Wednesday
Aug142013

Do You Have A Happy Marriage? (Tell everyone!) 

Wise Readers, 

For decades now, surveys in America and elsewhere have found that well above 90% of new college students list having a happy marriage as a top life goal.  It’s something I see mirrored in my own students:  When I ask how many want to get married just once, and for that marriage to be happy and lifelong, nearly every hand goes up. 

But when I ask them to keep their arms raised if they think they can have it?  Many hands and faces fall.   In studies, they’re not alone.  As divorce became not only more available but more common in each American state, even the happily wed became less sure of the state of their union, and less willing to invest in marriage even after the ceremony.  Today, fewer people are marrying at all, as faith in the possibility of a good marriage has plummeted and a belief that marriage is blind luck has risen. 

The life goal hasn’t changed.  The belief in its possibility has.    

What a shame!  There are three reasons I’m distressed at the erosion of belief that you—yes you—can have a happy marriage. 

 

Reason #1: Marriage Does Make People Happy

It’s true that having a horrid marriage makes people very unhappy.  In comparisons of various types of people, the miserably married are the most miserable of all. 

But it’s equally true that having a lasting, good marriage is one of the few things that really does make people happy.  A single, solid marriage makes people happier than wealth, fame, career, or many of the other things we spend our lives striving for.  The happily wed are happier than any of the other groups they’re compared to; the formerly married usually try to get married again.  E.M. Forster’s epigraph, “Only connect!” is a life philosophy more worthwhile, happiness-wise, than many another. 

Some scientists will want me imprisoned for making a causal statement based on correlational data.  Fair enough.  But the data stretch back as long as we’ve got good social science; the results are consistent; they’re global; they’re abundant; and there is room for logic here.  If you’ve got an institution where people across time and continents are happier (and wealthier, and healthier, and less lonely, and sexually more satisfied, and…) when they’re in it and less (of all the above) when they’re not; and if all those good things increase only as long as the marriage endures, and decrease when it’s over; I’m going out on a limb and saying it. 

A good marriage *creates* happiness. 

 

Reason #2: Happy Marriage Is A Common, Renewable Resource

Lots and lots of people do, in fact, have happy marriages.  Almost 60% of first marriages in the USA today last a lifetime; about 80% of divorced folks remarry, and over 40% to roughly a quarter of them stay together for life, depending on whether it’s the second or third (or later) marriage, and whether kids are involved.  Meaning?  Most do ultimately find stability.  And stability may not sound sexxxy, but it’s the bedrock of many a satisfying, joyful life. 

But are they happy?  If a marriage lasts in the USA, the answer is commonly Yes, since the chronically disappointed tend to divorce.  In study after study and survey after survey, the happiest adults are the happily wed, and the majority of the wed are happy. 

They aren’t just happy about their marriage, but about their lives over-all—health, wealth, sex, stability in every regard, general well-being, etc.  Marriage brings a package of assurances and benefits that enrich and change lives, and usually much for the better.  It’s one of the reasons marriage equality is prized by gay and lesbian people; marriage matters in ways both mundane and profound. 

Bonus!  Happiness lost is frequently regained—85% of the time, in one study—in the very same marriage.  Unless people are dealing with the three A’s of chronic addiction, chronic adultery, or any kind of abuse, the low periods typically resolve themselves in better times and a return to happiness levels that are better than the non-wed or divorced populations. 

 

Reason #3: Happiness Is Not Random—It’s Attainable

In discussions with my students, they feel that happiness is a gamble—something random that might, but probably won’t, fall onto them from some benevolent-yet-unpredictable Love God.  Again, this view is common. 

But it’s *not* a gamble, it’s not random, and it is highly learnable.  Like love, happiness in marriage is a verb, a series of positive actions geared towards kindness and respect.  It is something people can and frequently do learn.  Using the science for that end is the core reason I launched LoveScience. 

Has it worked? 

