According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2002), approximately 75% of American women are married by age 30. However, probability of a first marriage ending within 10 years is approximately 33% (CDC, 2002). Most people have specific ideas of what it means to be “married,” however those notions are not always accurate. In fact, in some situations, love and “wanting to be married” is simply not enough. Truth-be-told, marriage is not easy, and marital happiness doesn’t just “happen.” It takes hard work to develop and maintain a happy marriage. Is your marriage struggling? Or, are you simply trying to find new ways to escape the deadly “marital routine?” Regardless of the reason, this article will teach you the eight keys to a happy marriage. These keys will not only guide you towards marital happiness, they will also unlock your creativity, and re-spark the love you felt for your spouse the first time you said, “I love you” to him or her.
Listed below are the eight keys to a happy marriage:
Yes, you must have unconditional love for your spouse, if you want a happy marriage. Most wedding vows include the following sentences: “I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part” (Callaway, 2014). In other words, regardless of whatever hardships (i.e. illnesses, debt, infidelity, etc.) are thrown your way, the unconditional love you have for one another must be strong enough to try to understand and be supportive of each other. When you get married you are in it for the long haul – through thick and thin.
Another major key to a happy marriage is commitment. A common mistake that couples make is to shout “divorce” every time there is a disagreement or difference of opinion. You cannot have a happy, successful marriage if your first thought is to “get a divorce” because your marriage is not the fairytale that you imagined. As mentioned previously – marriage takes work. It is hard, complex, frustrating, enlightening, confusing, maddening, joyful, worthwhile, exciting, and amazing – all rolled up into one.
There is no “magic potion” that will make your marriage work. You and your spouse have to make it work, and that means putting in work. So, make a commitment to one another to keep the term “divorce” out of your marriage. In many cases, it may not be the “best” option. In fact, with a lot of work, an open-mind, support, devotion, patience, and unconditional love, you may be able to repair your marriage, before it breaks up your family.
In order to have a happy marriage, you must be faithful to one another. In fact, fidelity is an important factor in any marriage. Without fidelity, there can be no trust in the marriage, and without trust the marriage will fail. Once you decide to join with your partner legally, and/or spiritually, you must honor that commitment. And, while some marriages do survive infidelity (affairs), the majority do not. If you want to have a happy marriage – keep your word, no matter how hard it is.
One of the most important keys to a happy marriage is effective communication. If you are unable to effectively communicate with your spouse, your marriage will not succeed. The hallmark for a successful, happy marriage is good communication. It is important to avoid confusing negative communication with effective communication. Effective communication is listening to your spouse, and discussing the issue calmly and rationally. It also means keeping an open-mind, and working together to come up with solutions.
It does not include screaming at or demeaning one another in the midst of a disagreement. Many couples get these two types of communication confused, which often leads to a serious disconnect within the marriage. If you or your spouse feels as if you are not communicating in a positive and healthy way, it is probably time to seek counseling. A counselor will teach you more effective ways to communicate, so that you can get your marriage back on track.
With all of the romanticized and idealized portrayals of marriage on television shows, and in movies and books, it is normal to have unrealistic marital expectations. But, in order to have a happy marriage, you must understand that your spouse and your marriage will not be “perfect.” No marriage is “perfect.” Although all married couples would love to adhere to the idea that once you find your “life-long partner,” and get married, life will be “perfect” for then on.
Unfortunately, that is neither marriage or life. You will have disagreements, and you will get frustrated with one another from time to time. This is normal. The key is to re-adjust your expectations. Do not try to change your spouse or encourage him or her to be something he or she is not, in an effort to satisfy your unrealistic expectations. Love your spouse for the person he or she is, not what you want him or her to be.
Yes, laughter is one of the keys to a happy marriage. In other words, do not get so wrapped up in the seriousness of married life that you forget to laugh. Humor can go a long way in both good and bad times. It can actually bring you closer together. Moreover, you are more likely to laugh when you are happy, and vice versa. When you feel overwhelmed with marital, work, and/or life responsibilities – stop and laugh with your spouse. Tell a joke, do a silly impersonation of someone, and/or bring up a funny memory. Laughing will not only help you reconnect, it will also remind you why you fell in love in the first place.
In order to have a happy marriage, you will need to learn how to sacrifice. Sacrificing for someone else is one of the most difficult things that you can do, but it is necessary, if you want a happy marriage. These sacrifices can include: time, affection, money, attention, responsibilities, job opportunities, dreams, etc. Although sacrificing for your marriage may seem like a daunting task, the rewards are invaluable.
Lastly, an often overlooked, but very important key to a happy marriage is romance. Couples that have been married a long time sometimes allow the “romance” in their relationship to take second place to work and/or parenting responsibilities. This is a mistake. Regardless of how long you have been married or how many responsibilities you have, it is imperative that you make time for one another. It does not have to be every night, but it should be at least once or twice a week. You need that time to reconnect with one another.
You don’t want to lose the connection that you have, therefore schedule one or two date nights a week. Hire a babysitter or ask a friend or relative to watch your children, clear your schedule, and go out to dinner and a movie. If you prefer something more low-key, go out for ice cream or coffee, and/or walk around your local park. Don’t forget how to be romantic with one another. Moreover, surprise your spouse with something that he or she loves. Introducing romance back in your relationship will help you fall in love with one another all over again.
Dr. R. Y. Langham
Callaway, N. (2014). Traditional wedding vows. About: Style. Retrieved from http://weddings.about.com/od/weddingvows/a/traditionalvows.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2002). New report sheds light on trends and patterns in marriage, divorce, and cohabitation. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/02news/div_mar_cohab.htm