“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”-Mark Twain
In an attempt to jump start my thoughts on this topic I was looking for a quote or statistic that quantified what makes for a good marriage, but we know that love is not quantifiable. It’s a feeling of elation and joy and as the Mark Twain quote says, in order “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” None the less I did come across something that I found to be both true and humorous. Per an article on the website for Accord (which is a Catholic Marriage Care Service), “There are man factors that contribute to a satisfying marriage/relationship such as; love, commitment, trust, time, attention, good communication including listening, partnership, tolerance, patience, openness, honesty, respect, sharing, consideration, generosity, willingness/ability to compromise, constructive management of disagreements/arguments, willingness to see another’s viewpoint, ability and willingness to forgive/apologize, fun.” (Accord, n.d.). Now the truthful part is that the list is completely accurate, the humorous part is that the article goes on to say that the list is simple. The list contains twenty different factors to make up a successful marriage, there is nothing simple about that; but having been married for over five years now it I know it is not simple but I also know that it is definitely worth it.
No one knows how to be married before they actually get married. There isn’t a class you can take, a test to pass, some kind of certification (other than the actual marriage certificate). No, you and your partner figure it out together and you make it work. If your lucky though, you have people who have role modeled a successful marriage that you can look to for inspiration. I was incredible lucky in that regard. Yesterday was my parents anniversary (I didn’t remember that on my own, I needed to be reminded but am going to put it in my calendar and I also couldn’t tell you how many years it has been but more than 37 for sure since I am that old). My parents have an inspirational marriage. No marriage is perfect, there are arguments and bad days like any other marriage, but my parents have put in the work and have built a lasting relationship. If I had to pick something that I noticed in my parents relationship, and our family dynamic, that was unique in my experience it would be open communication. In my house growing up nothing was off limits, if you had something that needed to be said, you said it; and when you did you were respectful and you engaged in the conversation that followed. I never saw my parents argue, that doesn’t mean they didn’t, but when we sat around the dining room table we talked about whatever needed to be talked about and I think that is a major contributing factor to their success.
My dad owned his own business, I was not the healthiest child, my sister was/is a free spirit, and hundreds of other factors applied strain and pressure to my parents marriage; but they overcame them. They showed me what a successful marriage was supposed to be. Not rainbows and sunshine, but love and respect for one another. The list above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what makes a marriage work and after five years I am still constantly learning. There are all sorts of things I could be doing to be a better husband; sometimes I forget to do them, sometimes I am too tired, and some times I don’t even know what they are. In the meantime I try to put in the work and be the best husband and father I can be.
Another quote I found said that, “Marriage is putting two people together under the same roof and dumping all the problems of the world on top of their heads.” (Pelley, 2021). That is a quote from an article in Fatherly as said by John DeFrain, professor emeritus of family studies at the University of Nebraska. Sometimes it can feel like that; my wife owns her own business and that can be stressful, I work full time and am going to school and that can be stressful, we have a two year old son and that can be stressful, we own a house that was built over sixty years ago and that can be stressful. Despite the stress and pressure of the world’s problems coming down on us at times; I wouldn’t trade my life and my marriage for anything. We figure out the stressful things, we work through them together and while it’s not always easy we get through it. And it’s not always like that, those are just the moments that tend to stand out because the easy times, the fun times, are often forgotten when something difficult comes up.
My wife and I have fun, there is romance and laughter, we are best friends that love to pick on one another and spend time together and that’s something that no challenge can take away from us. Rita Rudner, a comedian, was once quoted as saying “I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” Now my wife never annoys me (haha), but I am sure that I annoy her from time to time and that’s part of the fun of being married. I think that we have one of those inspirational marriages and am thankful that my parents set that example for me. I hope that Jillian and I’s marriage is that inspirational example for our kids. Actually I don’t hope for that because I know it will be.
So yes, that list of factors for a successful marriage at the beginning of this is accurate, but I found something I like better. In an article for Inc. magazine author Jeff Haden compares success in marriage to success in a career and states that one of the keys to a successful marriage is a shared sense of purpose. I think he sums it up pretty well by saying, “Together, create your own mission. Create your own vision. Decide where you want to go, and make a plan to get there together.” (Haden, n.d.). While my parent’s marriage is an inspiration to me, my marriage is going to be different and Jillian and I get to decide what that looks liek. We get to create our own definition of an inspirational marriage and we get to do that together.
Accord. (n.d.). What Makes a Good Marriage/Relationship. Accord. Retrieved from https://www.accord.ie/resources/articles/what-makes-a-good-marriage-relationship#:~:text=There%20are%20many%20factors%20that,Willingness%2FAbility%20to%20Compromise%2C%20Constructive
Haden, J. (n.d.). Want a Great Marriage? 11 Things Couples Who Build Successful Marriages Do Each and Every Day. Inc. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/want-a-great-marriage-11-things-couples-who-build-successful-marriages-do-each-a.html
Pelley, V. (2021, March 29). How Happy Marriages Stay Happy: 7 Signs of a Rock-Solid Relationship. Fatherly. Retrieved from https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/signs-of-happy-marriage-that-lasts/