 

This past weekend, my husband of five-and-a-half years and I finally went on our honeymoon.  We enjoyed every moment.  One of the best things for me?  The unexpected thrill of seeing young unmarried adults working on-ship surrounded by older, happily-married adults traveling together.  Finally, a group of young people was seeing, at close range, not one or two happy married couples—but a ship full. 

 

Maybe that’s what’s needed.  My students often tell me they’ve never known anyone who was really happily married (not true; they all know me).  Maybe, instead of songs and literature and movies and news coverage on the marital horror stories—maybe, we need to see some positive examples. 

 

Let’s start with you.  If you are happily married, please share in the comments below.  I can’t wait to read your story. 

 

A good marriage: It’s not luck, it’s not impossible, and it is worth it. 

 

Cheers,

Duana

 

 

The past four-and-a-half years of LoveScience provide numerous supports for everything said in today’s post.  Many thanks to dozens of scientists who have documented and clarified how to find and be the right partner. 

Do you have a question for Duana?   Write to her at Duana@LoveScienceMedia.com

All material copyrighted by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., and LoveScience Media, 2013. 

 

 

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Reader Comments (25)

Yes, I have a happy marriage. Do we fight? Yep. Do we have issues? Absolutely. Does it take a heck of a lot of work? Of course. Is it ALWAYS happy each and every day? No way! But after 21 years, I can say honestly that I have a happy marriage. As long as we both wake up and are committed to each other, to the marriage, to compromise and to communication, then I'm pretty sure we can make it. To make a marriage work, both partners have to make a decision EACH and EVERY day to love each other. And sometimes that's hard. And sometimes it doesn't seem like it should be so hard. And sometimes you're tired and just don't know how you'll make it through another day. But you are committed. For better or worse. So you do. You will have some amazing days, you will have struggles, you will have pain and hurt, you will have joy. But, hopefully, you can look back at your 21 years (or 30 or 50 or 75) and say, "Yes, I do have a happy marriage!" And you honestly mean it.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterH.

I met my husband on a Sunday afternoon and by the next Thursday we had decided to get married. We were married for twenty years, a month, and ten days. It was as close to perfect as two flawed human beings can hope for. There was never a day I wasn't thrilled to be his wife or to have him as my husband. Did I want to wring his neck once in a while? You bet! Did he wonder what made me tick from time to time? I'm certain he did. But in spite of those moments, I knew he loved me, valued my opinion, and trusted my decisions. And I loved, valued and trusted him. When he was so ill and we knew there would be very few tomorrows ahead for us, the hardest thing was that our path together was ending. I would have to go on alone, without his terrible puns, his boundless enthusiasm, and his great heart. We had down days and we had problems that seemed impossible to solve, but we were happy, so very happy.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFleeta

Yes, I have a happy marriage, and I actually do not find it to be very much "work" at all. However, we both did a tremendous amount of work before we met, with copious amounts of individual therapy and introspection. We came to each other after we each had reached a place of personal happiness and peace. I've never been in a troubled marriage, so I have no basis for comparison, but I suspect much of the work that needs to be done in a difficult marriage actually boils down to work that each partner needs to do within him or herself. When you know what really matters to you and what doesn't, it is effortless to pick your battles. When you are really secure within yourself, jealousy and insecurity are rare occurrences. When you aren't infusing situations with your own baggage, you tend not to see aggression or manipulation where there is none, and therefore situations do not escalate unnecessarily. Add to all that the added and significant bonus: when you really know yourself before you pick your mate, you really know what sort of mate to pick. Granted, my marriage is just 10 years old...and we have many more years in which struggles or crises could arise. I don't want to smugly count my chickens too soon. But I do have to say that the first 10 years have been almost entirely happy, loving, and a lot of fun.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkkr

Almost 23 years of marriage for us! Best thing we ever did! Don't know how we got so lucky to find each other. Don't know why he puts up with me some days and I wonder how we will be 23 years from now! I do know that life just wouldn't be the same without him!

