A lay counselor who has worked with hundreds of premarital couples told me that he particularly looks forward to the session when he lays out what he calls the “tough love truths” to the future couple. These truths are the following:
- You’re not the person I thought you were.
- You’re not meeting my needs.
- Marriage is difficult.
This counselor sees these three things as basically universal truths, and most people who have been married five years or more are unlikely to disagree with any of them. We don’t really know who we are marrying—there is always something more to find out. No one person can meet all our needs. And every marriage is difficult.
These “3 Truths” are healthy reminders for every married couple. So often we want to particularize the challenge of our marriage, making it our spouse’s fault instead of admitting that no one fully and completely knows the person they are marrying; no marriage supplies all our emotional needs; and no marriage is always “easy.”
The trick is to keep a universal truth from becoming a specific attack. For example: “You’re not who I thought you were” can lead to, “Therefore you must have lied to me or hid from me or misled me intentionally.” You’ve taken a universal truth about marriage and used it as an individual assault.
Let me add a caveat here, however, for one particular situation: Some people are master manipulators and they really did commit fraud prior to the marriage, about who they were, what they value, and how they live. And some people can actively and intentionally cover up major issues psychological, drug dependence, etc.) from their future spouse that also amounts to fraud.
For most people, though, it’s not about fraud as much it is about discovery, having our eyes opened to distasteful things, short of abuse, that are unpleasant and maybe even shocking to discover. Even if your spouse managed to be one hundred percent honest while dating, you’ll still find out a few unfortunate truths about him or her as the marriage progresses.
The second universal truth, “You’re not meeting my needs!” implies that someone else could meet all your needs. It can turn into a poisonous disappointment and contempt, all because you accepted the premise of a lie—that your spouse is supposed to meet all your needs. Imagine a coach berating Lebron James because during one game he missed half his shots or only pulled down three rebounds. Try to find any player who doesn’t usually miss half his shots!
Finally, “Marriage is difficult” can turn into “you’re difficult so something must be wrong with you.” No one person can meet all our needs. According to the IMAGO model, if you want more love, be more loving. If you want more kindness and consideration, be more considerate and kind. If you want more sex, be more sexual. Be more of what you want. Don’t expect more than what you give. Also, ask yourself, what have I done to keep the spark in my marriage/ relationship lately?
So let’s step back and look at these three thoughts.
- You’re not who I thought you were.
- You’re not meeting all my needs.
- Marriage is difficult.
When these universal truths become obvious to you, remember that this doesn’t mean you made a bad choice. It doesn’t mean you got a raw deal. It just means you have a relationship. And now it’s time to make it work.
Marriage counseling supports bringing out the best in each individual and the best in the relationship. It also helps people to be accountable for their thoughts, feelings and behavior. When things don’t feel right and there is a breakdown in communication or intimacy, therapy can help.
Often it is a matter of re-evaluating priorities and goals as a couple. Finding the right path to re-evaluate, revive and go forward are goals of therapy.
If you or someone you know could benefit from re-vitalizing their relationship, call Denise at
This article was paraphrased from Gary Thomas, a Christian minister, who has written much about relationships, spirituality and preserving the sacredness of a spiritual commitment.