How to be Happily Married in a World of Naysayers

imageWe’ve all heard the jokes: The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.

I married Ms. Right. I just didn’t know that her first name was Always.

Marriage is talked about as if it’s a jail sentence, a ball and chain, the mistake of a lifetime.

Some have said that marriage is irrelevant and outdated. Others have called it a failed experiment.

Failed? Really?

I’ll be the first to admit that marriage can be difficult. Marriage asks us to grow and to stretch; it calls for flexibility and fortitude and a capacity to love — even (and especially) during really hard times. And anyone who’s been married for more than a month knows that hard times do come.

But there are also sweet times and easy times, times of deep love and affection, times when we’re glad that we’re married to the wonderful, annoying person we picked.

The “marriage is broken” folks seem to be saying that because some marriages are truly miserable, and because, even under the best of circumstances, marriage can be hard, we need to change the rules.

They say we need to stop expecting marriage to last a lifetime, to meet our needs for intimacy, to bring satisfaction and joy.

The trouble with the naysayers is that they talk about marriage as if it’s an entity — as if marriage is some sort of troublemaker; as if there’s something inherent in marriage that sets us up to fail.

To further bolster their argument, they trot out the inaccurate, “bad news” statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce.

Here’s the good news: when it comes to first marriages, 60-70% of them will be marriages that last. And yes, a lasting marriage isn’t necessarily a happy one, but the happiness part — that’s in our hands.

Senior couple kiss situation in white isolated background

If you’re looking to prove the naysayers wrong:

1. Accept that marriage takes effort if we want to do it well. Many things in life are difficult, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing. Why should marriage be any different?

2.  Relationships don’t just happen. They don’t succeed by magic and they don’t fail on their own. Marriage is something we build from the ground up. It requires care and attention. The more creative and committed we are, the better our marriage will be.

3. The best marriages are based on generosity. No, I’m not talking about over-giving and sacrifice. True generosity is a wholehearted desire to offer the best of what we have. Love, affection, not believing we need to have everything our way in order to be happy.

4. Some of the worst marriages I’ve seen have gotten as bad as they are because neither partner is willing to risk: to apologize, to reach out, to be vulnerable, to name what needs to be addressed. Remember, you have to step out of your comfort zone if you want your marriage to grow.

5. Pay less attention to what your partner is doing that gets in the way of having a satisfying relationship, and pay more attention to what you’re doing, which is the only thing you can control anyway.

6. Accept that sometimes you’re going to be disappointed by your partner, just as your partner will, at times, be disappointed by you. Disappointment is not a sign that something’s gone wrong. It’s simply a challenging fact of life that we, as partners, must learn to handle as gracefully as possible. Freaking out about your inevitable disappointments will make you unnecessarily unhappy, or discouraged, or both.

image7. Don’t expect  your spouse to be a mindreader. If something is important to you, it’s your job to speak up.

8. Accept that your partner won’t be thrilled about everything you do. Relationships are about being a twosome and about being two separate people who want different things. I don’t advocate behaving in ways that are harmful or inconsiderate, but there are times when we have to act alone — to confront something difficult, to make a bold move, to challenge the rules.

9. Don’t underestimate the importance of quality time. Show up. Make eye contact. Open your heart. And, for goodness sake, turn off your phone.

10. Never believe you’ve tried everything. Most of us do the same ineffective things over and over, and think we’ve given it our all. Yes, some relationship problems are complex and overwhelming, and we have no idea what to do to solve them. But before you think you’re out of options, ask yourself this: What one thing can I do that would make a significant, positive difference in my relationship? Before you give up, go ahead. Go all out.

________________________________________

Have a friend who might like this post? Please share!

Looking to have a more satisfying marriage? Get my free bonus article:
75 Ways To Improve Your Relationship Starting Today — plus new blog posts delivered straight to your inbox!
(Use the Sign-up button on the right or below.)

For news and inspiring cool stuff about relationships, follow me on twitter: @winifredmreilly.

10 Everyday Relationship Issues That Aren’t Worth Freaking Out About

One of the best parts of my job as a couples therapist is that I get to deliver good news.

Woman Biting On Her LipCouples come in fearing that their marriage is too far gone to fix, and I get to tell them it’s not.

Yes, some people are in serious trouble and if they keep going in the direction they’re headed, their worst fears will come true.

Still, most couples are simply facing normal and ordinary relationship challenges that they lack the tools to address. Continue reading

5 Myths About Marriage That I’m Glad Aren’t True

Couple-Sleeping-in-Bed

Ask ten happily married people, “What’s your key to success?” and you’ll get fifteen answers — many of which contradict each other.

Some will say couples should never to go to bed angry. Others will say it’s fine to sleep on your arguments. For them, World War III or not, it’s lights out at 11.

Many will say, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” while an equal number will tout the virtues of talking things out.

Do opposites attract or should we be birds of a feather?

Are we better off lowering our expectations, or setting a high bar?

And do couples really need to be each other’s best friend?

The truth is, many of the widely-dispensed bits of marriage advice are more fiction than fact. Continue reading

9 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Calling the Divorce Attorney

contemplating-divorce-300x199

None of us gets married thinking that five, ten, even twenty years down the line we’d be so frustrated or miserable that we’d be considering divorce. Most of us step into marriage with hope and enthusiasm, determined to have ours be a marriage that lasts.

But marriage is difficult in ways few of us are prepared for. And rarely do we have all the tools we need for success. Nor do we have a guidebook or a road map to make the journey easier. Continue reading

Why “Good Enough” Marriages Are Actually Great!

Cute couple in love with smiley, red heart and hugging.February is the month that relationship books hit the bookshelves, and every day brings a new research study or feature article asking the question, “How can a couple best keep love alive?” Continue reading

What Valentine’s Day Can Teach Us About The True Meaning of Love

Valentine’s Day. The day that happy couples exchange kisses and chocolate and go out for a candle-lit dinner. And unhappy couples feel worse about their marriage than on any other day of the year.CC_valentines_chocolate

With all the pressure to be romantic and passionate, to feel like starry-eyed lovers, to somehow resurrect the mystery and allure you felt in the early days of courtship — after a long day of work and a race home to pick up the kids, after picking up their pizza and your dry cleaning and double-checking with the babysitter — even reasonably happy couples may wonder are we happy enough?

And struggling couples? All the hype and heart-studded hoopla can push them over the edge.

Valentine’s Day generates record-breaking flower sales and the exchange of over a billion boxes of chocolate. It also triggers a dramatic increase in the number of calls made to divorce attorneys. Continue reading

“If You Really Loved Me…” and Other Desperate Measures For Getting Our Way

Marriage is an alliance entered into by a man who
can’t sleep with the window shut, and a woman
who can’t sleep with the window open.
— George Bernard Shaw

iStock_000015015850XSmall

Frustrating, isn’t it?

You ask your partner for something and the answer is no.

Yet, you still want it. It’s important. So you ask again, this time hoping the answer will be yes.

But what if it’s not? What’s your plan B? Continue reading