Ep. 15: The Secret to a Happy Marriage
Sex, Lust & Love...What Matters?
It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “When marrying, ask yourself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this person into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory.”
The Daily Mail.com.uk ran a study by Katy Winter in their October 20th, 2014 edition about the secrets to a happy marriage. They looked at over 2,000 couples married for at least 10 years and asked them to rank, in order of importance, their best advice for newlyweds.
The number one piece of advice was to learn how to talk to each other. Having good honest communication was the most important thing in a healthy marriage. The second runner up wascompromise. Couples need to learn how to compromise and work together. Interestingly enough, a good sex life ranked number 18 on this list.
One can have a happy marriage for a few months or maybe even a few years, but what does it take to stay happily married for 10, 15 or 25 years and beyond?
And, what exactly is HIS secret to a happy marriage?
This week we focused on men who have been married for at least 10 years and who describe their marriage as “happy.” We wanted to discover what men think is the secret to a lasting and enjoyable marriage.
So we asked the question:
“What Do You Think is the Secret to a Happy Marriage?”
“How soon you jump into bed with the women has a lot to do with it. When I look back over my two marriages, I can see why the first one didn’t last more than 5 years. We never took the time to get to know each other. When two people meet and start playing the ‘dating game’ too soon, they end up trying to become who they think the other person wants them to be and never get a chance to discover who the person really is. I believe this happens unconsciously and it usually takes people 3-5 years to figure out that they’ve been trying to be someone they’re not and that’s typically when things start to fall apart. My second wife and I were friends for almost a year before we started playing any dating games so I had a much better idea of who she was before we went down that road and I believe that has made all the difference.”- A 79 year-old retired physician from Pennsylvania married for 52 years.
A 48 year-old Procurement manager from Upstate NY married for 22 years shared: “Two people should enter into a marriage with the knowing that they will never be able to fulfill every single need for their spouse. You can’t expect one person to fulfill all of your emotional and intellectual needs; it’s not fair to the other person. Guys need their guy friends and girls need time with their girl friends. Each person has to have their own interests and you also need to have shared interests as well. I might not like everything my wife wants to do but I’m going to support her regardless. It’s all about having realistic expectations when you enter into the marriage.”
It appears to take a little bit more than compromise and communication to sustain a healthy marriage.
“For us, it’s been an unspoken agreement that we’ve had since we got married, that we’re trying to accomplish something and we’re trying to prepare our kids to be good people. We both have the same goals and neither one of us is trying to buy a second house on the beach or garner more ‘things’, we’re trying to create experiences for ourselves and for our children. We’ve had this amazing way of relying on each other and supporting each other at various times throughout our marriage. Now we’re learning to create space for each other to do the things that are important for us as individuals. One other thing to remember is that you have the ability-and you should have the willingness- to say you’re sorry.”- A 41-year-old college administrator from Colorado married for 16 years.
Since my parents have been happily married for 50 years, I decided to ask my Dad what he felt was the secret to a healthy marriage. Here’s what he had to say:
My 74-year-old retired Dad from Pennsylvania married for 50 years shared: “First of all you have to find someone who likes you for who you are and you should like them for who they are, period. I was lucky because I always knew that your mom was there for me from the beginning and she felt like I was always there for her. We were in tune with each other so that any outside influences or problems didn’t come between us and destroy our relationship. We always knew we’d never let anything come between us, and we knew this from the beginning. You really have to talk to each other; you can’t figure it out for yourself or do it all on your own. It has to be a team effort on all fronts so that you’re always going in the same direction together; it’s simple but it’s not easy.”
Another gentleman in his mid 40’s from Pennsylvania married for 10 years shared: “When you get married you learn things about yourself that you can only learn by being married; sometimes they’re good, sometimes bad. You have to be willing to look at yourself and accept things about yourself that you may not like. But, when you respect the opinion of your partner and you trust them and are willing to listen, then you have the opportunity to improve upon yourself, thereby improving your relationship. When this goes both ways, it’s great- but both people have to be willing to take a hard look at themselves, and sometimes that’s not easy.”
A 67-year-old building consultant from Pennsylvania married for 45 years said: “Never lose the ability to be silly with your spouse, laughter is the lubricant of life. While fighting, never be mean or vindictive, stay with the issue you are fighting about and don’t turn it into something personal. Whatever you do, don’t keep score when fighting and don’t bring up the last fight. And finally, be willing to let things go. Other than that, just have fun with your spouse.”
I was lucky enough to grow up in a house with two parents who clearly loved each other and even I couldn’t figure it out (having only lasted 3 or so years in my own marriage).
My parents had a very deliberate system in place that allowed for their marriage to remain a priority. Among many things, once a week they would have “date night” and my brother and sister and I knew not to bother them; this was their special time alone just for them.
We grew up watching them consistently tend to their marriage. They nurtured and watered it like a garden and never let the weeds in no matter how tired they were.
The above interviews suggest that it’s more complicated than simply communicating and compromising. It also takes support, a team effort, trusting your partner and truly knowing yourself in addition to many other things.
The men I interviewed seem to have figured out what works best for them, but more importantly, they understand a key lesson in gardening; the grass is always greenest where you water it.