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPenny

I love my husband more today than when we married 35 years ago and truly don't feel as if some magic formula exits that enabled us to get to this point in our lives. As another commenter remarked, marriage takes work ...it isn't easy. Certainly we have seen peaks and valleys in our relationship, but one constant keeps us on course: we genuinely like each other and respect each other. Neither of us has unrealistic expectations about what shape happiness and success in life should be. When I reflect on my day to day existence, I know that is richer with my husband in it.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatie Wilkinson

My husband Mark and I have been married for almost five years now. We are happy and any word describing just how happily married we are wouldn't do us justice. Whenever we are upset with something the other does we always say it right then and there! In our life "put it on the table 'til later" doesn't exist. I believe that is what makes us work, the fact that we communicate. We are as passionate and playful as the day we first met. We also like to talk about everything to the point that would bore others to death.

Several of our friends have even been witnesses to our "cattiness" (especially on game night). We even had several friends (all married less than five years) who have divorced tell us "I thought you'd be divorced before us." To which I reply that it seems as if they expected to be divorced as if it were inevitable, as if they got married knowing they would not last.

We value each other as a person as well as a contributor to our marriage. At times it's hard, so hard, but at times it's easy, and amazing and it makes me see just why we are worth it.

Growing up my mom was never married, but my father was. I didn't have a great relationship with either of them. When I was older I knew that I would find a guy worth my efforts and keep him. In the neighborhood I grew up it was rare that you would find a married couple, never mind a happily married one. I was skeptical at first, but through educating myself and removing the negative association that I formed with marriage I have done that. And I have never been happier!

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaTarsha

I actually can't put into words what I feel for Mark. The way I have always explained our longevity is that I have always said "He makes me laugh". Nearly 20 years we can make each other laugh with a word, a look or even a grunt. We recently joined with Mark's family for an intimate although different reunion, sister, step-brothers and their families and Mark's stepdad, widowed. Of the kids in his family 2 are divorced, 1 is remarried and us. Mark's Stepdad made a point of saying we were the longest married couple of the clan and that it was something he was proud of and I hope we were too. We are. And humbled. We work at what we have and are reaping the rewards of happiness through compromise and a deep respect and admiration for each other. That is pretty much it.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicholas De La Rosa III

We are very happily married. For those who say it is "work," I say "yeah, but a different kind of work." I worked very, very hard in a dead marriage that never got any better. I wish I had cut bait sooner -- I know my parents (married 50 years this year) wished it. The work in a happy marriage is different -- after you go through a work intensive time, you feel better, stronger, and -yes- happier than before. Unproductive work, to me, is that work that leaves us unchanged, unmoved, exhausted, and even resentful. That is pretty easy to spot earlier on - now that I know what to look for.

Anyway, when deciding on who was to be my next and final Mr. Right, I had to set some pretty difficult-to-follow boundaries... because I knew that outside of those boundaries lay my unhappiness. I was ruthless in my decisions, and in hindsight, they were the best decisions I can ever imagine making.

I love my husband so much, and this happy marriage has opened up a whole other level of happiness for me. Sure, we still argue a little and grouse a little every once in awhile, but it's different than ever before. I just didn't realize how happy "happy" could be. :-)

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSashay

We have known each other for over 49 years and have been married for 46. During the first 20 or so years, marriage is more of a challenge due to the stress of work and children. As the years go on, it does get much easier because there is more time to spend together. In my opinion, love can last a lifetime but it must be nurtured. Yes, we are very fortunate to have a long and happy marriage.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPat Boniecki

Happily married here! It takes flexibility to make it work. We were told before we got married that each of us go into marriage with certain expectations of each others but we would soon find out that we didn't live up to each others expectations. We would be dissapointed! You can choose to let someone go because of it or you can learn to love the "real" person not the one you expected you married! Love is a verb, it takes work and adjusting and it takes flexibility. You have to change your expectations at times. Love is possible, it's obtainable and it can last a lifetime but like anything worth something you have to decide to work hard for it and choose to never give up! Happy marriages exsist and you can have one!

