The Happiness Connection  

Modernizing marriage

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

Do you believe that marriage results in two individuals becoming one?

I did 30 years ago when I got married. It was part of my romantic vision of living happily ever after. I hoped I had found the man of my dreams and expected life to be perfect from that moment on. If it was good enough for Cinderella, it was good enough for me.

There are a couple of problems with believing you and your partner will think, dream, and behave as if you are one. The most obvious difficulty is figuring out what that one will look like.

As opera singer Robert Breault puts it: “The wedding is where two people become one. The marriage is where they decide which one.”

I believe this dance of transmuting two very different people into one joint being was one of the biggest reasons my husband and I had so many difficulties in our marriage. I thought he should transform into the man of my dreams who looked after me and agreed with everything I said.

Sadly, he thought I should be the one doing the transforming.

Historically, two did become one; wives became chattels of their husbands. If you aren’t familiar with the word chattel, it means personal possession.

Women and everything they owned became the property of their spouse the moment they were wed.

In fairness, this law ended many centuries ago. Husbands haven’t legally owned their wives for a long time, it only felt that way. Women were expected to stay home and looked after their family while their husbands assumed the role of provider. As the head of the household, I suspect men had a greater say over what “the one” looked like back then, but I’m only surmising.

This brings me to the second difficulty with the “two become one” philosophy. Society has changed a lot in the past few generations, but many of our thoughts about marriage have not.

For better or for worse, shifting environments require shifting inhabitants. Can you imagine a farming business that refused to give up their horse drawn plough, or a hospital that disregarded modern surgery techniques being thriving entities today?

Families don’t look the way they did a century ago. Two working parents is the norm, and some fathers stay home to care for their children, leaving the mom to be the provider. Same sex unions and blended families have also contributed to the changes in our cultural idea of marriage.

I believe one reason divorce statistics have risen so steeply is because marriage practices haven’t changed to align with the societies they serve.

You can go to counselling to learn how to communicate better, or join a support group, but if you believe you and your partner must morph into one joint being, you are likely to run into trouble. This is especially true if you are both strong-willed like my husband and me.

More than one woman has suggested to me that marriages in the past only lasted because the wife had no choice other than to stay. Women have more options now.

The Me-Too movement illustrates the change that has been happening in our culture. Many women want to take their place as equals, not as someone less capable or weaker. With ladies wanting to move away from their traditional place in a relationship, conventional ideas about marriage are no longer working.

Following the two become one philosophy was a disaster for my marriage. When my husband and I stopped struggling to become one and instead embraced our individuality, our relationship became stronger and happier than ever.

If you are challenged to find a way to be one and want to give our strategy a try, here are some tips to get started.

  1. You are each responsible for your own happiness. Support and bring joy to each other, but don’t take on the role of mental well-being provider.
  2. Remember you are each on your own journey and have your own lessons to learn. Support each other, but don’t judge or try to tell the other one what to do or not do.
  3. Identify the decisions that need to be jointly dealt with and approach them with respect. Look for middle ground rather than trying to persuade each other that you are right, and they are wrong.
  4. If a decision doesn’t concern you, don’t try to make it.
  5. Take time for your own adventures, but consciously come back together to nurture your bond of choosing to be together.

Let’s modernize our thoughts about marriage to match the changes in our society. Rather than two becoming one, let’s talk about two remaining two, but choosing to walk together in the same direction.

It is time to banish quotes like the one I found on The Printable Wedding website.

The path to happiness is so narrow that two cannot walk on it unless they become one.

If the path is that narrow you still have choices. I would put my spouse on his own path and then arrange to meet in a few hours for lunch.


Weird marriage behaviour

My husband is responsible for feeding the pets every morning and then taking the dog into the yard to do his chores.

I had to fill in for him one morning this week as he was away for work.

As I went to get a poo-bag I noticed that rather than putting the new roll of bags into the holder I keep hanging from a nail, my spouse had just stuffed it in with my gardening tools. As I was waiting for the dog, I took the minute necessary to put the bags into the holder and hang it back up.

This isn’t a big deal, but I shook my head a little and wondered why he couldn’t do that himself. Just to be clear, this isn’t a one-time occurrence. My husband never puts the new rolls of bags into the holder, he just shoves them somewhere.

This is also his typical pattern when he needs a new roll of toilet paper. Rather than replacing it for the empty cardboard tube, he puts it on the floor or the back of the toilet. I’m sure I could recount numerous other examples of this behaviour, but I think you’ve heard enough to get the idea.

I find his inability to swap the full roll with the empty one, weird. Let’s be clear. Bizarre behavior is in the eyes of the beholder.

Some of you may be cut from the same cloth as my husband and wonder what my problem is. You may think I’m the weirdo because I want the rolls in their holders, but let’s not get caught up in details.

The purpose of this tale is not to debate specific actions, or in this case lack of action. It is about reaction.

In the early days, I used to try to persuade my husband to change his behaviour and just take a few seconds to put the roll in the holder. There are no prizes for guessing how far I got with that strategy.

