Happiness is the ultimate privilege. Some believe they’re entitled to be happy, no matter who or what they mess up on their journey. Lesli Doares addresses this belief in her article “Bad Marriage Advice #10: If You're Not Happy in Your Marriage, You Should Leave.” A few items stood out for me.
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That's a powerful statement. But how can anybody say that?
“If you emphasize it too much, you risk losing your marriage. Many fairy tales end ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ But marriage is not a fairy tale. In the early days of your relationship, you probably spent more happy times together than ever in your life. So, it usually comes as a shock when you realize that you're not as happy as you once were,” Doares continues.
Life goes on. Once you’re married, there are more responsibilities, new problems, burst pipes, and colicky kids. So, you think to yourself, ‘I'm not as happy as I once was. I wonder if I made the wrong choice getting married to this person.’
“Happiness is a byproduct of marriage, not its foundation,” Doares says.
Happiness is a stateHappiness comes and goes. It shouldn’t be the foundation of a marriage because happiness is a transient emotion. You don't feel happy all the time. If somebody said to me, 'Are you happy right now?’ I'd respond, ‘I'm not unhappy. I'm existing and doing what I love to do. By definition, I guess I’m happy.’
But that's not what we think about happiness. We think of jumping up and down, feeling tickly, or wanting to smile all the time. These outward reactions don’t happen often. Events make it happen. Touching moments make it happen. Maybe some peace and quiet will make it happen. But happiness is not a consistent state of being.
“Happiness is an inside job. And in what may seem a contradiction to the above, you can choose to be happy at any time, regardless of what’s going on in your life. Sometimes you have to look at how you define happiness,” Doares writes.
That's true, but that's not always true either.
Defining happinessWhen I ended up in the emergency room with a pulverized wrist, the doctors kept injecting me with pain medication. I guess I was happy because I was totally stoned. I didn't feel happy that the wrist injury happened. Quite frankly, I was in substantial agony. But even at that point, I was happy it wasn't worse. I was relieved and grateful. That's a state of happiness, too. You're determined by how you define it.
“Research shows that people are happiest when they are having sex and talking,” Doares writes. In a marriage, hopefully you're having sex and you're talking.
The article ends with, “The choice to feed your happiness, or starve it, is up to you. But your personal beliefs about marriage and happiness may be getting in the way.”
If you focus only on your personal happiness, especially with some frequency, you're bound to be disappointed, and you risk losing your marriage.