A friend recently posted an article on Facebook about how children from divorced families behave differently than others in relationships. (If you’re interested, check out the article here). While I didn’t agree with all of the points in the article, one stood out to me as being particularly true for me. The article said that children of divorce tend to be very aware in relationships, and this is certainly true for me. I am constantly watching my relationship for signs of problems or potential pitfalls. I suspect that those whose parents remained married but have serious struggles may experience a similar effect. While this awareness is good in many ways, it leaves us open to taking the advice of meddlers more seriously than we should. It also tempts us to meddle in our own relationships, looking for problems where they don’t actually exist.
My husband and I have been blessed with family and friends who generally trust us to make good decisions for our relationship, so it is fairly rare for us to get unsolicited advice on our relationship. It probably helps that our relationship has been quite healthy so far and that we naturally follow many of the societal expectations for how relationships should work. I’m sure that once our daughter is born, we will get a lot more unsolicited advice, but for now it’s rare.
Stumbling on Advice
Does that mean that unsolicited advice doesn’t affect our relationship? Well, no. And here’s why: the internet contains a lot of relationship advice. A lot. Much of it doesn’t work for my relationship, but I find myself worrying about whether there is something wrong with my relationship because we don’t do things the way that a random internet writer or commenter suggests.
Some of the advice is just crazy, and I have no problem ignoring it. For example, I recently saw in internet commenter suggesting that a woman stop having sex with her husband until he gave in and cut his beard. I don’t believe in using sex to manipulate my husband, so while it’s true that I don’t love it when he has facial hair, I have no urge to apply this advice to my own situation.
Other advice is harder to ignore, however. For example, I often see people online recommending having an evening devotional time together with your spouse. Now please don’t misunderstand me. For many couples, having a shared devotional time right before bed works really well, and I’m certainly not knocking the idea. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t make sense for my relationship. My husband and I have different views on religion in a lot of areas. Also, my husband likes to analyze things deeply and to question conventional views, which means that anything related to religion is likely to put us into a long, intense discussion. I love the fact that we have deep discussions about religion, and I feel closer to my husband and to God for having those discussions. Still, those discussions often include a lot of heated back and forth, and we can both get pretty riled up by them. The last thing I want to do right before going to sleep is to get into a intellectually stimulating discussion that will keep me up all night in contemplation. Still, it’s tempting, just because so many people online seem to think it is a good idea, possibly even essential for a long-lasting relationship with your partner.
When this happens, I have to fight back against my inner meddler, that part of myself that says things in my relationship need to be different because the ways we do things don’t match how people online think they should be, or even how I think they should be theoretically. What I’ve learned from this process is that if something could work for my relationship, then great, I will try it out. If I know in advance that it won’t work, or if I try it out and realize it doesn’t work, then I let it go. There is no reason to cause a problem in my relationship by trying to fix something that isn’t a problem with a solution that doesn’t work for my relationship.