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDuana

I am LOVING your love stories. Keep 'em coming. And for the record, the Duana who just posted...is a different Duana, not me :).

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

I hear a lot of ppl complain about their marriages and have no idea why they have the problems that they have. Well I am not saying that I have been married for 6 yrs now with no problems, we've had our fair share of them, but I think that comes with the territory. My husband is my best friend, He is the first person I call when I have good or bad news to share. We do try to control one another, I think that our marriage is pretty much 50 50, minus the cooking part because I cook way better than he does and he will tell you that. We are each others biggest supporters. We listen to one another and are willing to take advice from one another. The other biggest thing that helps our marriage I think is that we have never tried to change the other. We are truly ourselves when around one another. Folks look at us when we are out in public and don't even realize we are married because we have fun, and talk to one another as friends not "husband and wife". I know this probably sounds like I am rambling, but I think being friends first helps, it is the foundation for anything that comes later. With friendship comes respect, appreciation, consideration, trust, and love and key elements to a life long commitment.

August 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Denmon

I would say that I have a happy marriage. But, I will honestly say that for most of my formative years I did not expect it. The examples I grew up with were either too perfect (60s sitcoms after school) or too imperfect (70s sitcoms and movies, and my own parents' challenging marriages). I couldn't wrap my head around the middle ground, so I really expected to not get married...until I met my wife.

We have been together for over half our lives (almost a quarter century at this point), so it's right to say that we're undoubtedly more comfortable with one another than without one another. We are happily married, but that doesn't mean we're always happy. We have had our rough spots, but we've worked through them. And, every time we make it through one of those, we're stronger and better prepared for the next one. It's like exercise -- you have to push yourself to get stronger. And, if your ideal relationship never faces a challenge, you don't know what it can handle.

Facing and overcoming life's challenges together brings us closer to one another. Although we've grown in different ways individually (she generally can't stand my music preferences these days), as a couple we've grown together. I think that's the real secret to marital happiness: Allowing enough space for you to be your own persons, but staying close enough to stick together. We're more ivy than tree.

I must say, though, that I may side with your students with regard to their expectations. I think that their "happily ever after" will look very different than ours. They've grown up in a world that is both intimate and impersonal, influenced heavily by reality television, social networks, and rapid disruptive technological innovation. The couples I see getting married these days seem to be much less tied-to-one-another than we were. In some ways it's an indication that they're capable and strong enough to stand on their own. In another sense, I think they're going to have to work diligently to grow together (rather than apart).

Of course, they're probably also going to be less susceptible to many of the insecurities and pettiness that can bring down a relationship. So, they've got that going for them. They will likely find their happiness, but it will be different. They continue to amaze me with their intelligence and maturity, so I won't count them out on this.

If I were to speak with them about relationships, I'd encourage them to be hopeful but vigilant, strong but tender, and independent but devoted. It's hard to explain, but a strong, happy marriage requires all of these in different doses at different moments.

My own secret? I have never forgotten Barry Corbin's wonderful line in Urban Cowboy (dating myself, huh?):

"You know you think that ol' pride's gonna choke you going down but I tell you what...ain't a night goes by I don't thank the Boss up there for giving me a big enough throat. 'Cause without (her), hell I'd just be another pile of dog shit in the cantaloupe patch just drawing flies."

Sorry if that's too colorful. I just love that line...

Thanks for all the wonderful work, Duana.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterS

Young people, PLEASE HAVE FAITH!

Being happily married IS possible, and my husband and I are 14 years of living, breathing proof of that.

