Ahhhh, marital bliss! Socrates himself apparently once said, “By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”
We joke and we laugh about terrible wives and worse husbands. The truth of the matter is, unless we invest in our marriages, we will never have a deep, intimate, rewarding relationship with our spouse.
So today’s post is nice and simple (even if it gets a little deep at times)! We give you three things you can do to make your marriage happier.
#1 – Be Willing to Change Your Beliefs
I questioned Caleb on this one as I’d always been taught to “buy the truth and sell it not”. How would it make my marriage happier to sell that truth!?! He informed him, however, that it did NOT mean changing my spiritual beliefs but about being willing to change what I think makes the perfect marriage.
We head into marriage making a covenant based on the assumption that nothing is going to change. But we DO change, and we need to roll with that and always be thinking about how we can bring our best to our marriage.
To quote Karney, from a study done in 2003, “Couples who stay happiest overall are the ones who change their beliefs about what is important in their relationships.”
For example, when we first married, I loved Caleb’s spontaneity and adventure. Now that we have kids, however, I appreciate the stability that Caleb gives our family.
The marriages that stay happy by shifting beliefs decide “that whatever aspects of the marriage have declined must not be so important after all”. If I still clung to the fact that spontaneity and adventure were essential for happiness in my marriage, I would look at Caleb’s shortcomings and grow resentful.
So, we need to be willing to change our beliefs about what is important in our marriage.
#2 – Positivity is the Fuel for Happiness
A bunch of researchers published a study in 1998 in the Journal of Family Violence, comparing the perceptions of marital positivity between healthy couples, distressed couples, and distressed and aggressive couples.
They found that happily married spouses engage in more frequent and special types of pleasurable communication. They also found that happily married spouses engage in higher quality spousal-specific caring gestures.
What lessons can we learn from these findings?
Be deliberate about vocalizing positive thoughts towards your spouse – that’s going to increase marital happiness. As it says in Proverbs 17:22, A joyful heart is good medicine! Philippians 4:8 reminds us to think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and worthy of praise.
Also, stop to think about what specific actions, gestures or things you can do that show you care.
Gratitude is so important in marriage. A study from 2011 (Personality and Individual Differences) found that more gratitude equals more marital satisfaction. Not only that but my FELT gratitude is a predictor of YOUR satisfaction, but my EXPRESSED gratitude is not. It’s not good enough just to say something, you have to actually mean it!
#3 – If You’re Going to Fight, Get in the Ring and Do It Properly.
Positive fighting has more to do with engagement. Research, published in 2009, found that if either spouse is disengaged during a conflict, especially in the early years of marriage, the couple ended up experiencing their marriage as less trusting and intimate and were more distressed in their marriage overall.
As humans, we don’t like to fight (at least most of us don’t!). I think we kind of hold back or check out in the moment because we don’t want the fight to get out of control. While we don’t want fights to get out of control, this is NOT the right way to go about that.
The research also found that conflict avoidance predicted greater marital distress. Are we scared of our anger, or our spouse’s anger? Perhaps we have a martyr complex and just tell ourselves to suck it up? Avoiding an issue will only further excavate a growing chasm between you. You may feel safe, but very alone.
If something comes up that upsets us, we can’t just avoid it because we don’t want to fight. Conflict resolution is critical. So much, so that for the next few podcast episodes we are going to be tackling the subject of fighting in marriage and how to do it right. You won’t want to miss those episodes! We will teach you how to have healthy fights with happy outcomes.
So, what can you do TODAY to make your marriage happier?
- Be willing to change your beliefs about the positive aspects of your marriage
- Use positivity and gratitude more often. Both think on it and verbalize it to communicate your pleasure and show that you care
- Make sure you fight properly. Avoiding is never a great strategy. (I’m having a chuckle here as it sounds like I’m telling you to go have a fight so you can be happier. That is not it at all! What I am trying to say is if a conflict does arise, deal with it respectfully rather than try to avoid it. More on that next week!)