It’s Okay to Have a Happy Marriage
Something has bugged me for a while about the way we talk about marriage. I don’t know when, where, or why it started, but it’s everywhere, and I want to pull my hair out when I see it.
I’m talking about the word “HAPPINESS.”
In a lot of religious circles, you hear phrases like, “Your spouse cannot make you happy. Only Jesus can.”
Then how do you explain happy marriages between non-Christian people?
Also, Christina and I - and lots of other couples we know - are living proof that this is total BS. We make each other incredibly happy, and not by accident. We are quite intentional about it.
Here’s a list of sure-fire ways I can make Christina happy this second, in no particular order:
Buy her a box of chocolate truffles from Whole Foods
Give her some alone time in our bedroom to do absolutely nothing but watch crap television like The Bachelor and not feel guilty about the million other things that need to be done because I’m out there doing it.
Have her scrubs washed and ready to wear the night before she needs them.
Ask if she wants to drive our new SUV to work instead of our boring old giant white van
Take her on a driving date and go park beside the river and talk for an hour or so
Happily say yes and take care of everything so she can spend a weekend away with friends
This is just the no-brainer stuff, the stuff that applies no matter what. Sometimes specific situations call for specific requests, and when she tells me a specific thing I can do to make her happy, do you know what I tell her?
“Sorry, you should probably ask Jesus.”
No! I say, “Absolutely! Tell me what you want and I’ll make it happen.” Because I want to make my wife happy!
I believe marriage is at its best when both people are actively working to make the other person happy. Both people get everything they want in the marriage, but not by demanding or manipulating. They receive what they want from the person they love most. Few things are as beautiful as that.
Doing this requires a couple of things.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
First, you have to know what you want.
This can be tricky because we’ve been so brainwashed to believe that it’s wrong to want anything out of your marriage. But people who don’t get what they want in their marriage grow resentful, and resentment is death in any relationship, but especially in marriage.
Our wants range from emotional to physical to relational to experiential and more. Nobody wants just one thing.
For example, among other things, I want to feel safe sharing my thoughts, I want a lot of physical touch (I always tell Christina that I love when her hand is on me), and I want to travel to cool places from time to time.
Once you know what you want, you need to communicate it in a way that your spouse will hear and understand. This is the part that takes some practice because sometimes we overwhelm the other person with a comprehensive list of what makes us happy; or we unintentionally come across as demanding, ungrateful, or selfish; or we don’t communicate well and they do the wrong thing. Then we’re driven right back into resentment.
If you sincerely want to communicate what makes you happy, then you have to be willing to work at it. Over time, you’ll develop a rhythm, a timing when you know that it’s the right moment to say, “Here’s how you can make me happy right now.”
So, what do you want in your marriage?
WHAT DO THEY WANT?
Communication, as you know, is a two-way street. Not only should you figure out and communicate what you want, but you also have to listen for what your spouse wants and then do it in a way that makes them happy.
Listening happens in lots of ways. You don’t always have to wait for them to tell you. If you want to be a really good listener, you have to be a student of your spouse. Watch how they respond to people, places, and things. Make a mental note when they say things like, “I really love the way you...” Notice what they naturally gravitate toward when they’re tired, stressed, happy, sad, hungry, angry, or peaceful and learn to anticipate what they’ll need or want.
CAN YOU TRUST HAPPINESS?
But Cory,” you’re probably saying, “happiness cannot be trusted because happiness is fleeting. What makes me happy today might not make me happy tomorrow.“
I agree that happiness is fleeting. When I was seven, He-Man action figures made me happier than just about anything in the world. While I would still thoroughly enjoy playing with them, I can honestly say they don’t make me as happy as they once did. So yes, the source and degree of our happiness changes.
But when the source of happiness changes for your husband or wife, you’re allowed to adapt to them. That’s what communication is for. Communicate what you want, and listen for what they want. Listening is not a one-time event; it’s a daily practice. And it’s one you’re perfectly capable of doing!
DON’T STOP THERE; TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL
You can communicate what you want and listen for what your spouse wants and you can do the things that make them happy simply because they asked you to.
Or, you can take it to the next level.
What if making your spouse happy is the thing that makes you happy? What if that is the thing you live for? And what if both spouses felt this way? Can you imagine how incredible that marriage would be if two people made it their entire mission in life to make their spouse happy?
You might think this would simply be two people sitting in a room asking each other, “how can I make you happy?“ with neither one giving an actual answer.
But that’s not the way real life works. Our needs and moods and situations vary by the day. I don’t need Christina to have her hand on me at all times. But when I do, she’s ready because she likes to make me happy.
Some days you might be the one who needs to be taken care of, and other days it might be the opposite. But when you are both dedicated to the other person’s happiness, then you are ready to provide what they need when they need it.
IT’S OKAY TO BE HAPPY
Would it make you happy if right now your spouse walked into the room and gave you exactly what you want?
And that’s a good thing. You should try to make your spouse happy. You should be a student of your spouse. You should want your spouse to make you happy as well.
And if you make your spouse happy and your spouse makes you happy, something tells me that it makes Jesus pretty happy too. Because if Jesus is the only one who can make your spouse happy, maybe it’s because you’re a sucky spouse and you need to up your game.
So go ahead friends, love your husbands, love your wives, and be happy in your marriage!