Secrets to a Happy Marriage
Yesterday, my husband and I sat down and had a chat. We asked ourselves …
What are the secrets to a happy marriage? What is it that has worked for us in our marriage? Why is it that we’ve enjoyed endearing love for more than 30 years, resiliently bouncing back from the numerous storms, difficulties and obstacles life has thrown our way including losing all our financial possessions once, as well as the ultimate – an affair!
How can it be after 30 years of marriage, I still have times when I get the butterflies when my husband enters the room, and as he puts it, he still is “hot” for me?
Why after all these years, do I still often look at my husband and think, “Wow, what a wonderful, smart, compassionate, and intelligent man?”
What is it that successful couples do differently than those who are unhappy?
Is it because we were lucky?
There is not a happily married couple out there who will tell you that they are happily married because of luck. I say, “I’ve worked darn hard at my luck!”
Is it because we married our soul -mate? No. Soulmates are something one decides to be – it’s not a magical human being out there in the universe and if you find them you live happily ever after and if you don’t you’re doomed to misery.
The secret is that most couples could be experiencing extraordinary love, if they knew the secret to a happy marriage.
It never ceases to amaze us (once crisis has been averted) how many couples are willing to settle for the status quo, instead of moving forward and taking their love to the next level.
Studies have shown that those with fulfilling marriages have greater wealth, health, career success, overall happiness, and their kids do better, then those in every other situation. (Divorce and remarriage is rarely the answer. It’s about learning how to be fulfilled in your current relationship. New marriage – same spouse!)
So what is the secret? I’ll tell you.
Attitude. That’s right. The secret is your attitude. Having an attitude of compassion and understanding towards your spouse. Make Your Marriage a Priority. Great marriages don’t happen by accident. Probably the single key most important ingredient is the fact that we were unwilling to settle for just getting by in our relationship.
It also takes commitment. If you think we are saying that we have reached some sort of marriage nirvana and we don’t have problems anymore, you’re wrong. Life still happens. We are two strong people with strong personalities (and each of us has a few faults). We certainly don’t agree on everything, and as the saying goes, “if two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary!”
We still experience differences, difficulties, and obstacles, but we have the relationship tools to talk things through, to listen, to hear and to understand, and we keep our tools sharpened, by attending a marriage conference at least once a year, and enlisting the help of our own coach to hold us accountable.
Our pastor once made a bold statement about marriage from the pulpit. He said there is not a happily married person out there who has not at least once woken up beside their sleeping spouse, looked over at them, and wondered, “Why did I marry this person?”
In other words, even in the happiest marriages, you are still going to have some tough days, days when you are hurt, angry or disappointed. To experience the best life has to offer in love and relationships, you don’t give up on your bad days, neither do you allow yourself to continue to spiral down a negative path in your mind.
In order to succeed in marriage, you learn the tools to confront your differences. You discuss things. You work them out. You develop the skill to deal with your anger in healthy ways, instead of allowing it to erupt or fester and grow (and probably show up in mean or passive-aggressive behaviors). Both you and your spouse will make mistakes, so learning how to apologize in a way that is meaningful for your spouse, and learning how to forgive are essential.
Society today feeds us the lie, that we should “do whatever makes you happy.” It seems we as a society have lost the art of practicing delayed gratification. We need to pay a price first, in order to reap a quality result later. In relationships this means doing the right thing, whether you feel like it or not. What makes you happy is when your marriage is happy!
Learn to embrace your differences. It is exactly the polarity between masculine and feminine that creates attraction … and then seemingly the power struggle. Opposites attract and then they attack. It’s learning to understand each other, and our differences, both personality and gender wise that can help you to overcome the barriers and tear down the walls that slowly get built to divide you.
When couples are in the throws of healing their marriage after an affair, it’s amazing how they suddenly make time to engage each other. It becomes a window of opportunity to not only heal, but to strengthen your love.
How easily, they forget and put these things aside when the crisis has been averted. How easily a couple can slide into old bad habits of allowing the responsibilities of children and work to consume all their energy again. Love does not stay strong if it is not nurtured.
Statistically those couples who follow the Healing From Affairs program with the next step, our level II program “Moving Forward,” (that is all about strengthening your love, being intentional, and learning how to build an affair-proof marriage), experience a much higher success rate than those who don’t. Surprisingly, once the main crisis has been averted, few couples invest in experiencing the next level – enriching your marriage and learning how to have fun together.
Affair-proofing your relationship means learning to respect and listen to each other – to have each other’s back so to speak. - To move beyond naivety and build healthy boundaries “hedges of protection” around your relationship. Most importantly this involves developing the skill of being able to talk about difficult issues.
A good marriage is not a destination you achieve, and then can check off your “to-do” list and move on to other projects. Relationships ebb and flow. It’s like an ever-changing organism. It requires regular nurturing to remain strong. Small every day acts of kindness, consideration and thoughtfulness actually have a greater impact on our relationship then big events like weekends away.
Much has been said about the importance of good communication, but good communication takes maturity. Maturity means you take responsibility for your own behavior, instead of blaming your bad choices on your spouse (or deflecting by accusing your spouse of doing the very things you are doing.)
We’ve found that good communication is most likely to take place when we feel connected, and feeling connected takes place when we spend quality time together, and quality time together takes place when we spend quantity time together.
One of the most important things is finding a purpose for your life, learning how to tap into your spirituality. As long as you are living solely for your own personal pleasure, you’ll feel a void in your life. There is no greater joy than to team up with your spouse, supporting each other, in using your talents to make the world a better place for someone else.
This is only the beginning. We sat yesterday and listed the things we’ve learned over the years that have been the most impactful in keeping our love strong, and the list was long. There is so much to learn and understand about building your own enduring love. When it comes to relationships, what you don’t know does hurt you. And probably the biggest mistake any couple can make is to stop being intentional about moving forward, when you are no longer in crisis mode. Don’t fall into the complacency trap!
Don’t wait for another crisis to get your attention. Take your relationship to the next level now – Your happiness is worth it!
Great quotes by affair survivors:
“We were in marriage counseling for years, and in some weird way it became a crutch. The 'knowing' didn't cut it. It's only the application of the knowledge that can result in a loving marriage.” – Hollis, Idaho
PS - Don't hesitate to contact us for help. We've spent the last 12 years doing what others have called "impossible." We can help you achieve "impossible" too!
Our contact information is at the bottom of this page!