Marriage That Lasts: The Happy Factor

There have been a couple of blogs recently floating around about marriage. In reading them, I noticed the word “happy” is getting a lot of use.

One blog submits, in part, that marriage it not for you, it is for the other person (which I don’t entirely disagree with)—to make the other person happy. The other post asserts that you should marry a person who makes you happy.

This word “happy” is what gets me.

Personally, I believe the word “happy” is why so many people split up. Some people believe they are entitled to a life filled with happiness. Unicorns and rainbows. And that they should never, ever be unhappy.

I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 24 years. Have we had moments of happy? Yes, we have. Lots of happy. Do I feel like it is my job to make my husband happy? No, I most certainly do not. Do I feel like it is his job to make me happy? Absolutely not.

Happiness is an emotion and you cannot base a relationship solely on emotion. Maybe emotions brought you together initially, but emotions wax and wane. Happy is not 24/7. Happy is temporary. And Happy should not be a pre-requisite to love.

Love is something different.

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People do feel love, but to me, love is not an emotion. Love is a choice. It is a verb, requiring action by both people in the marriage. It is a thing you DO and I am not just talking about what you DO in the bedroom.

If you spend your married life demonstrating love to your spouse, I believe you will find yourself in a long lasting marriage. If you spend your time worrying about your happiness, or the happiness of your spouse, you will be sorely disappointed. I promise you.

What does this mean? This means that you have to ignore toothpaste splatters, toilet seats left in the upright position, how he loads the dishwasher or diapers the kid. It means you will have hardships. It means that sometimes you will feel like you are giving more to the relationship. Other times, you will be the needy one. It means sometimes he will really get on your nerves and hurt your feelings and you will not be happy at all. You will have to do things you do not want to do. So will your spouse. That is just how it is. That is called relationship. You will be happy and you will be unhappy. That is the reality of marriage.

Marriage that lasts is about love, but it is also about forgiveness, which, like love, is not an emotion, but a verb. Oh, and there are those other verbs: commitment and work.

I have heard people say, “I love him/her, but I’m not IN love with him/her anymore”, which is basically code for “he/she doesn’t make me happy anymore.” If I had based my marriage satisfaction only on whether or not I was happy, honey, I’d have been out of here long ago!

Marriage isn’t about the Happy Factor, people!

Marriage is about love, forgiveness, commitment and the work it takes to make a life together and honor each other. It is about wanting the best for your spouse and being the best you can be for your spouse. Marriage isn’t just about you and it isn’t only about him. There will be times of happy and there will be hard times, but you can’t just bail because the thrill is gone.

So, maybe you want to ask me, “Joell, are you happy in your marriage?” My answer would probably depend on the day, because my Happy Factor varies. But if you ask me if I love my husband, my answer is this:

Unequivocally, yes. I love him differently today than I did when I met him 30 years ago. I love him more deeply and more completely than I did on the day we married. I am wholly committed to him—on the days that he annoys me and on the days he seems too needy and on the days he gives me a can-opener for Christmas (yes, that happened). I love him on the days he rubs my feet, just because. And on the days he works extra hard to do a good job at work, because he loves his family and wants to provide for us. And on the days he puts a blanket on me when I fall asleep in the recliner. I choose to love him every day, regardless of how I am feeling at the time. I love him because he loves me, even on the days I am a moody, hormonal, straight up pain in the butt. I will never regret my decision to love and marry such a good man.

I believe we need to take our example from Christ and how He loves us—freely and without condition. Then, work each day to demonstrate that same kind of love to our spouses, which is no easy task. And which is why people get tired and unhappy about having to do that day in and day out. I get it. It is hard work. Guess what? Sometimes you just have to dig down deep and love anyway. Even when you aren’t feeling happy. I am pretty sure there is nowhere in the scriptures that says, “Thou shalt always feel happy.”

So, I encourage you to press on, my married friends. Enjoy those happy moments, and embrace the not-so-happy ones too, for they are what enduring marriages are made of.

