Happy Life: Happy Marriage Series
It sounds rather simplistic to “Choose happiness,” or “Take charge of your happiness,” but in his book Secrets of Happily Married Women, Scott Haltzman, M.D., suggests we can choose to be happier in our marriages.
To begin with, this means unearthing five marriage myths and explaining why they make it impossible to feel happy in our marriages. These are the five most destructive myths he came across in his practice as a psychologist and marriage therapist. These are particularly true for wives, who initiate two-thirds of U.S. divorces. However, I think husbands may also fall prey to these myths.
Myth 1: Marriage automatically makes you happy. While it’s true more married people (43 percent) report being happy than unmarried people (24 percent) despite age or gender, marital happiness and personal happiness are separate issues. Dr. Haltzman says married people must put marital happiness first, considering how their actions and desires affect their partner rather than pursing personal happiness as their priority.
“It is an essential truth that sacrificing one’s own needs for someone else’s is a necessary and worthwhile part of human relationships. When that truth is denied in a marriage, the results can be especially destructive; abandoned spouses and children get left behind in the dust of misguided soul-searching for personal fulfillment focused on ego-driven needs,” he says.
Myth 2: Good marriages are always passionate and heart-throbbing. The number of women who report, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him,” of their husbands is astounding, says Dr. Haltzman. What it means is they have lost their connection or that their love is going through a temporary down phase, not that it is doomed. Falling out of infatuation may also be misconstrued as falling out of love, when the initial passionate loving feelings and heightened hormones dissipate. (Unfortunately, some people never understand this and move from relationship to relationship thinking they have the wrong person.)
Myth 3: In happy marriages, child care and housework are evenly distrusted. If this is a major divisive issue for you, I’d suggest you read the book, particularly chapter 6. There’s not a quick two-sentence explanation, but rather plenty of data and a need to understand the issues women grapple with regarding work and home responsibilities. The fact is that most wives do more household work than their husbands, but many of them have still found a way to be happy.
Myth 4: Both partners are responsible for the level of marital happiness. By taking charge of our own mood and actions, one partner can certainly improve personal happiness and affect his or her spouse, improving happiness within the marriage.
Myth 5: If your marriage makes you unhappy, the best solution is to get out. This very widely held myth is rich enough to write an entire post about, so stay tuned next week, and I’ll do just that. I’ll share Dr. Haltzman’s assessment of the most common causes of divorce that seem hopeless but are indeed solvable, and discuss why this myth may be the greatest cause of unhappiness in marriages.
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