Yes, I know there are many failed marriages all around you. But there are plenty of happy ones, too! DO NOT allow the media, the movies, the sit coms, your co-workers, or the lack of good examples in your own family to make you think YOUR marriage is doomed to fail. Mine hasn't and it won't.

Let me first clarify this is my SECOND marriage. After my first marriage DID fail, instead of feeling sorry for myself (well, maybe for a few months ...) or jumping head-first into another relationship, I decided I was going to learn from the experience. I knew I wanted to get married again, but this time I decided to go about it differently. If I kept doing the same thing, I figured I would get the same result (a divorce).

So this is exactly what I did:

1. I went to therapy.

Yep. I worked with a great counselor to discover WHY I was choosing the same type of man over and over. What an eye-opener that was!

2. I got real about what kind of life partner I wanted.

The therapist had me literally write down on 20 strips of paper all of the qualities I wanted in a mate. Then she made me narrow that down to 10. Then the top 5. Believe me, I got real clear real fast on what I wanted.

3. I put myself out there in the dating market, but I refused to date anyone who didn't qualify under my personal criteria.

4. My husband and I participated in pre-marital counseling

When I met my husband (in the parking lot of Taco Cabana - no kidding), after the second date, I knew he was THE ONE. However, before typing the knot, we still went through pre-marital counseling. That was not my idea, but it was suggested for all engaged couples at my husband's church. I liked the couple who was selected to mentor us, so I decided to go along with it.

They were about a decade older than us. We met privately together in their home once a week for about 6 weeks. Wow! We saw their 3 little kids running around (watched by a babysitter while we met), the kitchen in a mess, the laundry piled in the spare bedroom, the husband and wife tired... not always, but sometimes. These people were real, and this was real life.

Our mentors followed a curriculum that revealed in us so many issues and assumptions ...They asked us questions we had never even thought of (What amount of $$ would you spend without first consulting the other? Who will manage the money? "Oh, it will just get done" = a wrong answer). We discussed everything between my husband and me: Our similarities, differences, attitudes, upbringings, values, expectations, money, sex, children, goals, commitment ... Talk about a microscope.

5. After all that, we still wanted to marry each other :)

6. We waited until marriage to move in together

We kept our separate residences until we were married. We did not live together beforehand, although it sure would have been cheaper and more convenient.

7. We took seriously "till death do us part."

As emphasized during the pre-marriage counseling, we entered the marriage with the mindset that we couldn't get out of it. We married in a small but very formal church wedding in front of our family and friends. We made a public commitment and asked people to support it. I still remember the wise priest who officiated asking the guests to raise their right hands in blessing to show their commitment to love and support us in marriage now and in the days ahead.

8. We didn't go on a honeymoon.

I have no idea if that's relevant, but we didn't go. We paid for our own wedding and taking a trip afterwards was too expensive. Although traditional, a honeymoon didn't seem necessary and we both had work obligations. We were just happy to be married.

9. No snippy stuff

As mutually decided in the pre-marital counseling process, we committed to listen to each other and to never even BEGIN the snippy hostile responses that are legendary among husbands and wives. I saw this crush my parents' marriage. There will ALWAYS be irritating, annoying, infuriating stuff. But once the snarky criticism and verbal attacks start, it is too easy to let them escalate, and so hard to undo those words. My husband is 100% better at this than I am. When I start to fly off the handle, he will look at me and say, "I'm sorry you are suffering." Amazing how he can hold his cool. He won't take the bait. I try not to wait until I am about to explode before deciding to discuss things.

10. We have family meetings

At my house, we have alot of "family meetings" where we discuss things and usually with an agenda. I am just persnickity (sp) like that. I know it sounds like a business meeting but it works for us. My husband and I have them together and a full family meeting will include our daughter.

11. We are alot alike

We often annoy the heck out of each other with our personality quirks, but at the core we are alot alike. We enjoy doing the same things and we are drawn to the same values. While my husband is alot more strident in his viewpoints on some things than I am, I knew that going in. I am never going to change his mind on some things, so those things? I just let them be.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoan N.

