How to Build a Happier Marriage

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A happy marriage is not an accident. It is something built and designed — day by day, week by week, year by year. It is both a science and an art. Marriage is supposed to be a “happily ever after” dream in life. But the sad reality is that divorces are going up even as marriages are going down. About half of marriages in the US end in divorce. The divorce rate of second and third marriages go even higher at 60% to 70%.

People say that they marry because they loved their boy or girl friends (except for matched or arranged marriages in many Asian countries). What happened to their vows that they would love each other forever? Some couples even file for divorce immediately after honeymoon.

How do we increase the chances of a happier marriage life?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Do not be in a hurry to get married. Get to know each other better first, particularly the character of the other. When the couple faces conflicts and difficulties (being late in a date, losing money, jealousy, etc.), that’s the best time to observe how each one reacts to difficult situations. One of the most important qualities to observe is the moral character of your potential life-partner. When his or her moral fiber is weak, then there is bound to be deep root problems that would be hard to solve.

2. True love is a genuine concern for the welfare of the other. Love is not about sexual attraction or admiration or dependency. It is a genuine concern for the welfare of the other. There is a natural and spontaneous interest in making the other person happier. On the other hand, when a partner is very self-centered, always thinking about his or her own needs, desires or demands, then that is a major factor that will make the marriage an unhappy one. Try to diminish negative reaction habits, such as irritability, anger, sulking, blaming, and impatience. These are the daily poisons that will undermine the relationship.

Geoffrey Hodson, an author and international lecturer, once said, “There is a key to marital happiness. If a couple practices this key, then marital happiness is guaranteed: Let each partner always think of the welfare of the other, and never of oneself.” I have observed and counseled many marriages and found that the major factor in marriage break-up is the loss of this genuine concern for the other. Selfishness is the number one enemy of a happy marriage. When we get into marriage, we are committing to a joint life, not a solitary life.

What is entailed here is that each partner must have attained a certain level of maturity, a wholesome balance between one’s own legitimate needs and a predisposition to be interested in the welfare of other people.

3. Do not marry because of physical attractiveness, wealth or social position. These are external things that easily lose their charm. How many love affairs and marriages of movie stars break up very quickly? Beauty and physical attraction fade off eventually. The glamor of wealth and social positions wears off very soon, and those are not reasons for continuing to love each other. Look at the relationship of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

4. Marriage is a lifelong friendship, a genuine interest in the other person. It’s simply fun to be with each other, with or without agenda. It is based on a certain chemistry of personality, a certain degree of compatibility of interests, and a respect towards each other’s character and values. Endeavor to build and nurture these, for when they are lost, there may be a tendency to try to look for a more meaningful relationship outside of marriage, which can be a danger flag for persons with a weak moral resolve.

5. Marriage involves a commitment, a willingness to hurdle misunderstandings, disappointments, misexpectations, irritation or hurts.

6. Realize that men and women are constituted differently and couples need to learn to adjust to each other. Males are in a hurry with sex, while females need to build up a mood. Women feel happier with simple heart-to-heart conversation, while men tend to be business-like in verbal interactions.

Marriage is like a plant that needs daily sunshine and watering for it to grow. Build the warm relationship intentionally. Give time to it. Learn how to be less selfish. Be a person fun to be with.

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