What is the secret to a happy marriage? I think every couple starting out asks themselves this question. It’s one that’s been on my mind a lot lately because right now I don’t think I know what the secret is. Recently I was knocked for six with the discovery that my husband has been lying to me about a friendship with one of his exes. I’d known for quite a while they were talking, and whenever I found out and questioned it they changed their method of communicating. The dishonesty and lengths that both of them went to when hiding it from me have almost destroyed our marriage, shattered any self confidence I had and made me question everything. My mental health has gone from being pretty good to me feeling like a total basket case. I had thought we were happy but then this happened. I’m certain that there was nothing physical between them but that has not stopped the hurt from this betrayal. In fact an emotional connection is harder in some ways because it runs so deep.
It’s taken a lot of work and effort but I think we are through the worst now. I know they definitely aren’t speaking anymore, and I don’t think they will again. I wouldn’t say we’re totally there but for the first time in weeks I don’t feel like I need to start preparing myself for life as a single mum, or panic every time I see him touch his phone. It has taken him blocking her on every social media platform there is, and on his phone. I don’t think he can do much more to prove he isn’t talking to her so I have to trust this. That is the hard part but I’m getting there. I don’t really have much choice if I want us to work, last and thrive as a couple. I have to trust him and in return he has to never acknowledge her existence again.
What makes a happy marriage?
Obviously, this will be different for everyone as what works for one couple doesn’t necessarily work for another. I think that overall a relationship based on trust and honesty is most likely to succeed and be a happy one. As a teenager I was told by somebody who had been married for over 50 years to make sure I married my best friend when I did. I have never forgotten this advice and I think that I can say this is what I have done. You need to be able to laugh and cry with whoever you’ve married. Life hands some pretty rubbish blows at times and without that support framework it can be hard. We’ve had some hideous times since we got married. The loss of a parent and a child, financial issues, depression and that friendship have all taken their toll.
We’ve talked a lot about what it was that made us happiest when we were at our strongest and both of us felt the same thing. It was spending quality time together, not taking each other for granted and investing time and effort into each other.
We’ve learnt that to be truly happy together we have to accept each other as we are. Neither of us are perfect, neither of us will go the rest of our lives not doing something to hurt the other in some way but we have to deal with it, forgive and move on. We’re at this stage now. We’ve spent a lot of time together and talked more than we have in years. In some ways it feels like we’re just starting out again and it’s really nice. We’re showing each other every day that we love each other and want to be together.
How can you build a strong and happy marriage?
Again, I don’t think there is any right and wrong answer here. I can only really share what works for us. I think to start with it’s probably important to acknowledge that love isn’t a feeling, if it was no relationship would last as feelings change so rapidly. It’s so much more than that. You need to make a choice to love somebody. Sometimes yo need to make that choice almost every minute of the day. At times loving somebody isn’t easy but if you want to last then you need to choose them. Making this choice means thinking about their needs, reflecting on how your actions will impact on them, forgiving them when they hurt you, not losing your temper when they don’t do their share of the housework, and ignoring their sulk over the football results.
We try make sure we spend time together as a couple. We have regular date nights, usually at home so we don’t need a babysitter. We know that this time together as a couple is important. They aren’t anything amazing but they’re good for us as a couple. We put our phones on a shelf, sit and eat a meal together at the table whilst we listen to some music, and then afterwards usually sit and watch a film. We try to do it once a week.
Another thing we’ve started doing to rebuild strong foundations for our marriage is to make sure we go to bed at the same time at least four evenings a week. This is partly as this was when he used to talk to her but also because we both feel that there is something quite intimate about falling asleep at the same time. There doesn’t need to be anything sexual, I just like feeling safe falling asleep with him next to me. Plus it means he isn’t stopping up late so he’s less tired which makes him less grouchy to be around and therefore happier.
We have also made an effort to talk more. We chat regularly throughout the day. Obviously this is dependent on how busy we are with work but we try to message each other when we can, and meaningful things, not just asking to put the washing on or pick something up from the shop. These conversations help rebuild a friendship and a proper connection.
Another thing we have always done in our marriage is to never go to bed on an argument. We’ve never done it. Even if we’ve stayed up until 3 am in the morning, and had hardly any sleep we’ve always made sure we sort the argument out before bed. It’s been good for us because it means we don’t let resentment grow.
I think overall there probably isn’t a secret for a happy marriage. Trust and honesty are probably integral but no two relationships are the same, and no two people are. We also change as people over time. I think the key is making sure we adapt our marriage as we change and evolve to make sure it continues to work.