Dear Wise Ones, THANK YOU for sharing your love stories and wisdom and advice. I hope even more will write in, but couldn't restrain myself from saying thank you right now to all those who have already written.

And S? I don't have a clue who you are, but a) you're most welcome, and b) that's not too colorful.

August 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

We've been together for nearly 18 years, and we hear--with surprising frequency from various friends and family--that we have the most solid relationship of any couple they've come across. There are problem areas, of course, but we've done a pretty good job of creating a good relationship. However, we're not married--because it is not legal in Texas and many other states for us to get married. We've had to build happiness without having the myriad of advantages that heterosexual couples take for granted. Can a couple be happy without being married? Of course! Should my relationship be devalued because of who I love? Of course not! If our state wants to 'defend' and promote marriage, that type of relationship should be made available to the minority as well as to the majority.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Well-said, David. I join millions in hoping you and your partner can soon be married, like Nicholas DeLaRosa (above), who is married to his husband in the U.K.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

50 years and counting! What works-true commitment and belief in the vows taken 50 years ago. What doesn't work-giving up because today's issue/problem/illness isn't fun anymore. A good, healthy dose of "I'm not a quitter" helps a lot.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I always knew in my heart that my true happiness is required not being alone. I always knew I wanted and needed to love and be loved. My problem was how to find it.

My parents were very much in love, and a good role model for a successful relationship. They met in the same Brooklyn neighborhood that they grew up in. Back then (60’s), my mom was a stay-home mom while my dad worked. Her life was dedicated to making him happy, although at times the opposite was more apparent. Today we live in a much different and much more mobile world. Both people in the relationship expect to work, or contribute to society in some regard that separates them not just physically, but emotionally as their individual needs/desires are most likely different. College pushes many relationships further out as well.

Back to me, because it all about me, right!? I spent my 20’s finding myself, too poor for any woman to want as a provider/protector. My 30’s were much better financially, but still lonely. I jumped at an opportunity with a woman I was introduced to by my family, who I married after a few months at her and my family’s insistence. Their motive = grandchildren, preferably some boys. No real dating history together, but it was kind of a match-maker marriage, so what could go wrong? An okay life that was no longer lonely, but far from complete. She did not want children, what a surprise to me. Why else get married, I thought. We eventually adopted a son. Without going into details, it became a very ugly relationship. We finally divorced after 19 years. Guilt and fear are terrible motivators for staying together.

With some guidance from friends I decided to look inward before searching for someone else in my life. As bad as things were in that marriage, I knew I still wanted love in my life. We tend to find the same kind of person each time just as a magnet attracts the opposite pole. To find love and happiness I needed to change that. I joined eHarmony and after 1,000+ profile reviews and 3 dates in less than a year, I narrowed my search to one person. You might say, I became very selective to an extreme. But I was already past 50 and did not want any more mistakes. I fell in love with the 3rd match date. I pursued her as if nothing else mattered. We spoke every night for hours before we even met. When we started dating we were more and more joined together not just in our hearts, but our minds. Our likes. Our dislikes. Our future desires. Our current needs. We talked about everything possible. No subject too sacred, or embarrassing. We both knew this relationship to be right for ALL the right reasons. Duana and I have just finished our long overdue honeymoon, after 5 ½ years. We love each other more now than any time before.

So, does true love exist? ABSOLUTELY!!!!

Is it just handed to you, or easy to find? NO WAY!!!

It takes work beforehand as well as after. Find out who you really are first. Then explore till you find the love of your life. Don’t stop there! Communicate daily on the good and bad of your day. Don’t forget theirs. Communicate on your pleasures and pains. BTW, focus more on the pleasures. And of course, do not fall victim of a pushy dating partner, or parents, if they are not what you want/need in your life!

