things without ever having to be asked, is something that I think we all hope for but is far from realistic.
The Couple Who Never Agrees, But Is Still Rock Solid
Disagreements happen. Every relationship has them, but if a couple can't agree on literally anything, there's a good chance that the relationship isn't going to last. My husband and I definitely have our disagreements, but not so frequently that we spend the majority of our relationship apologizing to one another. Again, it's just not realistic, and I feel like it gives empty hope to couples who perhaps shouldn't be in a relationship with one another.
Making Fights Seem Hilarious And Fun
I can attest that some fights in marriage are stupid and ridiculous. Arguments about folding laundry and not putting the cap back on the toothpaste are trivial, sure, but if you're married to someone who does those things differently than you, it might get under your skin at some point. On TV, fights seem witty and hilarious, but in real life, fights usually aren't a source of comedic entertainment.
Wrapping Up Disputes In A Nice, Tidy Package
People are capable of forgiving, but forgetting fights or disagreements or mistakes is a different challenge completely. We can't just wipe our brains of the memory of being hurt by someone we love, but TV couples can. Their disputes get wrapped up into nice, tidy packages that contain sentimental life lessons at the end of every episode. I wish real life were like that but, unfortunately, it's not.
I'm sure that some wives are irrational and unfair and spiteful on occasion, myself included, but shows that put women in antagonist roles as the stereotypical "bitch" do nothing but contribute even more to making it OK to call assertive women "bitches" in the first place. (Not to mention, there are plenty of husbands who are irrational and unfair and spiteful, too.)
If a woman wants to speak her mind, that doesn't merit the label of a "bitch," and I really wish the media didn't try to push that role so fervently. We don't have to have enemies or adversaries to be entertained, and we definitely don't need "bitches" in the media to make strong, independent, and opinionated women feel like they're in the wrong.