How to have a Happy Marriage
Is it Just Me?
I’ve been watching a lot of “reality” TV shows recently, about couples getting married under unusual circumstances. In one program, two people are put together by “experts,” and meet each other for the first time at the altar. In another, a son or daughter enlists the help of his/her parents to find a mate. Then they basically marry after meeting once or twice, or not at all. In yet another, two people have met abroad, and have 90 days back in the USA to either get married, or send their prospective spouse back to their country of origin. At least in that scenario, the couple has done their own “selecting.” In the other two, external elements have brought them together. Still, they were all looking for a spouse, so we’re not talking about “shotgun” weddings here.
In these aforementioned scenarios, there is a repeated theme that comes up. It is phrased in various ways, but they mean essentially the same thing: Marriage is hard. Marriage is a lot of “work.” Marriage is not for the faint of heart. And so on and so forth. I would certainly have to agree that marriage, in these unusual set-ups, is going to be more difficult than normal, and filled with challenges and pitfalls.
However, if two people marry under more traditional circumstances (e.g., two mutually compatible, completely eligible, mentally healthy individuals meet, date for two years or so, meet and are accepted by each other’s family and friends, and eventually tie the knot), marriage should not be “hard” at all. Sure, there will be good days and bad days. That’s life. But the marriage should be fulfilling, uplifting, satisfying, enjoyable, comforting, and productive. And that only scratches the surface of the available positive adjectives.
It’s a Brave New World
That’s not to say that when you are married, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it, regardless of what your spouse wishes, and still have a happy marriage. Marriage is a game-changer. You must consider more than just yourself when making decisions. That means you must consider your spouse, his/her family, your (eventual) children (if you have them), his/her friends, and so on. You can no longer be the foot loose and fancy free single person you once were. With rewards come responsibilities. That is what being a grown-up is (or should be) all about.
That said, I think I understand why “some” people would call marriage “hard” work. You can no longer be the self-centered, inflexible, carefree person you may have been when you were single. You may have to make a few changes to your behavior, in order to co-exist with someone else. You may have to compromise, share, and even sacrifice from time to time. So, yes, that would be very hard if you are an egotistical, spoiled brat. But so is life in general, if you never mature into a responsible adult.
I have been beating about the bushes with generalities quite enough. Let me get into a few specifics, and hopefully that will illustrate my point.
- You may have to compromise on where you live. If you work in LA, and your spouse works in Anaheim, you are going to need to find a place to live that is mutually acceptable, in terms of commute time and convenience. So you may just have to move to a new place. That is either going to be a fun adventure, or a gigantic inconvenience – all depending upon your attitude.
- You may need to change how you live. These changes can be a lot or a little, depending on how well you selected your spouse. Do you like a tidy house, with a place for everything and everything in its place, while your spouse is a “let things fall where they may” kind of person? Trust me on this, if you are the tidy one, you are going to be doing the cleaning and organizing. If you think you will “change” your spouse, just because you are now married, then you are setting yourself up for failure and frustration. Better to just accept the fact that you are going to be the clean person (or hire a housekeeper if you have the bucks), and find something that your spouse does that you don’t like to do, and have them do that for you. Like taxes. Or doing research on buying a car, taking a vacation, etc. You get the idea.
- You may need to tweak your vacation plans. Ideally, if you have married a compatible person in the first place, there will be little if any need to compromise here. Still, your spouse may be accustomed to a “mints on the pillow” type hotel, where you are more comfortable with a “complimentary breakfast” type place. The key here is flexibility. You are on vacation after all. Vacate your “usual” way of doing things and try something new. It won’t kill you. And you might just enjoy it. Unless you are that spoiled brat I discussed earlier, in which case you will never be happy. Whether you are married or not.
- You will need to find mutual ground on money, sex, and religion. The trifecta of marital bliss. If you are not compatible going in on these three things, I would think twice (or more) about the whole arrangement. You should not need to “work” in these areas if you have chosen well. Enough said.
Since you may be curious at this point, I should mention that “yes,” I am married. Happily. To a wonderful man who is my partner, companion, friend, lover, and fellow explorer. I was married once before, and widowed. Before my first husband passed on, we had been married for 28 years. Happily. He told anyone who would listen that I was “the center of his universe.” Those are my credentials. I don’t have a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling. Just a little, old-fashioned common sense.
That said, upon further reflection, “hard work” may be just a case of word choice. You say “hard,” and I say “focused.” You say “work,” and I say “effort.” If you are a mature, responsible adult, this should not come as a surprise. The bottom line is that nothing in life is free and easy, if it’s worth having or doing. If you insist on not being “tied down” or “working so hard,” then go back to your single life and enjoy yourself. And next Valentine’s Day, or your Birthday, (or Christmas or New Year’s Eve, etc.), when you look around for someone to share the moment with, remember how much fun you are having “doing your own thing” and being “free.” Maybe you prefer taking a taxi to the hospital when your appendix bursts. Or going alone to your Aunt Emma's funeral. If that floats your boat, then more power to you. If not, you may wish to reconsider your definitions.