“Why didn’t someone tell me it was going to be so hard? I thought that after we were married things would settle down and we could just be happy together! How come we just fight — and our fights go around in circles and we never solve anything? I am not even sure I should have gotten married in the first place!”

The young woman sat in my office with tears spilling down her face. As I listened I thought again about how girls learn what to expect beyond “and they lived happily after.”  Around 1975 a few attempts were made to rewrite some famous fairy tales with more realistic endings that continued after the wedding but I don’t think they sold very well. It is so much easier to pretend that the fantasy is true.

Almost every woman who is or has been married knows that it isn’t. As a psychotherapist, marriage counselor, relationship coach and as a married woman myself, I certainly know that the myths we tell each other about marriage have very little to do with reality. I have been trying to dispel those myths since my early feminist days, fifty years ago.

Lots of material has been written about how to deal with the fallout of those myths — the kind of fallout the young woman sitting in front of me was experiencing. We know lots about how to rescue relationships that are in trouble. And yes, with help, she and her husband did learn how to create a marriage that supported them both.

I think it’s a lot easier to learn what to expect before you decide to marry. And the best source I know is women who have been there and done that.

I once asked women who were currently or had been married a single question. “What do you wish you had known before you were married?” The answers poured out! I listened and wrote. You can find their answers in Being Married: Secrets Women Wish They Knew.