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Do happy marriages exist?

Marriage Advice
 Do happy marriages exist? (Photo: iStock)

Hi Chris,

I have recently started work, and I would like to get married before too long. But quite a few of my new colleagues at work are already divorced or separated. Which naturally worries me. How do I ensure that I will have a happy marriage?

Worried

Chris says,

Hi Worried!

Everyone wants their marriage to be happy. But getting married does not automatically make you happy. It just means you have a lot of new stuff to learn. Not all that different from starting work!

Having said that, married people are generally happier than singles.

But we do have a hard time making marriages last, even though everyone wants their relationships to work. So why do we have so many problems?

Often, it is because we have unrealistic expectations. The idea that marriage makes you happy leads us to imagine that everything will be wonderful, just so long as you are with the right partner.

So if you run into difficulties that implies you are with the wrong one. But in reality, every couple has to cope with lots of difficulties. We also expect that if we have found the right person, we won't argue. Not true. Couples disagree all the time.

So what you need to know is how to manage your differences. And anyway, it is perfectly possible to disagree without wrecking a relationship. Basically, never criticise or be contemptuous, and instead work at understanding why you see things differently.

And then plot the right course forward together. So practice your negotiating skills, and stay close to one another through every disagreement.

You also need to know when to expect problems. For example, most relationships fail during the first two years, as couples fail to change their 'singles' attitudes into 'married' ones.

Another regular crisis is the birth of your first child. And then their entry into school. Having an adolescent in the house is another nightmare. At each of these stages, you have to learn new coping skills. So realising how much you have to learn, and then relearn, is the key to a happy marriage.

All the best,

Chris

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