Marriage Happiness – Not What You Think

Married couple thriving in their relationship

STOP. Before you read another ‘research’, ‘study’ or ‘survey’ on marriage, ask your self these two questions. How do you define happiness? What does it mean to thrive in marriage?

Recently read another “research” on what makes a great marriage. However, it made an important mistake I have see in every other research I have read on this subject. They neglected to define marriage happiness/success!

Or they define it based on popularity of what the surveyed believe is happiness. For example, of a 1000 people surveyed, say that loyalty or humility are what makes a great marriage. But there is a problem with this. The fact someone says loyalty or humility is number one, suggests to me that their has been a significant amount of betrayal in these areas. This isn’t happiness, its avoiding or managing a fear.

Most individuals say they are happy in a marriage or that a marriage is successful when what they really mean is there is an absence of drama or sadness. This is huge!

Often I will ask something like, “in general how often do you feel happy in your marriage?”

The answers are almost always between 70-80%.

Then I ask it differently, “in general how often do you feel like you thrive in marriage?”

There is usually a blank stare and a little confusion.

After seeking clarification on their definition of happiness. Their version of happiness is almost always described as a lack of drama or bad days!

An absence of bad in a marriage is not happiness. Its a break in the storm. This is not a thriving marriage.

Once clarified. The answer to the question about happiness is usually in the 0-10% range (closer to zero).

This is the confusion in marriage research and surveys. If you fail to define happiness you are only developing interventions, tools and suggestions to maintain tolerance to manage the “bad” in a marriage. That is depressing.

Additionally, many Marriage/Couple therapist make the same mistake. These are those who often focus on “compromise”, “better communication” and “tolerance” in their sessions. This is a form of managing the bad. Although they might see temporary success, resentment usually grows and these couples eventually experience more issues and begin to see therapy as unhelpful. Unfortunately, as a result of a therapist failing to properly define happiness.

Many begin to believe or have convinced themselves that thriving in marriage is a fair-tale and that real marriage is just hard. I agree, even great marriages are hard. But even when its hard, you can be happy and thrive. When you give up this hope you then settle for a marriage of tolerance and management, not joy.

There are few things more wonderful to see then an individual/couple put off these diluted versions of happiness and embrace real happiness and thrive in their marriage.