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NOTE: Please don’t take this the wrong way, y’all. It is great to be happy, to feel happy, but don’t base everything on that. Also, I am not saying you should stay with your abusive spouse—if you find yourself in that situation, please get help and get to where you are safe, for yourself and for your children. And I am not saying you should tolerate unfaithfulness either. Just want to clear those things up!

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8 Comments

Filed under Family, Marriage

8 responses to “Marriage That Lasts: The Happy Factor

  1. What a wonderful way to express the way your marriage works 🙂

    As a 30-years-married couple, we’ve done exactly as you’ve said – marriage has to be worked at if you want it to last!

    Yes, it’s nice to be ‘happy’, but I’d much rather want to scream at my hubby for doing something that irritates the life out of me – but still love him for it at the same time – than bemoan the fact that I’m not being made as ‘happy’ as all the romantic films and books tell us we should be.

    My parents will be married for 58 years soon, and their life was never a bed of roses – but their example of working hard at their relationship is the example I’ve always preferred to use – and it’s worked for us 🙂

  2. Wonderful thoughts happiness and marriage, Joell! I agree that we tend to define happy as giddy, smiley-faced pleasure – and for sure love, life, and marriage are not all that! There are a lot of days I may not feel happy in that sense, life is challenging, and I can be a real grump about it! What I do feel is deep down contentment with my life now and particularly in my marriage to John. I’ve been in the really bad ones… no joy, no love, no respect, no trust, lots of pain. Just as you note, marriage is a work in progress, it’s a verb as is love. Real love gets stronger as you weather good times and bad times together. If you asked me if I am happy, I would say “definitely yes”, which might make some scratch their heads, but I know what a wonderful life I have, how far I’ve come to be able to enjoy and appreciate it, and that it takes two people wanting the best for each other to make it work! Happiness is an attitude about life, we can pretty much choose to be positive and happy or negative and unhappy, the circumstances don’t have a whole lot to do with it. No relationship is perfect but if there is no where else you’d rather be, even by yourself, than with the person you are married to, I’d say you’ve got something worthy of joy… and some occasional silly smiles too! 🙂

  3. Skyla

    I agree with you! It is a big problem facing the fast food, instant gratification generation! “If I’m not happy RIGHT NOW, there is something wrong with our relationship.” Also, putting the pressure on yourself to keep your spouse happy and for them to keep you happy can do no good!
    For me though, and this may just seem like semantics but it is the only way I can convey it. Marriage does bring me lots of happiness, but it is fleeting and based on lots of different factors. The one thing that my marriage constantly brings me is joy. That deeper, God given feeling. That feeling that, at least in this one way, I am being Christ-like. I am choosing to try and love the way He loves me. Joy is not fleeting, not dependent on my mood or other peoples’ actions. The joy of my marriage is there as long as I am trying to treat it (and my husband) with the respect, love, honor, and duty such a sacred covenant deserves. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone else, but when I think about how I feel about my marriage, I feel joy.

    • You make perfect sense, Skyla! I agree with you about the distinct difference between happiness and joy…they are separate things. Joy is deeper and, unlike happiness, is mentioned OFTEN in the scriptures. And it is given to us from the Lord. Great point! 🙂

  4. I read that same post, and it bothered me, too. I couldn’t put my finger on why, though. You did! This is what marriage is. You spelled it out perfectly.

  5. I totally got you – through this excellent post. I can remember calling my mom from Japan crying. It was in our first year of marriage. I asked what was the reward for being married. I can’t remember what she said but she understood and related and that’s all I needed really. Just from watching them in my youth sometimes I wondered why they didn’t get a divorce. But they stuck through and they are the most beautiful couple now (married 43 years). I’ve been married for 16 and I know that part of having a successful marriage is putting the work in.

    • This “I’m not happy” business has bugged me for a long time and these recent posts by other bloggers just really got me going today! Ha.

      Anyway, glad you could relate. And glad you are putting in that work! And glad your parents have too! My folks will celebrate 50 years next August and my husband’s parents were married more than 50 when his father passed away almost 4 years ago. We are blessed with legacies of parents who put in the work and commitment and that really does make a difference in how we approach our marriage–with all its imperfections! 😉

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