everything you've been told about marriage is a lie

Ok, I'll admit, that was a bit of a hyperbolic title.

In honor of our 6th anniversary on Sunday, I thought I would refute the three biggest pieces of marriage advice so many people gave us and that we read. We all know that the 6th anniversary is the year we achieve marriage perfection and complete understanding of human relationships, so obviously I am very qualified to write this.

I know this advice is actually pretty good advice and useful in many situations, but it's not applicable to every marriage, personality, or season of life.

1. Have routine date nights. A former coworker of mine used to go out with his wife for a fancy dinner and movie every single Wednesday and pay a babysitter to watch their two kids. That is a lot of money every single week, not to mention I feel like it wouldn't be as special if you do it that often. In the last 25 months of parenthood, James and I have gone on exactly two dates. TWO. Several people said something to me about how shocked they are that we're still married. I know they were mostly joking, but society does tend to tell us that we have to go on special dates in order to keep a happy marriage. There is nothing wrong with date nights! They are awesome and fun, and we're going on one soon. But you know what? Ordering a pizza and watching a movie when the baby is in bed is really fun and cheap. And you can wear pajamas. And you're spending time together. We've become pros at the at-home date night. And we're still married and don't hate each other! Shocking, right?

One night at Mops last fall, an older married couple did a talk on having a happy marriage. They were HUGE on the date night. This was before we had even gone on one date since Gracie was born, so this was a sore topic for me. She said this is an absolute must for a happy marriage. She said it's also important to go on a vacation alone together at least once a year. I was fuming by this point and planning to ask her if she wanted to contribute funds to that, because that is so not even possible right now. I went home and told James our marriage is doomed to failure because we've never gone on a vacation alone together and we don't do regular date nights. The more I've thought about it, the more annoyed I am that this is typically the first piece of advice for any marriage. Date nights are awesome and help us reconnect as human adults and not just as co-parents, but if that's what it takes for you to stay happily married, maybe there's a problem. Making time for each other is very important, but it doesn't have to be a night out with a babysitter. They are a luxury, not a necessity.

2. Don't go to bed angry. This is probably the most common advice we got, from our pastor to multiple strangers. Don't let the sun go down on your anger, and all that. It's in the Bible! During pre-marital counseling, our pastor told us this was one of the most important things for us to remember. He said he and his wife would fight all night, with him angrily jumping on the bed whisper-screaming to make sure they worked it out (that image has never left me and often makes me feel awkward). To go to sleep would be giving up. When we were looking at an apartment for James to move into while we were engaged, the landlord told us working out our issues before bed was the key to a happy marriage. I've always thought this was weird advice. When we fight, there is a 99% chance it will happen around bedtime when we're exhausted and cranky. The longer we stay up and fight, the worse it gets. We turn into hideous, sleep-deprived monsters. If we just--gasp--go to sleep instead of letting it escalate, it solves a lot of problems. 9 times out of 10, we'll look at each other in the morning when we're clear headed and immediately apologize for being selfish idiots. I think this advice probably has more to do with dealing with your issues and not letting them go, but people take it very literally.

In the interest of full disclosure, the evening after I started writing this, we had a heated bedtime argument. I was about ready to scrap this whole post because it was all I could do to not run laps around the room yelling and shouting until he saw things my way. I forced myself to chill out, we fell asleep, and then we laughed it off before he left for work the next morning. I told him I was thinking about writing this post, and he immediately mentioned this advice as not particularly helpful for us. I know it is for some people, and some things are worth staying up over, but I'm speaking in generalities here so just calm down.

3. Having kids will tear your marriage apart. Maybe. I don't know. I've heard and read so many times that having kids is the biggest test of your marriage. This is probably true to an extent as your lives are completely turned upside down, and I know of couples who have struggled after having kids. But that was not us. I think our first few years of marriage were SO MUCH HARDER than the last few. Having a baby gave us a common goal and reshifted our priorities. There were of course some heated fights in the middle of the night over who would deal with the screaming newborn, but I felt like it realigned us. I know this isn't true for all couples, and if we had another kid I could completely eat these words, but I think our marriage has been so much stronger since having Gracie. And that's WITHOUT a regular date night ;)

What do you think? Agree or disagree? I love hearing what people think about these sorts of things!

