I would like to write about what makes a successful marriage, which is not possible, as I don’t know the answer. All I know is what a working marriage looks like close up, which is a different thing. The first thing to say about “happy marriages” is that I doubt there are many of them. Very roughly, half of them end up in divorce.
I suspect that of those who stay together, half are hanging on because of children, money, or fear of loneliness. Some are truly and consistently happy, out of a fortunate combination of circumstance, rather than any particular brand of love. Most of the remaining marriages, I think, are not about happiness or unhappiness, but accommodation and negotiation. And I say that as half of a married couple in which both of us have probably made one another both happy and unhappy, probably in roughly equal measure. We are very different people, but then all people are very different people. And there lies the central problem of marriage, which asks you to spend close company with one person for years on end.
My husband and I both have a very strong sense of individuality, and I like that, but it means we have our fair share of times when we just lose it. Anyone who does not have a lot of disagreements in a marriage is probably repressing a lot of stuff, which is liable to explode sooner or later.And in this case, the result tends to be more harmful.
The first step that contributes to a good marriage is communication, I feel talking to each other is very important rather than keeping things to just oneself. Suffice to say that good communication requires practice, goodwill, determination.
The second is respect, which in many ways is more important than love. Love comes and goes, but respect endures and provides the space for love to flow, which is bound to come in all long marriages sooner or later.
The third is trust. And this is the hardest of all, because if you have ever been let down – and we all have – reconstructing the trust is difficult.It is not confined to a specific big lie, but many small matters – broken promises, bad intentions, frustrated hopes.
You have to trust, even though you have no guarantee you won’t be let down, and then, if you are let down, trust again, and then again. You must keep doing this as long as you are humanly able to, and your marriage will either stand or fall on it. You need to forget and forget again about any mistreatment for as long as you can. Dragging the weight of the past behind you will drag you down to the end.
But you will never, can never, “get there” because there is nowhere to get to. A marriage is a moving process, a living thing, and if it stops being fed with these nutrients, it will finally expire. Complaints and laziness are what kills a marriage, far more than lack of love, and that is why it is often described as hard work. But no work is ultimately more rewarding than a marriage that works.