One size couple advice fit’s very few

In a recent comment reply, I said, “I know what that line is for my marriage … but I also know our line is not one that would work or be healthy for every couple.”

One-size-fits-all marriage advice is one of my big pet peeves, and sadly, there is a lot of this kind of advice out there. Well-intentioned people share what worked for them, which is fine, but they say that what worked for them will work for anyone, and that is almost never the case. Given differences in personality, life experience, time married, past problems, current complications, and so on and so forth, how could any one approach ever be “THE ANSWER” for everyone? Often the folks who do this have been through some disaster, or been on the verge of divorce, but made it out alive, married, and in love due to whatever it is they are offering as the secret to a great marriage. They mean well, they really do.

Beyond the fact that these things won’t help some (or most) people, there is the even greater problem that these one-size-fits-all approach can make some marriages worse! If he is domineering, a “follow your man no matter what” approach is going to make the marriage worse. If she has no respect for him, for reasons not his doing, telling them he’s the problem and needs to be more gentle is going to make it worse. If she has been sexually abused, telling him he can fix his sex life by grabbing her and just going for it is about the same as advocating rape. If he is trying to recover from porn, telling her to be wild and kinky may lead him to relapse. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

By the way, even those with good training can fall into this trap. It’s human nature to assume we are the norm, our marriage is the norm, and what works for us will work for most. It’s also human nature to not want to think about things we can’t fix, and even professional counsellors can devolve blind spots due to problems and limitations in their own marriages.

Do I fall into this trap? I doubt I am as free of it as I would like to be, but I am aware of it and work hard to avoid it. Maybe it’s easier for me because I know my marriage is unusual in a number of ways – and if the marriage is unusual, than much of what works for us probably won’t work for most. If you see me doing this, or think you see it, please say something!

Bottom Line: If you find someone with a one-size-fits-all marriage fix, my suggestion is to run. Run fast, and run far. Because while they will probably help some, far more will not be helped, and some will be hurt.

8 Comments on “One size couple advice fit’s very few

  1. Wow what a great reminder! Thank you! It is so easy to fall into the “do this and all will get better” mode! Those things simply won’t work for everyone! Thank God He didn’t make marriage a cookie cutter! Life would be very boring! A great reminder that we are all different, with different goals, different paths, and different purposes!

  2. How true! Thank you for posting this as a warning for all of us. This method leads quickly into legalism. We’ve seen it happen over and over again. This is why the Bible MUST be our only standard when it comes to evaluating marriage. Methods come and go, but Biblical Truth will remain, and it’s fruit is SURE. Thanks, Paul!
    .-= Tom and Debi Walter – The Romantic Vineyard´s last blog ..Worth The Time and Mess =-.

  3. Great information here. I’m not sure you even scratch the surfice here of the problem. The truth is virtually all marriage advice given by professionals falls into this trap. I have read at least 10 books on marriage and none acknowledge this. Instead they claim to have found “the way”. Irronically it always has to do some personal experience and “divine” revelation.

    The same is true of personal counselors. I have found only one who is able to understand circumstances are not always what they appear. Until this foolishness stops, marriage counseling will only help a small percentage.

  4. I think you make some really good points. But I don’t know if there’s a need to run fast and run far. I can still read dozens of great marriage blogs with discernment, realizing that it isn’t all going to apply to my situation.

    • I’m not sure you really understood my point. Of course one should read marriage blogs with a grain of salt. At their best they are amatures with some good experience and at their worst they spouting idiots. If you believing everything in a blog, you are already beyond hope.

      My reel beef is with those carrying advanced degrees and long resumes of presumed success. They tout their successes and ignore their failures (as if counselors even know when they are successful). Their counsel is often nothing more than personal experience and is very single minded. If you dare disagree with them they become insensed and turn on you. All the sudden you become the problem and they must destroy at any cost. Thus is punishment for those who see things different than a Ph.D.

      Keep in mind how hard it is to have discernment when you your marriage is in shambles and any effort is met with hostility. Terrible circumstances blacken how we see the world and distorts our perceptions. Expecting these people to have good discernment is like asking a holicost survivor how to fix Europe. That is why we need skilled professionals that are able to meet individual needs and not push a 10 step system that “always” works.

      • @Take Two – I’ve certainly seen certificated experts who were wrong more often than they were right, but that is NOT the norm. All that training does help – it gives them more to go on, and it tends to weed out the ones who are a real mess. Those with degrees have more than knowledge, they have more than a few hurdles to clear to be licensed.

        As to successes versus failures, this is a sad reality of any person or program trying to help people. The success rate of good rehab and counseling to break addictions is 30%. That low rate is not because the programs or counselors are failures, but because what they are trying to help people do is very difficult. Personal counseling is likewise difficult, and since a couple is two people the difficulty is multiplied. While poor counselors are a reality, far more “failures” are due to people who don’t want to be helped, people who will only accept help on their skewed terms, and people who lie to their counselor (with spin and putting a good face on things being a form of lying). The number one predictor of success is an individual, or both parts of a couple, wanting it to be fixed, being willing to consider they might be wrong, and being willing to change if necessary. Without those three things, it’s pretty much a waste of everyone’s time.

  5. @DC3 – You are right. I was thinking about marraige counselors in that last bit, but in context it certainly does read to be about any source or resource.

    That said, I’ve seen marriages made worse by a spouse finding at book or web site that seems to justify their wrong-doing while demonizing their spouse who is the lesser of the problems in the relationship.

  6. This is a great post and I reference it in my post from today “Thinking, Being, and Doing.” It’s almost impossible to be usefully prescriptive in a generic marriage blog like I write, where the audience and their problems are entirely unknown. What I try to espouse is more a way of viewing your self, your marriage and your spouse that helps you come up with your own answers. I don’t know how successful I am, but that’s my goal anyway.
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..Thinking- Being and Doing =-.

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