While happiness in marriage doesn’t mean a state of absolutely no challenges, it does mean being content and at peace in your union in spite of whatever challenges you may face together.
In this social media age, happiness in marriage has carried on several appearances called #couple goals.
This typically connotes some level of fame or popularity, approval of others outside the marriage, a decent or lavish lifestyle depending on the individuals, great physical attributes of at least one spouse, lol etc.
Having a model to look up to in marriage isn’t in itself a bad thing. God Himself gave us the ultimate model of marriage through the symbol of Christ and the church and that should be the main goal of every marriage, to daily live out the relationship between Christ and the church.
However, these real life models also give us hope by showing us that our desires are achievable.
The only issue with these models or #couplegoals is that unless you live with the couple in question, it is hard to tell if “their happy marriage” is what you desire.
Hence, I believe when it comes to a happy marriage, the best place to look for you and your spouse is inwards, to answer the simple question, “What does a happy marriage look like to me?”
If you are married(and probably with a kid or two):
This series(hopefully short, lol) is especially for you. I know how demanding life as a parent can be. It can not be described, only experienced. When the kids are young, we just hope to get through our “to do’s” each day and are typically in survival mode. We have very little time, if any, to invest in our marriages and yet that is what we must do if we hope to remain happy with our life as a couple.
Let this be a wake up call to remember what you envisioned for your marriage before the duties and responsibilities came.
My husband and I recently started having a weekly couple devotion (see devotional below). It simply meant canceling movie together one night in the week. But boy, it’s been so enriching. Sharing together helps us see each other in a new way and share our perspectives on those issues that are unique to us as a couple, not just a family. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. If you only have deep conversations when issues arise, your marriage is on damage control mode.
Of course, a great topic to discuss occasionally is what a happy marriage looks like to both of you. You are in it, you can see it clearly for what it is, so you can revise your goals and be realistic in your expectations.
While this conversation with your spouse is best had sitting down together when the kids are asleep, if you already know you will collapse in bed as soon as your kids go to sleep, you can also discuss it while they are watching cartoon, while cooking, on the drive to church or to the store etc. Just do your best to really listen.
Here are some questions you can ask your spouse to get the conversation started:
- What would greater happiness in our marriage look like to you?
- What one thing can I do everyday or every week that will put a smile on your face?
- What do you think we can begin to do or stop doing to help us spend more meaningful time together? (For us, we began to strictly adhere to bedtime and we stopped watching so much TV in the little time we had together).
- What activities do you really enjoy doing with me?
- What one thing do I do that puts you off and you would want me to work on?
- What aspect of our marriage do you think needs more work? Could be communication, finances, sex, dealing with friends/ in laws etc. (When the answer to this is clear, get a book on the topic and begin to read together).
The answers to these questions should be shared both ways, i.e, even though you’re the one asking them, you should also answer them. Take your spouse’s response seriously (write them down so you don’t forget) and be sincere in your response. Also decide on how to implement your answers.
If you are in a relationship
There is no better time than now to discuss with your intended, what a happy marriage looks like to each of you. Maybe for him, it is home cooked meals. Maybe for her, it is surprise gifts. Maybe for the pair, it is weekly date nights. This is the time to set your ideals together. Yes, you will find that some goals may become too high to achieve when you and your spouse have greater responsibilities, but you have the rest of your lives to keep revising those ideals, plus you know the saying that goes something like “if you shoot for the sun, even if you miss it, you will still find yourself among the stars”.
The more details you give to each other, the better your chances of striving to meet each other’s needs. Courtship is essentially to develop healthy communication skills by engaging in conversations. So get on with it. Don’t forget to write down your partners’ responses. It’d come in handy when life gets busy and you want to ensure you keep making each other happy.
Go deeper and begin to seek more knowledge together on the leading causes of unhappiness in most marriages – finances and in law relationships. Begin to read books together on such topics and discuss what you are learning and how you will implement it in your home. Doing this also boosts your problem solving skills as a couple because you are proactively learning how to deal with issues way before they arise.
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If you are single
This is an exercise you can still do on your own, to clearly define the kind of marriage you hope to have. If you aim at nothing, you will catch nothing. But when your desire for your marriage is clearly defined, it’d guide a lot of your choices.
Yes, right now, all you can do towards your marriage is investing in yourself by acquiring the skills and knowledge that a happy marriage requires, but guess what, that is still the same thing even those of us that are married can do to make our marriages stronger.
The advantage you have is that, the more skillful and knowledgeable you are about marriage, the better your chances of recognizing and avoiding the wrong partners. The married already chose their partners and now have to make it work. So never bow your head in depression, just keep preparing.
I have been fortunate to have grown up in a home of peace and happiness. I have seen my mom and dad dance, laugh, share jokes and teases etc. This of course set a template for my idea of what a happy marriage looks like. And while you may not have been that fortunate, what you do now, regardless of the phase you are in will determine whether your children will be able to say “I have seen what a happy marriage looks like”.
Your happy marriage depends on you!