Posted on February 6th, 2013
“Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That’s the famous first line of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. But it’s not true—happy families are as unique as fingerprints.
At the center of each happy family is a happy marriage. And each happy marriage actually is happy in its own way. Some couples have close relationships with intimate, ongoing conversations, deep sensual connection, and frequent shared experiences. Others are more distant, formal and contained. Still others are open, free-wheeling adventures with outside players mixed in. These can all be happy marriages.
At the same time, happy marriages do share several characteristics.
The first of these is love. People in happy marriages love each other and are loved by each other, and they know it. The particular way this love is expressed varies widely, whether it’s in talking, with gifts or notes, or by doing things for each other. What happy couples have in common is that these expressions of love happen often.
The second characteristic of happy marriages is that the partners are skilled at accepting and honoring differences. No two people want the same things, nor do they see things the same way. People in happy marriages develop an acceptance of and respect for their differences.
The third important element in living happily as a couple is acknowledging and accepting that no one person can give either of you everything you need. This means being able to leave space for other people to play meaningful roles in your partner’s life, whether as friends, advisors, or just people with whom to do things you don’t enjoy. While this may sometimes lead to tensions between you, in happy marriages these are worked through.
The next three characteristics are commitment, resiliency, and a sense of humor. These are all necessary because every couple will go through difficult periods—it’s inevitable. For this reason, these are all strong ingredients in creating marital happiness: having a strong sense of commitment to hold you together when the going gets rough, the ability to bounce back from these challenges, and being able to laugh rather than spiraling into anger or despondency.
The last requirement for a happy marriage is the willingness to put in the work necessary for keeping marriage alive and growing. Even happy relationships take ongoing work. Love, like bread, has to be fresh every day.
Putting these qualities together creates the basis for happy marriages. The infinite variety of ways these elements can be adapted to fit individual people results in the wonderful uniqueness of each happy marriage.
Posted in Marriage and Couples