As the years went on, his persistent refusal to get with my program infuriated me. I’m sure we’ve had more than one fight about toilet paper. My request was simple and made good sense. What was his problem?

I couldn’t see it then, but our altercations had very little to do with toilet paper and far more to do with control. I wanted my husband to do it my way, which was obviously the right way.

My husband was adamant that he was not going to give in and be controlled by me.

So many of the fights and negative feelings that arise in relationships have nothing to do with the specifics being argued about; they have everything to do with winning and being in control.

I believe the statement “two become one” should be revised to “two remain two, but chose to move in the same direction.”

If you see yourself needing to morph into one being with your partner, there will be a plethora of opportunities to battle over what that new being should look like. This is where so many difficulties begin.

Instead, think about your partner as being a unique entity and ask yourself if what they are doing is causing harm to anyone, or anything? Resist coming up with answers like, it is harming the toilet paper.

If there is no legitimate damage happening, look at your own choices. In my case I could leave the roll where it was or replace it myself.

If you aren’t trying to change your spouse into being just like you, it takes the control conversation off the table and prevents a win-lose scenario. Instead of trying to persuade each other to come to your side of the argument, listen and accept each other’s views.

Acceptance is different from agreement.

We want to know we’ve been heard, but once that happens you can work to find some middle ground that you both can live with. This is also a great time to decide whether the conversation isn’t worthy of your time and energy.

Often it isn’t.

My journey to the place I am now was a little slower than it might have been if control and trying to become one hadn’t been central to my belief of marriage. Thankfully I got there in the end and so will you. My hope is that you will get there a little sooner by hearing about my experiences.

I no longer feel anything more than a mild sense of curiosity that my husband still chooses not to replace empty rolls with full ones.

I would love to say that I never mention it to him, because that would involve pretending to be someone I’m not. But when I do draw this bizarre behaviour to his attention, it is with humour, acceptance, and love not criticism.

The next time you feel triggered by something your spouse does, or doesn’t do, try the following steps.

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Ask yourself if anyone or anything is being harmed.
  • Think about the actions you can take.
  • Choose the option that will make you and your relationship happiest.

A strong marriage isn’t the result of the perfect couple coming together, but of two imperfect people who are willing to accept and embrace each other’s differences.

A marriage with self

There is no accounting for who you feel chemically attracted to. I swore I would never go out with anyone under six feet, and yet I married a man who an inch taller than me.

He is well under my stated minimum height requirement.

I’m sure many of you can relate to this phenomenon. Whatever you thought was important stops being important when your hormones get involved.

I’m not here to discuss chemistry. If you have ever been in love, you know what I’m talking about. That desire to be with someone, not because they tick all the boxes, but because you can’t control the flutter of your heart or your insatiable desire to be near them.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know that I believe there are many people you could have a passionate, strong, stable relationship with. Chemical matches are not a once in a lifetime occurrence.

Good marriages don’t come from finding the right person, they come from finding a positive way to approach and accept challenge, change, and growth within your partnership.

Although you may know with your head that great, long-term relationships take work regardless of who you are with, you may still believe in your heart that if you were with the right person, the process would be easy.

This is where list making comes into play. If you know all the best traits, you can find someone who ticks all the boxes and then life will be easy.

It’s a great theory until chemistry gets involved. I know I’m not the only person who shredded my list the minute I met my husband.

Even relationships that start out easy, may not stay that way forever. My honeymoon period was incredible, and I thought it would last forever.

Of course, it didn’t.

What do you do when you find yourself in a relationship full of strife, conflict, and frustration? Let me share what I believe changed the path of my relationship.

I started my marriage with the fairy-tale belief that my husband would make me happy. This is the philosophy that had been modelled for me and was all I knew.

My husband wasn’t interested in taking on that role, and that was the best thing that ever happened to me because eventually, decades later, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.

I reached a point when I just couldn’t let my life go on along the same path for one more day. If my husband wasn’t going to step up to the plate and meet my every need, I was going to have to do it for myself.

That is the moment I turned my life and my relationship around. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had stumbled onto the key to living a satisfying life.

I am responsible for my own happiness and you are responsible for yours.

My husband instinctively knew this. I suspect that is one of the things that made me so angry in our relationship. He would decide what he wanted and go get it. I thought he should be figuring out what I wanted and then make that happen.

Making yourself happy may sound radical, selfish, or lacking in team spirit, but it is far from it. By treating yourself the way you want other people to treat you and relying on yourself to create the life you want, you are empowering yourself.

If you want to be happy, figure out what that means to you and then act to make your vision a reality.

It is common for people who want their partner to treat them far better than they treat themselves.

  • Do you get annoyed if your spouse is unkind to you and yet accept your own behaviour of self-criticism?
  • Do you want to be loved and yet find it impossible to love yourself?
  • Is self-care at the bottom of your priority list even though you expect your partner to put it at the top of his?

Expecting another person to meet the needs you can’t meet for yourself will ensure you are in a vulnerable position. You may be lucky and have a partner who is happy to meet all your needs, but what happens if they disappear from your life?

I started thinking about what would make me happy and how I wanted my life to look. I then actively started to create what I wanted.