In honor of our anniversary, if you've never read about our borderline disastrous wedding, you probably should:
ceremony drama
epic reception saga
stranded in a foreign country on our honeymoon


  1. First of all, happy anniversary and congratulations on making your clearly doomed marriage work well for so many years.

    Date night: Yes! We have no babysitters, so actual dates happen on birthdays, anniversaries, or are short coffee datre when family is around because we want to visit them while they're here. But every other Friday is pizza and movie night and we still love each other.

    Fighting: Not going to lie, I try to sort things out at bedtime and sometimes it gets ridiculous. I might try sleeping on it next time.

    Kids: Yes!! Everything you said. Word for word.

  2. I think when people say "for a happy marriage, do this or do that", they generalize a lot. Every couple is different! And every couple, I think, have to figure out their way of being happy with each other. Anyway, great post xxxx

  3. The two hardest years of our marriage were our first year of marriage and the first year after having R. It was SO hard on our marriage to add a baby, but we feel a lot more confident going into baby #2 because we learned some things! We go to sleep angry, but usually we wake up angry too. But we've tried staying up to resolve it and that never goes well. Basically we aren't great about not holding grudges. Him more than me, but don't tell him I said that ;)

  4. When I was going and seeing a therapist she suggested making a monthly date night a priority, because anymore than that is ridiculous both financially and time wise. She also reiterated that a date night doesn't have to be dinner and a movie, that it can be as simple as what you described, spending intentional time with one another once the kids are asleep. So I think you've got that mentality right!

    As far as not going to bed angry, that's the only way our marriage can function. Both Nick and I are just prone to staying up fuming if we don't work it out. That might have something to do with him leaving for work so early so trying to work it out in the morning isn't an option. I think that's one piece of advice that works for some people and not others. It's not advice I'd ever give to other couples even though it's something that works for us.

    I think having children has only strengthened our marriage. We've had to learn to fight more effectively, because it's not as though you can be screaming at one another while your kids look on. Plus it really adds another level of commitment. It's much harder to walk away from a family than it is a singular person. I think most people who give that advice only view children as a burden and so of course it will nothing but ruin their marriage ideals.

  5. 100% AGREE.

    We try to do monthly date nights because I do realize their value, but they're generally always something free, because who the hell has money for that? We got bills to pay, yo! Our date nights in the last 6 months came in the form of a restaurant gift certificate that I won in a giveaway and an Ohio Farm Bureau member dinner. Haha! I'll take what I can get!

    The "never go to bed angry" thing makes me SO EFFING ANGRY. Stupidest advice ever. Want to know the best way I get over something? TO SLEEP ON IT! Being tired and cranky literally makes every thing worse.

    The kids thing? I won't say it has "torn us apart," but it's really stinking hard to make time and prioritize each other when we're just drained from parenting all the time. Thankfully, I think we communicate pretty well and we don't take it personally when we would rather have "me time" rather than "us time" because we're running on empty.

    Love this post- spot on!

  6. Number two is so true for us. We're so much more clear-headed in the morning.

  7. I love this, and agree with all of it. Well, as much as I can without having a kid just yet. But the going to bed angry thing? Yeah, we tried for several years to make that advice work and I can count on one hand the number of times it actually did. We're both much more reasonable in the morning, too.

    I fully expect there to be a whole new aspect to our marriage once the baby's born, but we've both also worked really hard on communication and respect over the last 7+ years and I just can't see how adding a baby has to mean that suddenly both parties have no clue how to relate to each other anymore. That's one reason I'm really glad we didn't have a kid right away after we got married...we probably WOULD be one of those statistics, haha.

