Whether or not you want to admit it, it’s likely that at some point in your marriage, you’ve wondered if your marriage is “good” in the first place. You know, probably during some horrible fight, when you probably shouldn’t be asking yourself a single serious question, but there you are, questioning the big stuff.
I’m no stranger to this question, mostly because I grew up with two parents who had what was decidedly a bad marriage—and I knew I just didn’t want to do whatever it was they were doing. Of course when you Google “how do you know you’re in a good marriage” you get messages that are not always helpful. Most of the articles focus on psychological studies and stats—you know you’re in a good marriage if your therapist says so. There are countless message boards wherein at least one person attests that you’re in a good marriage if you never fight, or you always agree with each other no matter what. People say you’re in a good marriage if you never go to bed angry, if you always do everything together, if you let things go. The Internet seems to be especially concerned with figuring out if men are happy in their marriages, but less concerned with whether or not women classify their marriages as good.
Like most married people, I spend a lot of time hoping that my actions, thoughts, and words are contributing to the overall health of my marriage. But… that doesn’t mean we don’t fight. In fact, I think being able to fight is a sign of a healthy marriage, and I never quite trust a couple when they claim they never disagree. My husband and I have most certainly gone to bed pissed at one another, because hey: we’ve been together for nearly ten years, and we need sleep.
A few weeks ago we asked you guys what you think a good marriage is, and the responses were on point. In fact, the responses were exactly the kind of advice I’d hoped to get but never had. It turns out that the tropes people tell you that you’re supposed to worry about aren’t really the most important things in a marriage.
1. WHEN YOU STOP COMPARING YOURSELVES TO OTHER COUPLES
As I have gotten older I have realized that comparing marriages and listening to other people’s standards does not work. I have been with my husband for ten years. I can’t even count the amount of “perfect” couples who have given us advice and told us about how wonderful their relationship is that are no longer together, or have had affairs. Meanwhile we sometimes fight, we aren’t always perfectly “in love,” we have tough times, but we keep going along happily every year. Years ago we would listen to these couples’ advice and worry that if we didn’t do or feel the things they bragged about, it meant that there was something wrong with our relationship. But time has proven many times over that we only need to worry about being true to ourselves, and that the ones who proclaim they have perfect relationships the loudest are often just trying to convince themselves.
2. WHEN “GOOD ENOUGH” BECOMES ACTUALLY… GOOD
When I was a teenager my mom seriously considered leaving my dad because she felt they didn’t have enough passion and connection. I really thought that they were a terrible match and maybe she should divorce him. Years later, I can see so much more of how they suit each other, how they bring each other joy.
There were bad times in their marriage, that’s for sure. But they decided to keep doing it—it was good enough. And now it’s actually good.
More on next page…