Marriage is not about happiness. This might be a bold statement, but when did we all become so obsessed with being happy? After the age of 11, it is no longer relationally responsible to hold tight to the myth of “happily ever after.” It is simply not a realistic picture of married life. The key to a successful marriage involves humility, self-sacrifice, and acknowledgement of our own shortcomings. Marriage is less about finding personal happiness and more about becoming a better version of our previous self.
About ten years ago was the time in my own life when a slew of friends, family members and acquaintances around my age made the ultimate commitment and said their vows in front of their loved ones. About three years ago was when those same marriages began to crumble. There is no doubt that marriage is hard. No one is disputing the fact that vowing to commit to one person for the rest of your earthly existence is no easy task. Yet, in the age of encouragement to “do what makes you happy,” are we throwing in the towel too quickly by putting our own happiness on a pedestal? A few things to consider….
8 Reasons Why Marriage Is Not About Happiness
It’s Not All About You
I read somewhere that each spouse in a marriage assumes that they would play the role of the protagonist in a tv rom-com in which the audience would most certainly sympathize with their point of view. The sad truth is that when you get married, it’s suddenly (and shockingly) not all about you. When you make a lifelong commitment to another person your lives are forever intertwined. Depending how long you have been single, this can be especially difficult. Instead of doing what you want, when you want, you suddenly have another person whose life is affected by the decisions you make. As a spouse, each other’s spending habits, time management abilities, organizational strategies, and personal cleanliness all affect the other person. Marriage is about finding a compromise that works best for both of you. It’s not about having my way or your way, it’s about finding a workable solution where each of your needs are being met.
No One is 100% Happy 100% of the Time
I cringe inwardly every time I hear someone say that they are considering leaving their spouse because they just aren’t “happy” anymore. What does that even mean? Are you happy 75% of the time but dissatisfied 25%? What can you do to improve your happiness ratio? Perhaps it’s worth considering that your spouse is not the only one responsible for your personal happiness, and perhaps there are alternative ways to view your own situation that would increase your overall satisfaction.
Is Your Spouse the True Source of Your Unhappiness?
Aside from obvious violations of personal rights such as violence and other forms of abuse, leaving a marriage simply because your spouse doesn’t make you happy might require a little more soul-searching on your part. Are you comparing your own marriage to the marriage of your friends? Are you unhappy with other relationships in your life that are carrying over to your marriage? Are you completely overwhelming by work, household duties, and parenthood? Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. Take a big step back (perhaps with the help of a professional counselor) and evaluate your situation from a calm, and clear vantage point before making any rash decisions.
Novelty Always Wears Thin Eventually
It’s easy to daydream about what it would be like to start over again, feel those butterflies, and choose someone…different. Is the grass really greener on the other side though? The research says no. Thinking that you are missing out on is likely the result of unrealistic expectations. Watching some of my newly single friends navigate the rocky waters of online dating and a swipe-right/left culture are enough to convince me that I am very blessed to be in a committed relationship. While a new beau tickle your fantasy, chances are that if you haven’t confronted your own issues with being unhappy, any new partner is likely to be a disappointment as well.
Comparison Is a Silent Killer
You might look at your friend’s relationship with their spouse and feel a twinge of jealousy of their picture perfect marriage. There is an old saying that you never know what is going on in someone else’s marriage, including your own. Often we tend to focus on the best in other people’s relationships and the worst in our own. Practice focusing on the positive attributes of your partner. When he or she does something that bothers you are you are tempted to label them as “lazy,” “ungrateful,” or “mean,” try to think of counterexamples of their past behavior where they have proven that those labels are not true. It can go a long way to changing your own mindset.
[clickToTweet tweet=”In marriage we tend to focus on the best in other’s relationships and the worst in our own. ” quote=”In marriage we tend to focus on the best in other’s relationships and the worst in our own. Practice focusing on the positive. “]
The Disillusionment Stage is a Real Thing
There is a well-known school of thought regarding the 4 stages of Marriage: Romance, Disillusionment, Misery, and Awakening. If you had to take a guess…at what stage would you peg your own relationship? Many couples divorce in either the Disillusionment or Misery stages, which feel all-consuming to the people involved, however are actually very normal stages of every relationship. It’s important to remember that each stage will not last forever. Debunking the myth that these bad times will continue on indefinitely will be the key to moving past them in a healthy and more successful way.
Finding Peace in the Boring
I often hear couples describing their marriage as boring. They’ve lost the passion and the “umpph” that originally brought them together. Maybe the romance has fizzled a little and perhaps you’ve both let yourselves go a little. But if you stop to think about what really matters in a marriage, is boring really all that bad? Boring is knowing that you have someone to come home to every night and wake up to each morning. Boring is a stable relationship without the unpredictable emotional rollercoaster. Boring is a good thing. Embrace it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Boring is a stable relationship without the unpredictable emotional rollercoaster. Embrace it.” quote=”Boring is a stable relationship without the unpredictable emotional rollercoaster. Embrace it.”]
Leave No Stone Unturned
Perhaps you have read all of the above and are still thinking, “yeah but….you don’t know my situation…my spouse…my current level of unhappiness…” That is true. I do not know you or your personal circumstance. Only you know whether you have truly left no stone unturned in trying to save your relationship. There is no magic formula for what this means for each individual. What matters is that you can look yourself in the mirror and know that you have done everything within your power to give your relationship a fair shot. Whether it’s counseling, a few books on creating a healthy marriage, the ear of a close friend, do what you need to do so that if you do decide to close the door on your marriage you don’t later regret your decision and possibly even continue to repeat the same mistakes.
XO The Good Enuf Mommy