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The Heart of a Happy Marriage

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The Heart of a Happy Marriage

The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life.  -Oscar Wilde

I know my marriage is an anomaly. Happy marriages are rare.  For as much as we all long for a relationship that we can grow old in, we don’t really believe in them. I think this might be because many people confuse the early “in love” experience of relating with the ongoing effort of creating a love that works. The confusion is not unwarranted as the experience of falling in love might be the most powerfully transformative lessons our heart learns. We become a better version of ourselves as our biological urge to pair drives us and gives us new eyes to see ourselves and our loved one. This softer vision through our hearts trumps tolerance with acceptance and even allows us to imagine letting go of things we have long held dear.

We are happy because we love.  We are able to love when we are happy with ourselves.  Most of us go into our marriages believing that this is the natural state of things.  Even if we have seen few long-term happy marriages, we all begin believing ours will be different. We expect our marriages to make us happy.  We attribute our capacity for happiness to our feelings of being loved. Then our biological  embodiment of falling in love fades. We see the rough and brittle edges of our partner and the relationship scrapes noisily where before it seemed to float. This is not wrong- its normal. This is where we are demanded to fulfill the early promises of love instead of being filled up by them.

This is when the real work of love and acceptance begins. I remember as a young newlywed how angry I was at my husband when my feelings of loneliness or sadness were not cured by our relationship. I believed that all this would go away inside of his love. It took a long time, maybe close to a decade for me to stop blaming my spouse and my marriage for my unhappiness. This is perhaps the most lethal thinking trap and single biggest premature killer of many long-term relationships. We believe that someone else can make us happy and fix our brokenness. The biggest gift we can give our relationship is to realize that happiness is an inside job. We are each the master of our own destiny in our hearts.

Many people never really understand this revelation because most of us enter our marriages with little or no emotional intelligence. How can we possibly be responsible for our own happiness when we do not even have the fluency of naming our own feelings by their right name. Sadness, fear, insecurity and  loneliness can all come out looking like anger or contempt. Our marriages become the wasteland of this ignorance when we blame our feelings on our partner, degrading the dynamics of our relationship.

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Read more: Love, Relationships, Sex, Spirit, Wendy's Positivity Quest

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

63 comments

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4:18PM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

whether married or single, I suspect there are good days, less good days, great days, and all the possible other options........the heart of life is accepting what you can't change and working to change what you can that is important....works for marriage as part of life, too....

10:46AM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

thanks

6:59PM PDT on Jul 1, 2011

thanks

8:11AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

My thoughts exactly.
Thank you for stating it so well.

12:43PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

Some of us hold our partners, our parents, our friends, etc.accountable for 'what we aspire to become'. Who can be responsible except us? The other people can only support us.
That goes for career and life goals a well as goals related to character.

4:34PM PDT on May 31, 2011

We're happy, thanks!

4:37PM PDT on May 12, 2011

i appreciate this :)

4:59PM PDT on May 1, 2011

Im a young 23 yr old but me and my man of 4 yrs have been approaching our life this way! hes very excited to eventually start our lives together; and everything you said here sounds like the words outta his mouth almost :) we both realize the effort and responsibility we both have to take, and also the greatness that can come out of it. Its so odd that so many 'adults' have yet to grasp this concept and im scared that friends who marry within these young 20 something years, havent even thought about their emotional intelligence , let alone their partners. All i can say, is its great to see some of the logical things you have control of, and its wonderful to meet people who can see it that way as well :) great article! thanks!

10:34AM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences about love.

3:15AM PDT on Apr 28, 2011

thank you

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