The wedding vow doesn't mention making you happy

I read an article recently about a couple that shared their marriage story. In the story the author (the husband) told the reader how his wife came to him one day and asked to talk with him. She talked about their two lovely girls, their fun social life and then she threw him a "verbal bomb" he didn't expect. She said her life at home was hopelessly unhappy because he wasn't the friend she'd hoped and needed him to be. She went on to say if he didn't get his act together their marriage would be over.

The husband in this story went on to say up until this time he was very happily married, and his two daughters were happy in the marriage as well. It took him several months to get clear about what happened and he radically transformed his marriage. He went to therapy by himself, made personal changes, and together he and his wife went to support meetings and talked with older couples that were supportive and encouraging. They stayed married and improved their marriage, and twenty years later their daughters are at the university, and they had two more children since that time. The author admits it felt like a roller coaster at times and although their marriage is up and down at times, they're glad they worked it out and so are their kids.

Abusive marriages should end, and there is no doubt about that among any one. However, is being unhappy a reason to end your marriage? I don't think so, and here's why.

Kids do better in every area of emotional development when they are raised in healthy marriages. Low conflict arguing is part of real life, and kids don't suffer emotionally from it unless the parents end their marriage in divorce, according to marital research. This is because kids cannot rationalize why the divorce happened.

Divorces affect kids for life no matter how parents try to rationalize and save them from emotional pain.

3. Unhappiness is transient and it isn't a forever situation, so why would anyone consider divorce in a temporary situation? In a large research study in 2002, "Does Divorce make People Happy," several facts were found about using unhappiness as a reason for divorce:

  • Three out of four unhappily married adults were married to someone who was happy with the marriage
  • Three out of four divorces happened to adults who had been happily married five years previously
  • Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married.
  • Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later.

This clearly shows that unhappiness is usually individual and temporary. Divorce is not a solution, because you can clearly see the person who was unhappy continued to be unhappy. There are better ways to fix your marriage than divorce.

Below are suggestions for you and your partner, but before you do anything else, talk with your partner about how you feel. If the unhappiness is only you, then you need to fix you, and very rarely does that mean divorce.

  • Begin dating your spouse again. Try to experience new things with them, and take a break from talking about the things that are upsetting you.
  • Become a team against the issue that is making the marriage fragile. If it's a child or an illness, you can handle it better if the two of you remain a team.
  • Join marriage retreats, support groups, church or supportive friends. Some problems cannot be solved, but supportive friends as well as your faith can help you both accept the situation better.
  • Remind yourself that you took a vow and divorce is not a good option. This has helped more couples than I can count. In the end, it is the commitment that will get you through the long tough days/months/years.
  • Talk more to your partner than you do to a friend when you are going through a bad time within your marriage. When you talk, say one sentence to your partner's three. Usually there is a lot of talking to during a bad period of marriage, but less talking with.

Every marriage has bad times, and that means you may be unhappy. But no one would ever get married if they knew your personal happiness was their responsibility. Marriage is about evolving, growing, changing and caring for another person. Grow up, make changes, and make your marriage about creating a healthy family while nurturing and continuing to invest in the activities that make you personally happy as well. 

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