In many ways, happiness is an unexpected gift, something to be enjoyed when it comes along. It’s difficult to just decide to be happy, although positive thinking does have proven benefits.
As we have little control over our own emotions during life’s storms and turbulences, so we have even less control over the happiness of our family or marriage, where more than one person is involved.
That said, although none of us can guarantee a happy marriage, we can do a lot to create the environment in which a happy marriage can flourish. Here are some straightforward tips to help your marriage remain positive.
Stay positive yourself. Focus on the glass being “half full” rather than “half empty” in all areas of your relationship. If you have trouble recognizing the many reasons to be positive and grateful, make what’s called a “gratitude list”. Sit down and write a list of all the things you’re thankful for, starting with your health, the roof over your head, your marriage, and anything else you can think of. It shouldn’t be too hard to make a list of all the good things in your life.
Do your chores. This one is so obvious yet quite a few marriages break down because of an unfair division of labor. If it’s your job to take out the trash or empty the dishwasher, make the bed, or walk the dog, then do it! If you share the chores, make sure you’re doing half of the work. If you can’t figure that out, sit down with your spouse and divide the chores up. A good way to split them up is to make lists of the jobs each of you dislike the most. Does your wife hate doing laundry more than any other household chore? Then perhaps you should take that one. Ask her to clean the toilet, if that’s the one you hate the most. Work together to divide your labours.
Pay attention to your body. This may seem a bit confusing at first, but it isn’t. Take care of yourself. Don’t “let yourself go” as the old saying has it. Get some exercise, eat right, go to the doctor and dentist for checkups, take a shower, dress well, get your haircut, and so on. A little self-care goes a long way. If you aren’t willing to make the effort and spend a little time and money on yourself, how can you expect another human being to pick up the slack?
Pay attention to your mind. We’re all interesting people, but many of us forget to use our imagination and exercise our brains once we get into the routine of marriage. Don’t neglect your intellect. Read a book now and then. Go on a date with your spouse to an interesting movie, then have coffee afterwards and talk about it. Take an interesting trip or sign up for a class. Keep your mind active and you will automatically be a more interesting and attractive person to your spouse, not to mention to your other friends and family.
Pay attention to your feelings. Marriage is an intimate relationship, and intimacy means sharing yourself with your partner. Don’t hide your emotions, either from yourself or your spouse. Some people need to learn the basic emotional vocabulary required to even name their various and confusing feelings. If that’s you – if you only know three emotions and they’re happy, sad, and angry – take some time to learn some others. Don’t obsess about your emotions, but be aware of them, and don’t be afraid to voice them. Give your feelings the respect they deserve. If you bury them, hiding them from yourself and others, they will come back to cause problems later.
Pay attention to your spouse. Again, this seems obvious, but many married people overlook it. Remember birthdays and anniversaries, or, if you need assistance, set a warning in the calendar on your phone to let you know when important days are coming. Be interested in your partner – ask them about their day. Don’t call your spouse and ask what was in the mail today – ask about how they’re doing. Tell your spouse that you love them – often. It’s good for them to hear it and it’s good for you to say it, too. Being married is one of the best things in life, and it’s good to remind yourself of that. [RELATED: How to Build a Healthy, Mature Relationship]
Don’t try to control your spouse. You’re married to a completely separate person from yourself. You cannot and should not try to control this person, because it can only end in frustration and heartbreak. Don’t expect your husband or wife to automatically see things the way you do, or to automatically do what you want. Accept that and you yourself will be a lot happier. The more you expect to be able to control your spouse, the more disappointed you are likely to be when you fail, and that will make you an unhappy and unattractive person. Let your spouse be who they are. Even if you think they are making a mistake, give them the respect and dignity to figure that out for themselves. Unless they specifically ask you to solve a problem for them, let them solve it themselves. Treat them like an adult, not a child.
Be honest. Tell the truth. Don’t hide your thoughts, feelings, or dreams from your spouse. Don’t lie about bad news to “spare” their feelings. Remember that intimacy – not to mention “for better or worse” – means sharing your true self with your spouse, not some carefully crafted version of yourself that you might set up on social media to impress strangers.
Learn how to communicate. Communication is tricky. If something bothers you in your marriage, by all means bring it up. But remember this good advice – you can say anything you want to your spouse, once, if you’re then willing to drop the subject. After that it becomes “nagging,” which falls under the category above of trying to control your partner. Share your feelings with your spouse, your triumphs and your tragedies. Tell them how things went at work, but don’t go on and on and on about it. If you want their help solving a problem, be clear and ask for help. If you don’t want their help, but just want them to listen with a sympathetic ear, tell them that, too.
None of these things guarantee a happy, successful marriage. But they are the ingredients you need to create the best chance for a happy relationship that will continue to grow and flourish.