Marriage Methods That Fail

Marriage Myth:  Find success in your marriage by differentiating between methods and principles.  Learn to solve problems together by figuring out how to apply marriage principles.

Maybe you’re reading a marriage book by a couple who successfully navigated the bumpy road of conflict.  You follow step-by-step what they did, but it doesn’t solve your marital problems.

Or your friend gives you suggestions about what do in your free time with your spouse, but their idea of hiking outdoors makes you dread the weekend.

Well friends, you just came across another marriage myth. This is it:  contrary to what we think sometimes, methods DO NOT equal principles.

Often, we study a book or reach out to a couple we want to learn from.  Then we think, “If only I can implement their exact step-by-step process…”  And what happens?  Sometimes we fail, or sometimes we’re simply unproductive.  That’s because we replicated the method, but missed the most important part.  By failing to account for different personalities or relationship dynamics, we ignored the principle being taught and placed the emphasis on their how-to model.

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here’s the big idea, the main point you need to get if you want to avoid this myth:

Apply the principle to make your marriage succeed.

And apply that principle by finding the method that works for your marriage.

So how can you tell what principle is being taught?  And how can you decide which methods you can successfully replicate in your marriage?

Here’s an example:
In my post Encouragement Date Night, I shared how Ben and I took journals with us out to dinner and made a list for the other of their best qualities and talents.  That idea is simply a method.  So what’s the principle behind that date?  I would summarize it as this:  you need to spend time affirming your spouse.  Maybe the journal thing doesn’t work for you.  Maybe you would rather take some alone time to write a letter to your spouse.  But without applying this principle (on some level), your marriage will suffer.   Find a way that works in your marriage to successfully affirm your spouse.

Make sense?

We ignore a lot of good wisdom when we toss out a truth simply because of the technique it’s attached to.  And sometimes the reason we’re not finding success is because we’re stuck using methods meant for others, or we’re not altering the method for US to use.  So before you get stuck feeling unsuccessful or quickly throw out an idea because the method seems irrelevant, find what the principle is.  Then come up with a way to apply it.

Sometimes we don’t know if a method will work until we try it, but don’t give up!  Keep thinking of ways that you can apply the principle together.  If you can ignore the myth about methods and put the principle into action in your marriage, you will find success together!


  1. Hannah Magelssen says:

    I love this! Such a practical way to think about marriage advice. I am a newlywed (my marriage is only 10 days old), so as you can probably image I get a lot of “practical advice” about what makes a good marriage work. But something I’ve noticed is that different couples apply different methods for the same principle. So it’s really helpful for me to think in terms of listening for and applying broad truths instead of trying to enact every detail of someone else’s relationship. Love this website! Keep it up!

    • Thank you so much, Hannah! Congrats on your marriage. I’m so excited for you. As we’re sifting through marriage advice, it’s been so helpful to think in terms of methods and principles. Hope this helps and glad to have a fan of Real Married Life!


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