This article originally appeared on YourTango, by Lesli Doares.
You'll be tempted to ask them for advice — don't do it!
Unfortunately, this is magical thinking that leaves most couples confused, frustrated, and either settling for a less-than-satisfying marriage or breaking up.
What they don’t understand is that there are specific developmental stages a marriage goes through that will determine whether a couple settles into a good rhythm or is in for a bumpy ride.
Many of us are familiar with the “honeymoon” stage and that’s about it.
Once the marriage ages out of that stage, you might be at a complete loss as to what to do next.
Unlike when you were a child, you may not have anyone to help you through the next stage and the ones after that.
Some of the places you might naturally look for guidance may not be the best ones to find effective marital advice.
To help you avoid those mistakes, here are 3 places you should never look for relationship advice:
1. Your parents
When you were little, you counted on your parents to help get you through infancy, toddlerhood, and safely into adulthood.
You might have pushed back against them during adolescence but you still counted on them to be there and keep you from doing long-term damage.
You have absorbed those lessons regardless of the health of their marriage. In this age of second and third generation divorces, there is a good chance that one of you is a child of divorce. Statistically, this puts your marriage at a greater risk of failure.
To be sure, most of us don’t delve too deeply into our parents’ marriages. The idea of them being intimate is bad enough, but actually talking to one or both of them about the inner workings of their marriage is not for the faint of heart.
So, most of your conversations about any challenges in your marriage will be superficial or after you have had a fight.
Neither is going to be particularly productive.
2. Your friends
Most of what you know about your friends’ marriages is superficial.
You’ll see their Facebook or Instagram posts where they are smiling and saying loving things about each other or see them at parties or backyard barbecues where deep subjects are rarely touched upon. Their public face may not match what’s happening behind closed doors.
You might be exposed to a dust-up or an off-hand remark or dig about their lack of sex but choose to ignore it or laugh it off because you are uncomfortable or don’t know how to get involved.
If you’re hanging out with the guys or at a girl’s night out, there might be a lot of complaining about your spouses.
It becomes much easier to jump on the bashing bandwagon then talk about what might really be happening and what to do about it.
If you’re lucky, you have at least one friend with whom you share your mutual challenges. Unfortunately, they may be ill-equipped to advise you. They don’t want you to be hurt and that is where they will go. They are unaware that they are only hearing one side of the story, or may not have the confidence to stand up for your spouse.
If this friend is single or divorced themselves, they may have a bias neither one of you will see.
3. Celebrities (especially reality ones)
A final place you might seek information is off social media, television, or the pages of entertainment magazines. You may have read about or watched two people fall in love and figure that, because they are rich, famous, or glamorous, they must be doing it right.
But celebrities are just people; and ones who are living under a microscope. They don’t necessarily have any better understanding of what makes a relationship work than you do.
This is especially true for reality stars. They are chosen because they will create excitement and drama. But what makes for great ratings usually makes for bad marriages.
It is unwise to follow examples just because they are public.
The people with the real answers are the ones who have made it work. Not just stayed together but really are successful.
Just as you can get stuck in a developmental life stage, you can get stuck in (or try to stay in) a stage of marriage. And, because there are two of you, the challenge isn’t just doubled, it’s squared.
The best place to learn about marriage isn’t on the streets or from your friends — it’s from sources that know what they are talking about.
But, unlike raising children, talking about our marriages isn’t something that is done.
I was terrified when I became a parent that I wouldn’t do it right. Even though having a baby is natural, raising a child is a responsibility. But I knew that there were many people that I could go to when I had a question or concern.
Isn’t it time that marriage is treated the same way?