What Is a Happy Marriage? by @AlisaBowman

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When I was a teenager, I had a specific idea of what my marriage would look like. My husband would put on a suit and tie each morning and go off to work. He would earn a lot of money. We’d have two kids. Everyday I would look forward to my suit-wearing husband’s arrival. I would greet him at the door with a great big smile.

Let’s contrast that image with my real life marriage. My husband and I are both self employed. He doesn’t make much money. I make a lot more. He never wears a suit. I almost never greet him at the door because I’m either on my computer, in the kitchen or taking a nap when he comes home. We have one child.

We’re happy. We weren’t always happy. Years ago, our marriage looked pretty much the same. We worked the same jobs and had similar routines. Yet I was so unhappy that I was planning his funeral on the off chance he might conveniently drop dead. I was able to work on my marriage, improve it, and get to a happy place. Now I blog about the art of getting and staying happily married.

As a result, thousands of people – in real life and online—have told me about their marital problems, and this has taught me a lot. One of the things it taught me is this: you can’t tell if a marriage is happy by how it looks to the outside world.

You might think a couple is happy because they live in a big house, drive two luxury cars and have kids who are on the honor roll. You might think a couple is happy because they decided not to have kids and, therefore, have plenty of time for each other. You might think that a couple is happy for some other reason.

Chances are, you are wrong. Chances are, if you take the time to dig beneath the surface, you will find that many of the couples you think of as being in an “ideal” marriage really aren’t in an ideal marriage at all. They are struggling. One or both of them is unhappy.

I’ve learned that the following things don’t necessarily lead to a happy marriage:
• Traditional sex roles
• Untraditional sex roles
• Wealth
• Lack of wealth
• Lots of kids
• One or two kids
• No kids
• Meeting each other late in life
• Meeting each other early in life
• Still being on the first marriage
• Getting together after the end of a marriage
• Sharing the same values, hobbies and beliefs
• Not sharing the same values, hobbies and beliefs

I could go on and on. The point is this: outside forces do not make a marriage happy. And while certain things can stress a marriage, outside forces don’t necessarily make a marriage unhappy, either. Happy marriages might be born on a wedding day when two people say “I do,” but they are also grown and cultivated over time.

All marriages face change, hardship, and stress. What makes the difference between whether a marriage is happy or unhappy is this: whether a couple embraces those challenges, learns from them, and emerges stronger on the other side.

A happy marriage isn’t so much about marrying the right person. It’s about doing the right things with the person you married. It’s about listening. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about assertiveness. It’s about humility. It’s about affection.

Being happily married isn’t a feeling. It’s not a mystical quality. It’s a decision. Every day you wake up and you decide whether or not you want to stay happily married. If the answer is yes, you do what it takes to make that happen.

Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, which tells the story of how she went from wishing her husband dead to falling back in love. She is also the creator of ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com. To find out how to enter to win a Kindle, a romantic getaway, and more, check out The Fabulous PHEA Giveaway.

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