  8. Firstly Congrats!

    Secondly I think you hit the nail on the head. My oldest is 5 and *gasp* we are going on our first vacation this year....and it's a family vacation. We have an occasional date night now that the kids are 5 and 3. But they sure don't happen once a week. Most of the time I count it as a win if we get to go to bed at the same time and fall asleep in each others arms. We try not to go to bed mad at each other, but sometimes we fail miserably with that. Sometimes, we can put it aside and go to bed and laugh about it in the morning, other times we go to bed and the argument continues in the morning. We were together for 6 years before we had kids. We had fun, we knew each other, but it was hard sometimes. Kids make us work better with each other and we wouldn't change it for the world. They were the missing link that we needed and never thought we could have.

    1. Yes!! It's so nice to know I'm not alone in these things.

  9. My poor little brain cannot comprehend couples with small children who can go on at least one vacation alone together a year. I mean, if you can afford it and have a good childcare option and aren't breastfeeding one of the kids around the clock, by all means, GO FOR IT. But, that doesn't seem realistic for many couples out there who I know, myself included.

    It's funny you bring up #2, because earlier today, I was thinking about how glad I am that we don't go to bed while mad at each other-though I legitimately can't remember the last time that we've been fighting and mad at each other. We're just weird like that; we disagree on things occasionally, but we don't really argue much at all. In the times when there has been a big issue stressing us out (or mainly stressing me out, and this mainly happened during engagement and our first year of marriage), we do make an effort to make peace at prayer time before bed and agree to finish addressing the issue when we've had sleep. Because trying to muddle our way through a disagreement when we're mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted is a terrible idea! I hope you have a happy anniversary! I'm off to read your wedding posts now, those look very intriguing.

  10. Happy anniversary! I totally agree. We've been on a total of 4 dates I believe since Ben was born and we do pizza and movies on the weekends...and we still love each other :) as far as the fighting goes, I used to push to get it done and over with as quickly as possible but have mellowed out quite a bit since the beginning. Now I think we can sense if it needs to be dealt with right away or if we are just sleep deprived crab monsters and need to sleep before discussing further. And 100% yes on the relationship being better after Kids. Like word for word what you said. It seems weird but we actually fought more during the three years we dated than we did after marriage �� and having Ben has made things even better!

    1. That's exactly how it's been for us! Those early years were ROUGH, dating years included! We've matured so much since then, and adding Gracie has only helped. For the most part ;)

  11. I wish we were able to go on more dates but it's not possible right now. We end up having a ton of at home dates, even if it means doing our normal evening routine of watching a show but adding a special snack. It may change as more kid come along. Right now we put Annabelle to bed and outside of her calling for us we're alone. When we have another we may have to share our alone evenings with another little person. In a perfect world we'd get out more and if we could afford it I'd love to have a weekend away every year but I don't see that happening for a long time. I think making time to really communicate and be on the same page regardless of designated "date night" is what's important.

  12. On one, I love dates. We have a bit of a tradition going right now with Friday morning breakfast out at a local Indian shop that costs $3 total for drinks and food and I love it. But I'm always the type who thinks grocery shopping together is a date and going to the bank to deposit checks and taking my baby sisters out to a movie and spending a morning deep-cleaning the apartment together is a date. Sometimes I do request spending some time with the two of us a little more than Angel would prefer--he always likes to include extended family and friends, while I'm a bit more introverted. I just like doing stuff together all the time...so I would say I'm all about dates. I would imagine that when we do have kids that I will be the type to leave them with my Mom once they're big enough...we live in the same apartment complex as my parents for a reason... ;)
    On two....I cannot sleep if I'm mad. I would be awake all night. But I also don't ever get mad for long as long as I can have the chance to talk it out and resolve it. For us, not letting the sun go down on our anger means taking an extra 10 minutes to talk and understand what went wrong and then we can fall asleep happy--for me, totally worth it. I definitely know for other people that it's a better choice to just fall asleep. I've tried...that doesn't work for me. I'll stay up all night thinking, whereas if I just have the chance to talk and seek resolution, I'll sleep happy.
    3...I hope to find out someday! I imagine adding kids will be pretty awesome! Trying to grow our family has definitely added a lot of stress to life--not really to our marriage or relationship though. What I notice now is that Angel is much more compassionate and understanding than he used to be, and I'm thankful.

