Recipe For a Happy Marriage

Research shows most people’s happiness eventually returns to their natural baseline, even after very positive events like a wedding or the birth of child. Happiness lies within the individual. Expecting a spouse to change that forever is unrealistic and unfair. What is surprising is that research shows happiness is relatively stable. A major life event (like marriage or the birth of a child) may offer a short-term happiness boost, but studies suggest most people return to their own personal happiness set point. For example, a person who ranks his level of happiness as a 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10, lives at that level most of the time, and the events in his or her life won’t change that much or permanently. He or she will pretty much be a 7.5 happy person all his or her life.

A study published in 2012 in the Journal of Research in Personality reports “that while married people are not necessarily happier than they were when they were single, marriage ‘appears to protect against normal declines in happiness during adulthood that happen over time.'” Regardless of the study, marriage alone cannot bring happiness. Happiness both as an individual and as a married partner must come from within a person. Being married augments happiness and health, but marriage is not and should not be the primary source of a person’s happiness.

What all this means is, Don’t Expect Your Spouse To Make You Happy.

“… Get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won’t. Once the initial high wears off, you’ll just be you, except with twice as much laundry,” says Tracy McMillan, who wrote “Why You’re Not Married.”

Plainly some marriages are doomed, some from the start. A dysfunctional marriage warrants professional counseling so the victim spouse can make an informed and rational decision as to whether or not to go on. Infidelity and abuse may be very good reasons for ending a marriage, but the search for happiness as an objective goal seems to end in a generalized unhappiness that may be wrongly attributed to a spouse.

New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope identifies a realistic expectation of happiness as one of the seven key considerations for a happy marriage in her book, For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage. Celebration of good news, more positive interactions than negative ones, high standards, close family ties, steady romantic contact — all are important.

But realistic expectations of life happiness, both as an individual; and as a married couple, may be the ball bearing upon which a happy marriage turns.

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