We’ve all had those friends who are stuck in miserable marriages. Maybe we’re even stuck in one ourselves! But are we really stuck? Except for cases of tremendous trauma (such as abuse, infidelity, and neglect), the way out is not as hard as it may seem. We actually get to decide how happy we want our marriages to be.
Don’t believe me? Well, read on!
We Decide if We Give our Spouse the Benefit of the Doubt
In happier marriages, couples seem to have a positive filter that influences the way they respond to each other – even during times where offense, frustration, disappointment, or anger would be natural responses. Dr. John Gottman refers to this as positive sentiment override.
In other words, so much positivity builds up in the marriage that it’s easier to overlook little frustrations. The overall positive balance counteracts the negative. Or, as a wise friend said, when we don’t know one’s motives, we default to an assumption of goodwill (see this previous article for more additional information).
Happiness Tip #1 – Remember, giving the benefit of the doubt is our choice. Though this may be difficult at times, as we consistently make this choice, we choose a happier marriage!
We Decide if We will Forgive our Spouse
You’ve probably heard this quote from 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope: “To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
While this principle is true in so many aspects of life, constant and complete forgiveness is a critical component for anyone choosing to create a happy marriage.
Too often, the inability to forgive slowly destroys relationships that could otherwise be happy. Because we all marry imperfect people and we all continue to make mistakes, forgiveness is necessary for every marriage!
Happiness Tip #2 – Forgiveness, while not always easy, is always a choice. If we really want an amazing marriage, holding onto grudges can’t be part of our relationship. Remember, to choose to forgive really is divine!
We Decide If We Will Be Resilient or if We Will Give Up Easily
Have you ever experienced disappointments in your marriage? Have you dealt with unexpected financial or health challenges? Are you facing difficulties in your marriage right now?
You probably answered “yes” to at least one of these questions.
While we each face different struggles, research suggests that it’s not necessarily the stressor itself (unemployment, illness, etc.) but rather how we respond that has the largest influence on our marital satisfaction.
For instance, research shows how some couples coping with a husband’s cancer still improved their marital happiness, even during such a hard time. Other research demonstrates how some couples were able to maintain their marital satisfaction even through the heart-wrenching trial of the death of their child.
Why were some couples in these studies able to thrive in spite of their difficult challenges while other couples struggled? The answer, at least in part, is resilience.
Happiness Tip #3 – We choose how we will respond to adverse situations (including tough times during marriage); in other words, we can choose resilience! Remember, strong marriages are formed, in part, by their ability to weather the storms of life. Trials and challenges will come to every marriage. But, how we respond to the “bad weather” will greatly influence our ability to achieve marital bliss.
By applying these three tips, you can choose to be happily married. So give the benefit of the doubt, forgive, and don’t give up. Choose happiness today!