The marriage I am in right now, today, is the best marriage I have ever had.
And that’s saying quite a bit because I’ve been in lots of marriages.
“But wait,” I can hear you thinking, “I thought you were with your second husband. That’s not ‘lots’ of marriages.”
But here’s the thing – even though I have only signed two marriage certificates, in fourteen years of total matrimony, I have been in numerous marriages.
Because a marriage, like the people in it, is always changing.
And the one I am in right now is the best one I have ever had.
So I am a firm believer that a happy marriage is absolutely possible. But only if you understand what makes a marriage happy.
A happy marriage is not…
Happy Every Day
Dr. Drew likes to talk about out intolerance as a society for what he deems “ordinary misery,” the normal downs that can be found in a good life. Marriage is no different. Outside of the fairytale that fiction (or Facebook) portrays, no partnership will be all smiles all the time.
In fact, a marriage of any duration will probably go through some hard times. Even some very hard times. But just like you can love your child even in those moments when you you don’t like them very much (maybe like all of middle school!), you can be committed to your marriage even on those days or weeks when you’re not entirely happy with it.
Free From Doubt
It is entirely normal to question your decisions. To consider your options. To wonder if you’ve made the right call and to think about what other paths may have held.
The trick here is to distinguish between ordinary doubt (on par with ordinary misery) and your intuition screaming that you’re making a wrong move. The former is more an exercise in thought whereas the latter (which I experienced towards the end of my first marriage), operates largely at a subconscious level.
A Sole Source of Happiness
A marriage, no matter how awesome, should never be your only source of happiness or purpose. That is simply too great of a burden for it to bear.
A happy marriage is formed when two happy people come together and make the choice to have parts of their lives overlap.
A marriage is a living, breathing entity. The person you say “I do” to will not be entirely the same person you wake up next to five years down the road. And you will grow and change in that time as well. The environment that surrounds the early marriage will change as children come and go, jobs transition and health challenges arise. What works during one phase may longer be effective or feasible in the next.
Marriage is not a solution to a problem. If there are issues or insecurities in the relationship, the addition of a certificate and a ring will not alleviate them. In fact, it often has the opposite effect.
A happy marriage is…
A happy marriage is challenging in the best way possible. It consistently pushes you to become a better version of yourself, requires that you deal with your own issues and makes you confront your assumptions and expectations. I forces you to admit when you’re wrong and stand up for your boundaries even when you’re scared.
It’s not easy. But then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.
Not in a cupcake kind of way that feels good in the moment only to leave you with regret later, but in a wholesome, home-cooked meal kind of way. A happy marriage helps you feel energized and nourished and makes everything else just a little bit easier.
When I interviewed my ninety-eight-year-old grandmother for my recent book, she kept coming back to the idea of adaptability to survive life’s hardships. And that trait, both in the individuals and in the partnership, is key to a happy marriage as well. A happy marriage is one with a growth mindset.
One of the key elements of any successful relationship is maintaining vulnerability.
And that open state always comes with risk.
One of the reasons that the marriage I’m in right now is the best one I’ve ever been in is that I’m finally willing and able to accept that risk without preemptively closing myself off or entering into a state of unbridled panic. I kinda feel like a deserve a medal for getting to this place:)
A happy marriage is one where you feel like your partner has your back. Even when they don’t understand or agree with you.
It’s a safe place, where you can express your thoughts and feelings without ridicule or contempt. Even when your partner doesn’t understand or agree with you.
A happy marriage accepts those differences and accepts both partners as they are.
As I see it, one of the biggest hinderances to a happy marriage is fear. Fear of losing yourself. Fear of being left. Fear of not being loved. Fear of being hurt. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of not being accepted.
As I’ve said before –
We push people away because we are afraid of letting them in and being hurt when they leave.
We grasp on to people that are not good for us because we are afraid of being alone and someone is better than no one.
Pushing and pulling are fear, not love.
Love is holding.
Loosely enough so that each person has the freedom to grow and change.
And firmly enough so that each person knows they are supported.
It is trusting the other person enough that they want to stay even if they have the ability to leave.
And trusting yourself that you will be okay if they do.