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVic

Howdy. Coming up on 2 years of marriage in less than a week. Doesn't seem like long, but I certainly have reason to expect longevity and happiness to continue in our marriage. I have been married once before, and learned a lot in the process of trying to save that first marriage.

I made a list of the character and personality qualities that I needed and wanted in a partner, and hoped to find someone who was also picky. I knew I needed someone who loved and accepted themself. Someone who knew grief and failure. Someone who was willing to work together as a team to create something wonderful.

Someone above in the comments mentioned the idea of nurturing a relationship, and I agree. Marriage has to be tended to, like a garden. I think of a sign I saw outside a church on my commute to work: "The grass isn't greener on the other side. It is greener where you water it."

My wife and I knew each other as acquaintances and then as friends before we started dating. Chris Rock says, "When you go on a date, you are not you. You are the ambassador of you." I told her crap I never would have told someone I was dating, and so when we started dating, we already knew a lot of the other's baggage. It turned out to be a blessing, because there weren't surprises that appeared out of nowhere. We knew each other fairly well before getting doused in the neurological chemical bath of romance. Happily, we found that our baggage was a matching set.

I love that Angie is a soft place to land during and after stressful times, and that she can deal with my mistakes and accepts my apologies. We can both speak directly with kindness, and ask for clarity when needed. I have never faced stress from outside sources like this time in my life, and I like that we work as a team, always united to support each other and work on whatever issues we are facing together. I feel we are partners, and it is not an accident. We both wanted this, and we put in the effort to create it. Good marriages don't happen by accident.

Sometimes, we have to go through painful learning experiences to gain clarity in our lives. We paid the tuition. We felt the pain. We might as well learn the lessons. In my case, my earlier temporary failure allowed me to gain the tools to create a wonderful marriage with someone who also wanted to do the same.

I'm not sure I can truly capture what I'm trying to, but I hope this is useful.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKarl

My husband and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary of mostly very happy marriage. Note, I said mostly, because it takes work. And it's worth it. So remember, it's not just gonna happen. You got to want it and work at it, then every year gets better.

August 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura W

Dear Dr. Duana,
Wonderful column! My first thought was that the first ingredient in a happy marriage is the choice of partners. A recipe for disaster, no matter how many counseling sessions and relationship books are read, is when two people who do not share the same values marry. Even if they love each other, there will be ongoing challenges that will definitely not bring out the best in either one of them. Trust me, I speak from experience.
I also speak from experience on what makes a happy marriage, which I have had for the past fourteen years. Not only do we share the same value system, but we have an ongoing mutual respect and appreciation for each other. Add a huge dose of kindness, optimism, and love for each other's children and friends, and how can it not work?! Oh yes, a sweet, as opposed to caustic, sense of humor only adds to the joy.
I asked my husband what HE thought made a happy marriage, and with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, he said, "The husband always says "yes" but then goes and does what he wants to do. He then added that he always takes out the trash. That was followed with it doesn't hurt for the husband do the cooking now and then. I agree.
What he didn't say was how sweet, kind, generous, and loving he is to me and to all who know him. When he was in the hospital our granddaughter, who is not biologically related to him, was beside herself with worry and tears because she loves him so much. She knows he adores her and would and has done anything for her. He was reaping what he had sown.
Love, kindness, respect, generosity of spirit, time, and means, sense of humor, acceptance of differences, and letting the other person know how much you appreciate them...Here's to a Happy Marriage and Bringing Out the Best in Each Other! !

Louise

August 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

We’ve been married for 19 years now and have enjoyed every day of being with each other. For us, the real key was compatibility. We share the same interests, faith, and we agree on those things which must not be compromised.

But, we were happy before we ever met. Trying to find the person who will ‘make you happy’ is the wrong way to start the process; happiness is an internal state and not a condition that someone else can confer upon you. So it follows that when two happy people meet and marry, the result will most likely be a happy marriage.

