Why is Personal Happiness Important to Marital Happiness?

Many children have an innate ability to embrace joy and happiness in everyday experiences.

This is the first in my new Wednesday series of posts on the topic of “Happy Life, Happy Marriage.” Happiness is an elusive topic, one that has been heavily researched, yet seldom understood with much depth. I’d like to shed some light on what is known about achieving happiness, and share my own insights and findings as well.

I’ve had an interest in “happiness” for years, and wrote a post here explaining the difference between seeking pleasure, happiness or joy. Making the quest for happiness the top priority in your life will not be likely to succeed unless you understand that sometimes a little pain or discomfort is necessary to achieve it.  For example, we can’t lead our children to happiness by shielding them from working hard or failure. What I’m really striving for in my life is true joy, but most people call it happiness.

“The only thing Joy has in common with (Happiness and Pleasure) is that anyone who has experienced it will want it again.” Where Joy differs, he continues, is that anyone who has tasted joy would never exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. “But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”– C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy

Why is happiness important to marriage? Dennis Prager, in his book Happiness is a Serious Problem, asserts that we have a moral obligation to ourselves and our partners, as well as to our children and friends to be has happy as we can be. “This does not mean acting unreal, and it certainly does not mean refraining from honest and intimate expressions of our feelings to those closest to us. But it does mean that we owe it to others to work on our happiness.”

We treat others better when we are happier. We treat ourselves better, too. Will a marriage benefit from two people treating themselves and one another better? Of course.

Some aspects of happiness are within our control, and some are not. I’ll be sharing some of Prager’s suggestions on how to incorporate greater happiness into your life. By focusing on activities that can lead to lasting happiness and joy, you will also benefit your marriage. I encourage you to discuss the ideas with your spouse and share your experiences and feedback with one another and with other readers here.

The first point to understand about happiness is that we take the easy road when we allow ourselves to be unhappy.  It takes no effort to complain and be miserable. It takes great effort to be happy. You’ve been told that the narrow, right path is not the easy way. It’s easy to go with the flow and go the wrong way. It’s more in our nature to be dissatisfied and unhappy than to be happy. “Happiness is a battle to be waged and not a feeling to be awaited,” says Prager.  While not all happiness is within our control, much—even most—of it is, he adds. But it will require hard work and a concerted effort to change our mindset.

I think it’s doable if we take it in small chunks and incorporate pieces into our lives. Each of us has the capacity to improve our happiness, even if we feel today that we may never be happy.

I wish you a truly happy and joyful New Year!

Photo ©Ming Lowe

5 responses to “Why is Personal Happiness Important to Marital Happiness?

  1. I appreciate what you have said on this topic. I used to think I would get married and my husband would give me value and make me happy. What a surprise and relief it has been to learn this is not his responsibility. I have a wonderful and loving husband and yet he does not define me nor is my happiness or joy I’m ln life dependent on him. It is odd because I derive so much pleasure from our relationship and yes I know we have made vows and have a commitment yet I have a responsibility to make choices for my joy and about my value. It have had work hard to change my mindset from blaming my husband or others to taking personal responsibility. It is amazing the positive effect it has on me, my husband and our relationship.

    • You are completely right! I think so many people give up on their marriages because their spouse didn’t “make them happy.” Well, that wasn’t their job. We can only do so much as husbands and wives for one another, even though we should be lifting one another up. We also bear personal responsibility in the matter. I agree it is freeing to the relationship to not have that burden. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Pingback: It takes effort « life(lessons)

  3. I just told my husband the other day. That “I am not happy” and basically said, since we don’t make each other happy, why even continue on this road? I’m stuck.

    • We do not bear the responsibility of “making each other happy.” If we are unhappy, we need to work on improving our own happiness (read the other articles in this series). If we are “unhappy” with the way the marriage is going, we also need to work on that. You can certainly get “unstuck.” Don’t give up. Please see my About Me page for links to some key articles, or visit the resource page for suggestions. Best to you.

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