The statistics on happy relationships are depressing: in California
alone, the average marriage lasts just 5 years. Nationwide,
43% of marriages end within 15 years. Second and third
marriages end in divorce 60-70% of the time. Clearly, how we
handle our relationships is not working. And yet, 94% of young
adults in one study said that having a good marriage is
extremely important to them. So, what can you do?
We researched much of current the literature on happy relationships
and have condensed the results into just a few key concepts.
These principles seem to be the common denominators in
happy, successful marriages. See how many you can identify
in your happy relationship.
1. It starts with you
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you are as happy as
you make up your mind to be. Research has shown that
happiness is a state of being, not of having or doing or
achieving. Nor is happiness a destination. People often
say, “I just want to be happy” or “I just want to have a
happy marriage” as if that is a future goal or place in
time. The problem is, they never get there. That’s
because the future is… in the future. And the only true
destination is your final day on earth. And then it’s too
late. So make the decision to be happier starting today.
There’s a happy relationship benefit as well. The happier you
are with yourself and your life, the more attractive you
are to your partner. Another way to look at this is: if you
were someone else, would you marry you? Start today to
work on being the kind of person you would want to
know, to date, and to marry. If you’re not that kind of
person now, how can you expect your spouse to stay
attracted or stay passionate?
2. There’s you, there’s him/her, and then there’s “we”.
You don’t have to give up your identity or be known
solely as your spouse’s partner.
It also doesn’t work when two people each do their own
thing without regard to their partner’s wishes and
feelings. Marriage is, and should be, more than
cohabitation. As the marriage vows state, “two shall be
as one”. That “one” is neither you nor him. The “one” is
a third entity: the happy relationship, the marriage, the “we”.
The “we” is what you share, what you have in common,
the support and nurturing that you cannot give yourself.
Think companionship, intimacy, and sharing.
3. You leave behind your emotional baggage
Are you really over your previous relationship? If not, you
can’t fully commit to your spouse. Likewise, if you are
still Daddy’s little girl or Mommy’s boy, you are not in
control of your own life. Therefore, you cannot fully enter
into an adult relationship of mutual sharing and support.
You can’t be accountable to your spouse if you still have
to please Mommy or Daddy.
You can’t reach new heights as a person as long as
you’re dragging around your emotional suitcases. And,
it’s not fair to your partner. If you’re dating but not in a
committed relationship right now, consider a time out
while you unpack those bags and resolve those issues
that keep you from being your own man or woman. If
you are committed, a relationship coach can help you
stow your baggage so you can be there completely for
4. The marriage comes first
Marriage is supposed to be the strongest bond between
two people. Parents come and go; children grow and
leave. Your spouse is only person to stay with you the
rest of your time on this planet.
Women who say their children come first, usually can
never let the children grow up and become independent
adults because then the primary relationship in these
women’s lives would end. So the children never
emotionally leave home and are forever dependent on
the parent. This delights the women because they are
not willing to have their children grow up emotionally and
become independent adults.
Women who say their children come first also seem so
surprised when their mates eventually decide to leave for
someone else who WILL put them first. And finally, when
children are the center of a women’s life, and the
children eventually leave, the woman typically feels lost.
Her reason for existing the last 18-22 years has just
moved out. And if she should turn to her partner after a
20 year emotional abscense, it’s like going to your high
school reunion. You used to know them but its not the
same now because they’ve changed.
When partners put the marriage first, friends, relatives,
and acquaintances are still important but they’re not
primary. The man and woman, as the principals in the
happy relationship, are the combined heads of their household.
As such they look to eath other-and no one else-for their
primary comfort and support.
5. Your marriage is your top priority.
You didn’t get married to commute two hours a day,
work at the office 60 hours a week, and pay on a
mortgage for 30 years, did you? You probably got
married to share your life-not your bills-with that special
someone. During life’s ups and especially during life’s
downs, keep in mind why you married in the first place.
It wasn’t so you could get a better job, buy a better car,
or obsess over your favorite sports team. Once upon a
time, your partner was the most important thing in this
world to you. If you value your happy relationship, he or she
still is. Start acting like it again today and every day.
6. Don’t compare
This holds true in your life as well as in your marriage.
There will always be a couple that seems happier,
wealthier, sexier, and more perfect than you two are. So
what? Their happiness doesn’t increase or diminish your
happiness. Neither does their money, their jobs, their
house, or their prettiness. All that matters is whether you
7. Don’t wonder “what if?”
Wondering what it would be like to be with another
person-for a night or for a lifetime-is self-delusion and is
really unfair to your spouse. You see other people
socially when they are at their best. You see your spouse
when he/she is at his best, her average, and sometimes
at her worst. If you could swap mates, guess what?
You’d see that person at his/her worst, and you probably
wouldn’t like what you see. You already have a lot
invested in your partner. Take care of that investment.
The payoff is usually greater than starting all over again.
8. Realize that love can grow.
As much as you were in love when you got married, your
love and commitment to each other can grow over the
years. Despite all the old married jokes and cliches,
marriage can get better, not worse, with time. The
longer you’ve been married, the more history you have
together.The triumphs and disappointments, the
successes and the failures, all are part of sharing a life
together. And that history is unique to you. No one else
has that or can duplicate it. This is why a man who
leaves his middle aged wife for a younger woman
eventually wants to come back. With his wife he has a
history-a shared past. With the new woman there is only
the present. Leaving his wife permanently is like leaving
himself behind as well. Since she is a part of his past,
she is the best person to be a part of his future.
9. Commitment means “no matter what”.
It’s as simple as making the decision to be totally
committed to your spouse and to the relationship. No
matter what happens: financially, health wise, or
otherwise. No matter what. Once the two of you have
decided to stay “no matter what”, there is no question of
stay or go, yes or no.
Write this down: “ALL RELATIONSHIPS HAVE ISSUES”.
Happy relationships always have issues. Unhappy
relationships certainly have issues. It’s just that in happy
relationships, the couples identify the issues, negotiate
the issues, and come to terms with the issues. Couples
in unhappy relationships deny, ignore, put up, or run
Once the two of you have made the decision “no matter
what” the emphasis is on the we. And, since we is not
you and not him, the only positions “we” have are the
ones you’ve decided together. In short, all problems are
negotiable because there are no his problems or her
problems. When one partner has a problem, just having
the problem should be a problem for the other partner.
Therefore, all problems are shared problems. Their
problems require their solutions.
10. Believe that a happy marriage is not only possible, it’s
yours for the making.
It won’t happen by itself. It takes intention, commitment,
and practice. But the many couples who have happy,
blissful, and satisfying marriages are proof that it is
possible. Just choose to be happy, and choose to be
Yes, you’ll still have to work at it. But the rewards are so
much greater than the effort. Besdies, being single and
looking takes effort; being divorced and looking again
takes effort. Spend the effort inside your marriage and
stay married. Happily married.