I read this Yahoo article yesterday talking about the ‘semi-happy marriage’ and how more and more are considering themselves to be under this category. The article continued to say that it’s these couples who are most predisposed to divorce.
I have no idea how the studies were done, and what criteria were thrown in but my initial reaction is to ask how the respondents defined ‘semi-happy’. According to the article, semi-happy marriages are mainly characterized by low conflict, low passion and low satisfaction. Historian Pamela Haag said in the article, "One minute, you love the stability and contentment. The next minute, you think it’s not the right marriage, and there are flaws in the marriage that are serious, even though there are also great things about the marriage".
Is it just me or does this sound like maybe 98% of marriages? This article differentiates the semi-happy respondents from those that said they are ‘happily married’. Does that mean that when you say you are happily married, that you are happy and satisfied almost all the time? And what is wrong with being semi-happy anyway? If most divorces are indeed comprised of these semi-happy people, isn’t it possible that there could be a major flaw with expectations and definitions of happiness? Are we really supposed to be happy all the time? Isn’t it more realistic to expect only pockets of happiness rather than a continuous flow of it? Could it be time to admit that complete marital bliss is overrated, not to mention, an unrealistic aspiration that sets most of us for failure?
For a thinker and over-analyzer such as myself, I don’t think it would be easy for me to answer if someone indeed asked me if I’m happily married. I don’t think it’s fair to ask that without breaking it down to specific criteria and operationalize the whole concept. Do I think my husband is a wonderful human being and partner? Yes. Do I genuinely like and respect him? No doubt. Do we get along? Generally, yes. Do we have the same values that are important cornerstones for our partnership? Absolutely. Do I think he’s the perfect man for me and that we fit like two puzzle pieces? Absolutely NOT. But is this lack of complete compatibility enough for me to believe that our marriage will not survive and that we will not thrive as individuals in this marriage and ultimately end in divorce? No and I hope not.
It’s cliché to say that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage but it’s true. I’ve always been wary of people who openly give the impression that theirs is a perfectly blissful union because I just don’t believe in its existence. Marriage is too complex to believe that it can all be smooth-sailing. You’re uniting two imperfect individuals so naturally that can’t be effortless. I think an important key to a partnership is to cease believing that your partner can give you everything you need, that all the qualities you desire can be in one person only. I love watching science shows particularly those dealing with astrophysics. I find them completely exhilarating and told my husband once that I find the discussion on black holes and multiverses completely and utterly orgasmic. He just gave me a look that made me think he was going to institutionalize me. But we do tend to enjoy similar movies, whether they’re sci-fi or chick flicks. I also wish he would write me some poetry and love letters. He has never given me any, not even one Dr. Seuss-sounding verse. However when he gives me greeting cards during special occasions, they are perfect and never fail to make my eyes tear up. I’m also known for being a sucker for deep, philosophical conversations. He’d rather talk about practical things. But when anything truly bothers me, I can rely on him to listen and think things through with me. He also respects me enough to allow me to write, though it's time-consuming, and talk with friends who are willing to have brain-hemorrhaging discussions with me.
So I guess my point is that I believe it’s important to be very realistic with our expectations when it comes to marriage / partnerships. Passion is great but Longevity and
Constance are equally important. You have to be realistic and very honest with yourself in figuring out what qualities will sustain you over the long haul, IF that is your objective and ideal. But if not, then choose what works for you. Marriage also takes a certain kind of maturity to admit that you and your partner cannot be everything to each other. A real marriage has to free you from the illusion that the two of you can give everything to each other. I am not advocating infidelity here. All I'm saying is that once you've made your commitment, know that it is a commitment for both of you to grow together, within the bounds of marriage, so you have to find ways to accomplish this without alienating the other. In the end, it’s also important to remember that our commitment to a relationship with our partner is only secondary to our commitment to ourselves, to be happy with our selves and cultivate qualities that nurture us, instead of just expecting a partner to give those things to us. The simple truth is that you can always divorce your spouse, but not your self.