what makes a happy marriage?

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Helpful marriage advice on how to keep the romance and spice in your relationship, even if you have children.

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The problem with most fairy tales I know is that they never tell you what living happily ever afterconsisted of.  Worse, I have yet to find a book entitled, Happily Ever After for Dummies. Some days we could all use a good guide book like that, but since no one as yet to write such a gem, I will take the initial stab at it.

How does a married couple keep romance as part of their relationship? Well, like with any true fairy tale, its best to begin at the beginning.  Some where shortly after do, and before you realize that your better half has the annoying habit of leaving the cap of the tube of tooth paste.  What was special about that span of time? In a nut shell, everything was new to both of you.  It was a voyage of discovery and expectations were high. So let's start there.

Keep it Fresh and New:

Okay, I know what you're thinking, how much is this going to cost me?  Cost you?  Nothing! All you really need is a dash of imagination and a pinch of creativity.  Let me give you an example.  Once, after countless Friday night movie dates with my darling wife, I had a new but somewhat silly idea.   I told her to be ready for our date and then I added, When I come pick you up, I am going to act totally opposite how normally am.  Sure she questioned my sanity at first, especially when I told her that I was the kind of guy who was a neat freak and always picked up after myself fine catch for a girl like her.

Now this is a lady who has seen me at my absolute worse, and who knows that the words neat freak and I have little in common.  A short while after the laughter died down and she saw I could say such things and yet manage to keep a straight face, she decided to play along.  We had a blast.  I can't recall what movie we saw, but I do remember we had fun.  We had fun because we tried something spontaneous, silly, playful, and new.

Make it a Top Priority:

I think one of the worse things a couple can do is to buy into the notion that they can have it all.”  There is not enough time in a day to have it all.  Choices have to be made.  Priorities have to be set.  Unfortunately, when the relationship is not seen as one of the highest priorities in a marriage, the romantic aspect of the relationship can suffer. 

Recently, with the addition of a third child into our family, my wife and I realized that it is starting to take more effort and planning on our part to keep an air of romance within our relationship. As we re-evaluated our priorities, I made the decision to postpone work on my Master's degree for the time being.  The decision was an easy one to make, since my priorities were clear to me. 

I didn't wish to be away from my family at a time when the amount of stress and workload on us was about to increase.  On the other hand, I was not willing to sacrifice the weekly date I have with my wife.  I reasoned that the degree could wait, but work on our relationship could not.  

Personalize it:

Have you ever been a last minute shopper on the eve of an anniversary?  Have you ever rushed out and grabbed the first greeting card you stumbled across, and then proceeded to scribble a few words in it before for the unavoidable deadline?  How has your effort been received?  Well, it's the thought that counts right?  Wrong!  This is romance we are talking about.  How can the generic words on a card do your relationship justice?  Try making your own card. 

It's actually not as difficult as it sounds, nor does it take as much time as you think.  The key is to personalize the effort you are making.  Think about it.  What would we wish to get in return?  Who would rather have a form letter, than a personalized letter sent to the? I do not know of such a person.  Does your relationship deserve any less?  The truly daring can take it a step further and take a stab at poetry, or paint a water color picture on your homemade card.  

Valentine's Day Again:

Why does Valentines Day come once a year?  Because the card companies and candy makers say so?  Early in our marriage I had another crazy idea, we could do Valentine's Day all over again a month from that date.  We took advantage of the after Valentine's Day sale on candy, and did the whole holiday again in March.  Now, I am not telling you to go out and have a second Valentine's Day each year. 

What I am saying is, why let the card companies and candy maker decide what the schedule for a romantic holiday should be?  Think a bit outside the box, and make your own romantic holiday.  Pick a month.  Set a date.  Have the time of your life when no one else is having fun.  I am sure that the ability to listen to the suggestions of your partner will go a long way towards having more romance in a marriage.

Listen to your Significant Other:

Relationships are a we thing, not an thing, so it would be wise to solicit the input from your spouse.  In the mist of writing this article, the thought hit me, What would my wife have to say on the matter?  Surely I have not cornered the market on the dos and don't  of romance.  I mean, I'd like to take credit for all the great romantic ideas in our marriage, but it just isn't so.  My wife is probably the true expert on the subject when it comes to our marriage, and if truth be told, I have not always been the best listener. 

But when it comes to deciding what to get her for a present on an anniversary, holiday or other special occasion, I pay close attention to what she has been saying.  This has greatly increased my chances of picking out the right present over the years.  

Find Common Ground:

Even the hottest of romances can cool off if a couple can't find things to share within their relationship.  While some couples share a mutual enjoyment of different aspects of their lives, finding common ground most often requires a few compromises along the way.  For example, I love to go jogging.  It's a hobby I use to enjoy with a childhood friend before my marriage.  Early on in our marriage, my wife decided she wanted to give this hobby of mine a try. 

We started to jog together and eventually entered a few 5 KM road races for fun.   I soon discovered that I could share this hobby with the person I love.  Had I stubbornly refused to alter my training regime, we would not have come across something that we mutually enjoy.  Without a continual striving to find common ground in a relationship, you will be far less likely to find romance within it.

Romance and Kids:    

The idea that being romantic and having kids is mutually exclusive is false.  You do not have to choose.  You do not stop working on the romantic aspects of your relationship once kids come along.  Sure the little darlings might play havoc with your schedule.  Baby sitters have to be found, alone time must be guarded more closely, but in the end, you do not give up one for the other.

The day comes when your kids grow up and move out.  If you wait until that day to begin working on the romantic aspect of a relationship, you might not have a relationship to work on.  Regardless of the kids, time must be made weekly if possible to work on the romantic aspects of a relationship.  I have found that the weeks my wife and I get to go out on a date, that we much nicer to each other in the days that follow.  

While there are many chapters on romance left to write in my life, I have managed to learn along the way why fairy tales do not tell us what happily ever after consists of.  It is because happily ever after is whatever each of us makes it to. With that in mind, I also know that we do not get to live that romantic fairy tale ending without putting a measure of work into our relationships.



 

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There are many factors that contribute to a happy marriage, but some key ones include: strong communication, mutual respect and trust, shared values and goals, ability to compromise and problem-solve, and a sense of intimacy and connection. It's also important for both partners to make an effort to maintain their own personal interests and friendships outside of the marriage, and to support each other in their individual pursuits. Additionally, maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and managing stress and mental health can also play a role in a happy marriage.

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