Habits of The Happily Married
What is Happiness?
Ask people what they want most from life, and the most common response is “happiness”. Ask most parents what they want for their children, and the most common response is “I just want them to be happy”. Ask most people what happiness is, and the most common response is “I’m not sure”. Everyone wants to be happy, and so few people really know how to achieve true happiness, or even what happiness truly is.
Whenever I give a lecture on happiness, I begin by asking the audience what they would need to be happy. If they are single, they say that they would need to be married. If married, they would need to be more happily married. If they are struggling to make ends meet, they would need financial security. If they have financial security, they would need to use their money more wisely, more meaningfully, give more charity, have more fun, buy more, or buy less. If they are spiritual, they would need a greater connection to G-d.
I then ask them, “What if you were poor, single, and ignorant; could you still be happy?” People always respond, “of course you can”. So then, what is happiness, and how do we achieve it?
Happiness is …
True happiness is appreciating and taking pleasure in what we have now. We have everything we need right now to be happy, except one thing, the choice to be happy! If we choose happiness, we will be happy, regardless of anything else in our life. G-d gave us everything we need to be happy right now, except the choice to focus on it. Well then, if everybody wants happiness and all we need to do is choose it, why are most people so unhappy?
We have been conditioned to focus on the negative. Our natural state has become to tear people around us down, including ourselves. The images we are bombarded with of the perfection of beauty, power, success and honor leave an impression. When we go home and look in the mirror and see wrinkles and bulges, we see a negative image of ourselves. When we see the car we drive or the house we live in, and compare it to really “successful” people, how do we feel? When we take an accounting of our status in society, do we feel great about ourselves?
Who can live up to these images? Who even really wants to?
The Happiness Habit
A habit is an action that when repeated often enough becomes almost involuntary, a natural state of being. Happiness can become a habit. Happiness can become our default state of mind. We can learn to just be happy until something acts upon us to change our state, and after being thrown off our axis, we then we choose to revert to back to being happy again. How wonderful would it be to walk around in a state of happiness all the time?
Jewish philosophy teaches that it is a “Mitzvah” to be constantly happy. A Mitzvah is a responsibility. Choosing to be happy is an obligation. It is not OK to be walking around in a constant state of doom and gloom. We have to figure out how to get out of it, and then do it.
The Happy Marriage Habit
This is one the secrets of a happy marriage. Our happy marriages are our responsibility, it is our obligation, and above all it is our choice. It is most definitely not just a happening. We have a false impression of happiness in relationships because they all naturally start so well. Instant passion, breathless anticipation, effortless fun, and all-consuming communication, are the norm. We honestly think that the relationship will stay like this forever, all by itself. And then we get married!
When real life sets in, and the mortgage, kids, shopping, housework, repairs, in-laws and general stresses of everyday life start competing for your attention, these natural relationship starters begin to wane. Not to mention noticing as gravity and aging start their inevitable dominance on our bodies, and our energy, drive and hopefulness decrease accordingly.
But, this is when the real marriage begins. We must choose to create the habit of happiness in our marriage.
Creating Happy Marriage Momentum
So many couples forget why they married their spouse. They are living on autopilot, judging the success of their marriage by the amount of conflict that there is. They never stop and really focus on who they are married to. I want you to do it right now. Stop reading and begin thinking about whom your spouse really is: their qualities, commitments, loyalties, kindnesses, attributes, challenges and pleasures. Make a list of all the beautiful traits that they possess. Write it down. Keep it close to your heart and share it with you spouse.
How do you feel? What are you feeling right now? Do you
feel blessed to have this person in your life? Don’t you want to share these feeling with you spouse right now. Do it! Call them right now and tell them how you feel about being married to them. True happiness is focusing on what you have right now in front of you, and then taking pleasure in it. So many people spend their relationship wishing that things were different, that there spouse was different, and wallow in the misery of unrealized expectations.
Your spouse is who they are. They have beautiful qualities to take pleasure in. There may be work to do in the relationship, ways to grow, and every marriage has changes that are imperative, but that is no excuse for missing the pleasure of the relationship as it is now.
Your happiness depends on your ability to see your spouse as they are, and take pleasure in them. Your happy marriage depends on your ability to communicate this to your spouse.