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