A long-time friend recently told me “you’re the only person I know that’s happily married.” While I took the compliment, I thought it awfully sad for her friends. I asked “what about other relationships?” She said it was the same all over, married, living together, seriously dating, everyone she knew, including herself, was unhappy in their relationship.
It got me to thinking: What makes my relationship a happy one? Is it simply a matter of perception, that she assumes I’m happy and assumes others are not? She’s not delusional and seems to have a pretty good handle on how others truly are, so that seemed unlikely. I don’t present a false front to her, so that seemed an unlikely reason. Is my relationship happy? Yes, I feel happy in it. Her statements must be true, to the best of her opinion. So why am I happy and so many people, at least by this sample, seem to be less so?
I do the following things, that may be a benefit to you in your relationship:
- Say thank you. The little things add up. If you spouse did something around the house, notice and say thank you for having done that thing, even if it’s so mundane as preparing a meal or bringing in the trash cans. After all, without them doing it, it’s all on you. Once in awhile, say thank you for the bigger things “thank you for going to work every day and making sure we have enough money to pay our bills,” or “thank you for always being available to listen when I need to vent about the kids.”
- Let it go. We have a rule that may or may not work for you: whatever is bothering you, you have to say it right away. This involves no stewing, no ruminating, no grudges. We never have an argument (we rarely argue anyhow) that involves “and remember last month when…” because we dealt with that thing last month. Sometimes these things are stupid, like “you said you’d move my laundry to the dryer and it’s still in the washer.” Stupid, right? I know. But isn’t that the kind of thing that, if you ruminate on it, will lead you to say things about a person’s character like “he never follows through.” Is that true? No, but there seemed to be a lack of follow through in that instance. So deal with the issue, not the characteristic. You are with someone because you believe their traits are good, overall.
- Keep it to yourself. Don’t talk smack to your friends or family or coworkers. They will hear you in a bad mood and make generalizations, especially if mostly what they hear is your bad-mood stuff. They’ll then give you advice like “you don’t need someone like that,” which may be far from true, but when several people say the same things, you may doubt yourself. Be slow to talk negatively about others (your spouse, your kids, your friends, your family) to anyone. Be quick to talk positively, though. This is not akin to wearing blinders and pretending things are as they aren’t, but evaluating on your own scale, not an outsider’s. Journaling is a better outlet.
- Compromise. You shouldn’t get your way all the time. Weigh the importance of the issue with the importance of your continued relationship. The old saying is “You can either be right or happy.”
- Communicate. Oh, so cliche! I know, I know. It’s a skill; it’s an art. Talk, face to face, at least a few minutes every day. Know what an expression means, a gesture, a lack of talking about something. My best friend said of me, “I can tell by the tone of your silence when something’s bothering you.” That’s an art developed over decades.
- Do the little things. I’m always thinking of people I love. When I’m at a store or watching TV or reading, I may see a passage or article or item that reminds me of them. I snap a photo, send an email or a text, pick up an inexpensive thing, right then. I don’t wait, don’t hold things for special occasions. I say “I saw this and thought of you.” Most of my circle has said I’m incredibly considerate because of that. How much effort does that take? Almost none. Almost no money – if I can’t afford a thing, I photograph it and send a text “doesn’t this remind you of that time we were talking about…” My one friend has a pair of scissors I got her in the shape of a woodpecker that makes her laugh every time she’s in her kitchen because we were once at a party and a man told us a terrible joke involving a woodpecker with no punchline. We still laugh about it. It takes no money and almost no effort to connect with others. I made a bad-day-bag of gift wrapped item of less than $10 each that my husband can pull from when he’s had a bad day at work, after a rather long run of such bad days. You know when he sees these little things, he thinks of me and that I was thinking of him.
- Take nothing for granted. I believe that divorce is possible for me, that people change, that this marriage may not last forever. I spend some time each day devoting time and energy to my marriage and my spouse. While that amount of time and energy varies, I don’t think I ever miss a day.
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Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook. Sign up for the e-newsletter HERE.