The Happiness Connection  

Successful-marriage secret

The topic of marriage has suddenly grown legs and taken on a life of its own in my life.

I am no longer confined to simply living it and writing about it, I have morphed into a wedding planner. I’m sure there are other mothers of the bride who have found themselves in similar positions.

I am excited for my daughter and I love her choice of partner, but I can’t help but look at the approaching nuptials through a lens of reality.

Marriage is declining, and divorce is on the increase. What does the future look like for this soon-to-be-married couple?

If marriage is a less popular lifestyle choice than it once was, why do couples decide to tie the knot?

There are a multitude of reasons, but they tend to revolve around emotions, finances, legal reasons, religious beliefs, and wanting to conform to societal norms.

When you put engagements or weddings and emotions together, I suspect the feelings that spring to mind first revolve around love and romance. These are not the only emotional reasons people get married.

Fear of being alone, worry that no one else will ever want to marry you, and anger at parents who you think are trying to control your life are all emotional reasons to take the marital plunge.

When my grandmother started dating my grandfather, her mother was far from impressed.

She forbade my grandma from having anything more to do with him. Because her relationship with her mother was already strained, my grandmother decided they should get married.

I’m glad they did, because otherwise I wouldn’t be here to write this column.

Worrying that you may never find another person who wants to marry you also demonstrates the pressure exerted by our society. Whether you realize it, our culture exerts pressure on you to conform to its standards.

Although what is considered normal is changing, finding another person to love and spend your life with is still part of what society deems as normal.

Because my husband and I are from two different cultures, our expectations for what our wedding should look like were very different. When I told my husband we were going to get married in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he thought I had gone insane.

If our ceremony had been in England, we would have had two choices: get married in a church or a registry office.

Standing in front of a roaring fire in an old manor house would not have been an option.

Choosing not to have a sit-down dinner and speeches was also a strange concept for him, but not for me.

Our cultural norm for weddings back then were much less constrained or expensive.

Many singletons think they are missing out if they don’t have the opportunity to get married.

Even if they aren’t sure it is the right person, they may choose to walk down the isle because they are worried they won’t have another chance and they want to experience what society says is normal.

Your reasons for getting married may involve a mixture of the above choices. Hopefully, love, respect, and a desire to be together are part of the mix, but they aren’t prerequisites.

Think about arranged marriages. Research shoes that the love they feel for each other grows over time and there is a statistically lower number of divorces in these unions even though the couple barely knew each other on the big day.

Your motives for marriage may be good, bad, or irrelevant, but understanding what they are can help you prevent unrealistic expectations.

If you are a total romantic and made your choice purely on passionate love, you need to be aware that the intensity of your feelings is unlikely to remain for your entire marriage. The honeymoon phase morphs into something that can be just as beautiful, but it will be different.

My husband and I married less than eight months after we met because of legal reasons. I was going back to Canada and the only way to guarantee getting a permanent residency visa for England was to be married.

Being married to a British citizen isn’t a guarantee of getting a visa, but in our situation, it pretty much was.

I believed I was getting married because I had stumbled into the romance of the century. I was devastated when the fairy tale began to look more like a horror story than a Disney romance.

Take time to examine your reasons for getting married. If I had had fewer stars in my eyes, perhaps I might have had a clearer understanding about the situation I was choosing. This, in turn, would have helped prepare me for the life that awaited.

Moving to a new country came with challenges that I didn’t foresee. If I had, maybe I would have taken steps to minimize them.

For many years, I believed that my husband and I were challenged more than many couples because our personalities are very different.

  • I am a planner, he waits until the last minute.
  • I love my own space, he loves to socialize.
  • I am motivated by purpose, he is motivated by personal desire.

In many respects, we are completely incompatible.

Believing that compatibility plays a large part in relationship success is not a theory held only by me.

Early research into what made a successful marriage was based on this idea and explored ways of matching personalities, so you could find wedded bliss.

The studies were unable to establish a link between marital happiness and personality traits and were largely abandoned.

Research teams continue to look for ways to determine what makes a long-term relationship successful.

Howard Markman’s study followed couples for six years, starting six months before they were married. When the data was analyzed, it showed that one of the strongest predictors of marriage success was how well the couple communicated about problems before they were married.

In my case, we spent so little time living together before we were married that we didn’t really encounter any problems. We were both on our best behavior and life was easy.

This observation leads me to a pearl of wisdom. Wait until disagreements and challenges appear before you decide whether you have met your soul mate. If you can communicate smoothly through these moment, explore the relationship further.

If you can’t, either learn how, or move on.

When I think about my daughter, I am content because I know she has found someone she can communicate well with. They have been together long enough to have experienced trials and tribulations and navigated their way around them.

What predicts the success of a relationship?

In the words of former professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts George Levinger, “What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.”

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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