But that’s not all there is to it. When we first met, my whole family was pleased and the comment was “it’s obvious he adores you”. Point – do not take that adoration for granted. Treat it like a beautiful, delicate flower to be nourished and cared for. We also laugh together, a lot. Lately I have become my husband’s “book on tape” while we are driving on trips. I was reading “Fried Green Tomatoes” and had to share little sections so many times that I just started over from the beginning reading aloud. We laughed all the way to our destination! This tradition has continued on through many books including the entire Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, and most recently The Hunger Games series.

Ours was not my first marriage…I was twice divorced, content in my singleness, but open to finding the right man. He was a bachelor, content in his bachelorhood, but open to finding the right woman. We were both 40+, so ‘maturity’ has played a key role in our happy marriage.

I’ll not go on about what to do, or not do, since many of the previous posts have eloquently covered this. But I will say that I love my man and he loves me! We genuinely like each other and simply enjoy being together and doing things together. We’ve never done the ‘girls or guys night out’ things. We would rather be with each other than be apart with someone else.

August 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRitalynn

My partner and I have been together for almost 18 years, and we knew each other for about 2 years before dating. Although we are not married (we live in Texas), we do plan to go to another state to be married soon. Aside from physical attraction, what I loved about him from the first, and still love about him, is his kindness, compassion, and intelligence.

August 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMW

"Catherine" sent me this letter about her happy marriage:

I am the luckiest woman in the world because I married the man that is perfect for me. By the time I got married I knew what I wanted in a life partner. I did not have a written list, but unknown to me I had a mental list and I knew what triggered me. I knew how a man behaved if he would drive me insane or make me happy. The man I chose makes me the happiest woman in the world.
For me to be sane I needed to marry a man that does what he says. If he says he will pick up something, the dry cleaning etc., if he says he will call, if he says he will do something and he does it. I am happy.
When my husband cooks he leaves many of the cupboard doors open, he is 6’ I am 5’2”. I am always afraid that I will put one of my eyes out. I decided a long time ago that the doors being open in the kitchen while he/we are cooking is my problem, not his, as clearly it works well for him. So instead of getting annoyed and causing a fuss I tell myself, the open doors are my problem, so I gently close the doors. And I am very thankful that my husband enjoys cooking.
He makes me laugh. He makes me smile. I learned a lot from my husband before I married him and I am still learning from him. When we met I loved his levelheadedness. Who needs a rollercoaster relationship, if you want rollercoaster, go ride one or jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
I knew I loved to travel and wanted to marry someone who loved to travel. And I don’t mean 2 week vacation once a year, I mean someone who would shut down everything, leave everyone they know and put a bag on their back and go where ever life took them, and I found him.
My husband is my first and only marriage; I guess I was waiting for Mr. Right and never settled for anything less. Some of the things that I believe make our marriage work are kindness, respect, commitment, trust, honesty, affection and we are best friends. We discuss the good and the bad. If we are discussing a difficult topic and one of us needs to step away from the topic, we are good at asking the other to continue the conversation later, or the next day. And we do pick up the conversation later. We come back to the conversation with a different perspective because we have had time to think about it. I love and accept him for who he is. I am his biggest cheerleader as he is mine.
Marriage has not been hard work, but I do believe you have to work at it, you cannot take it for granted. We have had a few major health issue bumps in the road and we worked through them together. My husband is who I want to talk to, cuddle with, spend time with and who I want to spend the rest of my life with.
Recently we were apart for two weeks and he was picking me up at the airport. I suggested that there was no need to park and that I would walk out of the airport and meet him. About quarter way down the escalator I saw my husband standing, waiting for me. I realized seeing him made me grin from ear to ear. He makes me as happy today as he did when we met 10 years ago.
Duana I want to thank you for the opportunity to write this piece. As I think back on our 10 years together I cannot believe how lucky I was to meet the man of my dreams. Writing this article has reminded me of the wonderful times we have had together. Remembering the good times is a great experience

September 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

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