“I don’t know one happy marriage.“
“Men aren’t like your husband. You better hold onto him tight or you might lose him.“
“Marriages are hard work.“
“It’s not worth all the trouble.“
Joe and I hear these messages and many more that are so derogatory toward marriage or partnerships in general. They discount our happiness because they can’t imagine the joy we have in their world. Therefore, it can’t be true.
The truth is there are more happy marriages than you think.
When someone told me they didn’t know one happy marriage, I was shocked. Inside I was screaming, “I AM TRULY HAPPY!” And not only am I happy, but I can name at least 40 couples off the top of my head, and more if you gave me time. And this wasn’t the only time I have been told that.
On another occasion, I was at a wedding and we were all awaiting the ceremony in the home of the bride. One of the moms asked me how long Joe and I had been married because she said we were “so cute together,” thinking we were newlyweds. At the time it was 21 years we were happily married. She stopped, squeezed her face in a ball and said, “And you still like him?”
With all this negativity, I was beginning to wonder if I was the one living in a fantasy world. Even in the news, the focus is on the divorce rate. So, I went on a quest to find “proof” of other happy long term relationships like mine, and ask their secrets to seek common denominators. My emphasis in the investigation was toward people together 15 years or more, preferably 20 years or more to really seal the deal.
Here are some common denominators I found in these rock solid relationships:
The number one thing for every partnership was, no matter how busy they were with jobs, kids, and everyday struggles, they intentionally put time and energy into their relationship EVERY day! They find ways to connect and to think positively about their spouse. Some say a prayer or think good thoughts as soon as their feet touch the floor. Some have little rituals of having coffee together, meals together, having a conversation, or playing together. It wasn’t a long time, it was an intentional time. It can be as simple as blessing them on their way to work!
Unconditional Positive Regard
They unconditionally accept and support a person no matter what they do. In other words, separating who the person actually is from their behaviors. Accepting them as who they are doesn’t mean they have a free pass to treat you poorly. That is a boundaries issue we will go into more deeply another day. Unconditional Positive Regard is just a way of saying people are not how they act, giving you the opportunity to examine more of the “whys” people do what they do and makes it easier to address than labeling someone as good or bad people.
Both people were on the same team. They weren’t keeping score in the marriage as to who did what when. There was no I did this, so you owe me. When a problem comes across, they work on it “together.” They pool their resources together and support each other in their goals and dreams. It’s US against the problem.
Flexibility & Possibility
When problems arrive, they are flexible in how they approach it. If something doesn’t work, they seek more possibilities or seek outside help, whether it be clergy, a counselor, or family support. They all sought an outside perspective.
Sometimes when nothing is working and it seems we are at an impasse for solutions, we start making up jokes and laughing about it. Actually, I found in every one of these successful marriages, laughter is a key component. Life is too precious and wonderful to be so serious.
In my quest for finding proof, I recently had an interview with a long-time friend of mine, Stacey Lytle, who I know even after 26 years of marriage is still madly in love with her husband. When I asked her what advice she would give for a happy marriage? She said, “ladies, love your man with everything you have. Give him your all, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you.” She also said she cherishes him and always seeks the good in him. And when she comes across something that doesn’t feel good, she forgives it and gives it grace.
Stacey’s words are lovely words aren’t they? And aren’t they great for ALL RELATIONSHIPS? Love a person with all your might and when they behave poorly, forgive it and give it grace.
Oh my friends, there are so many more really great things I have found in these loving relationships we will cover. I just wanted to show you what my personal research has found.
Now, let’s challenge you. Happy hunting!
FOCUS QUESTION: What if you set your focus meter on actually finding proof happy relationships exist? Would your results be way different?