  13. Well, this is enlightening. I'm not on board the marriage ship but I hope soon and hopefully knowing much better through articles like this.

  14. Great post. And happy anniversary :)

    While I have 0 experience with #3, I agree with you on the first two pieces of advice. I'm sure that stuff works for some people, but not us. K and I are together ALL. THE. TIME. (I mean, we run a company together.) We get pizza or Thai food and chill on the couch and relax. Sometimes we go out to dinner, but it's not really a date night. There's no romantic element- just a need for food, lol. We very rarely go to the movies or do something cutesie. Which is fine, because we don't need that to keep us happy.
    Also, I dislike going to bed angry, but it's actually better for K if he can sleep off his frustration. 95% of the time we wake up and say "sorry" or we've forgotten it. It just works better for us.
    When we got married everyone told us Year 1 would be the hardest. My grandma said our first year with a baby would be. In my experience, Year 2 was the toughest because the "newness" had worn off and real life can get boring and frustrating. But I really believe it's totally different for every couple :)

  15. This is great, love!
    1) I'm just as happy (maybe even more so now?) staying in rather than going on a date. If we go out somewhere it's more likely because we need an adventure than we need time to reconnect for just the two of us. I hope that a Baby Kemper can fit into any sort of date that we might go on. The only thing that I will miss is going to the movies on a regular basis.
    2) the don't go to bed angry is 50/50 for me! There are those times where ya just have to sleep on it and then laugh/apologize in the morning. The hardest part in the beginning of our marriage is I would want to resolve things before going to sleep otherwise I wouldn't be able to fall asleep. I've learned to simmer down though haha
    3) Although I don't have kids I feel like they can only really tear a marriage apart if one or both spouses haven't learned to love sacrificially before having kids. Im afraid I'm going to have the hardest time when we have a kid- I need sleep and lots of it!

    1. 1. Ha! I understand! You and Ryan are the only reason we've made it to the movies recently ;)
      2. I am the EXACT same way. But a late night plus my temper is a recipe for disaster.
      3. Amen.

  16. I always write "go to bed mad" as advice at bridal showers. I think I got it from another blogger. I always get weird looks, but I feel like the opposite advice isn't followed or believed by 1/2 the people who give it. What's the use of pretending you're over something if you're not? I don't revel in going to bed mad. I try to avoid it whenever possible, but if it happens, I figure it needed to. Sleep gives me a clearer head.

    Happy anniversary! We got married the same year :)

  17. I am definitely a fan of the "sleep on it" method. Trying to work through an argument while tired is likely just to make me more stubborn and crabby! Much better if we let it go and get some sleep!

  18. The only piece of advice I remember from our rehearsal dinner was my mom standing up and saying, "A lot of people will tell you not to go to bed angry, but I will tell you that if you decide to do that, you're going to lose a lot of sleep." And basically went on to say that sometimes a good night's sleep will do a lot more for your argument than staying up all night will. And it's totally true. Putting 8 hours between an argument and some much needed rest can put things in a perspective that is impossible to achieve after 10:00 PM.

  19. #2 is pretty dumb. By night I'm tired and it's just not a good time for me to try to talk rationally. It's like a night of sleep hits the reset button and things are always better in the morning. Let's talk then.

    Best advice we ever got is from my father-in-law: If mama ain't happy, then nobody's happy.

  20. Happy anniversary!

    I think date nights are important--I don't think they have to involve leaving the house. Amberly at A Prioritized Marriage writes a lot about date nights, including ideas for cheap/free date nights at home.


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