Because I was leaning on myself and I knew what I was trying to achieve, I stopped putting all my expectations for happiness on my husband’s shoulders. As soon as he stopped feeling pressured to be my everything, he started being there for me because he wanted to, not because he had to.

I’d love to finish this column with “and they lived happily ever after” but that would be a lie.

Life is constantly changing, and we must change with it if we want to survive. Taking control of my happiness didn’t mark the beginning of never-ending bliss, but it did mark a whole new and happier chapter in our relationship.

If you are looking to start a new relationship or you want to improve an existing one, the key to success is personal development. Discover what you want for your life, what makes you happy, and what past events you still need to work through and let go. If you need help, find a life-coach.

There are many good ones around.

Instead of creating a list of what you want your current or future partner to be like, create a list of what you want to be like and how you can be happier.

You are responsible for your own happiness so step up and be the creator of your own destiny.


Melania's marriage

Have you ever been the subject of gossip?

Perhaps you were fired from your job or had a public meltdown in front of a crowd of onlookers.

I can remember my husband being seized by a fit of jealousy when we were at a party many years ago.

I was furious with him, mostly because I knew everyone would be talking about us the next day, but also because I was being dragged into the local gossip, even though I hadn’t done anything to deserve it.

I was being pushed into the spotlight by my husband’s actions.

Being the centre of negative attention is bad enough when you are a regular, run-of-the-mill person, but imagine what it must be like you are in a global spotlight?

This was going through my mind on March 25 when I watched Anderson Cooper interview Stormy Daniels on 60 Minutes. She is the adult entertainment star who says she had sexual relations with the U.S. president before he entered politics.

What must it be like for his wife, Melania, as this story unfolds?

The couple married in 2005 and have one child together. In some respects, they are like many of you reading this.

They have been married long enough for the honeymoon phase to be a dim, distant memory, and the actions of one person are affecting the happiness of the other one.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate.

I’m not really interested in what people think of the American president and his wife, although there are a lot of opinions floating around the news channels and social media. I am more interested in what the rest of us can learn from this very public relationship.

Let me share some of the lessons that stand out for me.

It isn’t important for you to understand anyone else’s relationship, nor does it matter if other people understand yours.

I’ve heard more than one person criticize Melania for her choice of husband as well as her decision to stay with him. It’s as though everyone thinks they are an expert on relationships and partner choice.

Stop for a moment. Has anyone ever questioned your choice of partner?

When I brought my husband home for the first time, my parents were mystified and a little shocked at my choice. It wasn’t that they thought he was a bad person, but he was so different from everyone in my family that they couldn’t understand why I would want to marry him.

In their minds he didn’t fit in.

Their reaction caused me a lot of heartache because I wanted my parents to love my beloved as much as I did. They tried to hide their feelings, but I knew them well enough to read the subtle and not-so-subtle signs.

I wasted a lot of emotion and energy fretting about this situation, although it didn’t stop me from marrying him. I wish I had been aware enough to realize the choice I made was for my life not my family’s.

They didn’t need to understand or agree with my relationship choice. They weren’t the ones who were marrying him.

Instead of passing judgment on other people’s marriages or worrying about what your friends and family think of yours, try to concentrate on your own life and leave other people to live theirs in the way that seems best to them.

The actions of your partner don’t define who you are.

I am impressed with Melania’s resolve to continue with life and ignore the media frenzy surrounding her husband’s infidelity. She isn’t taking on the role of a victim, or even joining the conversation.

That takes guts and should remind you that the actions of your partner do not define you, nor should you worry about what other people might think.

The jealous reaction my husband displayed at the party I mentioned at the beginning of this column sparked anger in me. How dare he accuse me of doing something wrong.

In truth, he wasn’t accusing me of anything. He was being triggered by his own demons, not me or mine.

You don’t really know what you’d do unless you are faced with the situation in question.

Early in our relationship, my husband and I agreed that being unfaithful was a deal breaker. If either of us chose to have an affair of any length, it would mark the end of our marriage.

Setting this boundary made it very difficult for me to understand people who stayed together after one or both partners strayed.

What were they thinking?

Trump is alleged to have been unfaithful more than once and yet no divorce has been announced. What is she thinking of?

As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that you never know what you will do until you are staring the situation in the face. I still believe that I am likely to kick my husband to the curb if he cheated on me, but I have also learned to never say never.

Because the only people who really understand the intricacies of a relationship are the people in it, you will never know everything that went into their decision to stay or leave.

The best you can do is speculate. Until you are faced with a situation like infidelity, you never know what you will decide to do.

There are so many variables at play that you are fooling yourself if you believe it is as clear cut as my husband I thought 30 years ago. I know people who had to experience that rock bottom situation in their relationship before they could build their marriage into something beautiful and lasting.

I think the most important take-away from watching a couple struggle with their marriage while the world looks on, is the opportunity it provides for you to practise being compassionate.

You have no idea what the future hold for you and you may find yourself in an equally uncomfortable and public situation one day.

Act toward others as you hope people will act toward you in a difficult moment.

As I remind myself regularly, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

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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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