Do you know what’s the number one myth associated with love and marriage?
Myth #1 – “Finding and keeping love is only for the lucky and the few”
Please take a moment to answer two questions:
Q1: If you could have a marriage or love partnership that would be happy and last your lifetime, would you want it?
Q2: Do you think you can have it?
Year after year, when I ask my students the first question, nearly every hand is raised. But when I ask them to keep their arms up if they believe they can have a happy lifelong marriage, hands and faces fall.
I got a note from a man named Jean, who said, “Two years ago, there was all this hoopla about a friend’s wedding—now they’re fighting. You see why I’m a cynic? Can two people be together forever, and be happy?”
There are many reasons this cynicism has taken hold, some of them are news stories, movies, novels, and music about love gone wrong, plus your personal experiences with your own or other people’s relationship implosions. Even the legal system plays a part; the ease of divorce has ironically led to less happiness even for those who remain together as exposure to others’ divorces has made people forecast and fear their own. Jean has a point.
But the belief in probable divorce is bad for you because it creates ambivalence: uncertainty of whether marriage is worth it. And how likely are you to organise yourself to find and keep a life partner if you’re not even sure it would make you happy?
Today, fewer people are marrying at all, as faith in the possibility of a good marriage has plummeted and a belief that happy marriage is blind luck has risen.
Replace myth with fact
The antidote to the Luck lie is simple: You need exposure to accurate information. Replace those untrue thoughts with the following fact-based realities.
1. Marriage does make most people happy—happier than any other living arrangement
It’s true that having a horrid marriage makes people very unhappy. In comparisons of various types of people, the miserably married are the most miserable of all. But it’s equally true that having a lasting, good marriage is one of the few things that really do make people happy. A single, solid marriage makes people happier than wealth, fame, career, or many of the other things we spend our lives striving for. It also makes us far happier than cohabitation, permanent singlehood, divorce, or widowhood. And that’s true in every country where comparisons have been made. We could do worse than following E. M. Forster’s epigram, “Only connect!”
2. Happy marriage is a common, renewable resource
Are you worried the world will run out of gold, copper, or oil? Or chocolate, which, heaven forbid, I hear is in short supply? Good news! Love doesn’t work like that. It’s common. And highly renewable.
Lots and lots of people do, in fact, have happy marriages. More than half of first marriages in the USA today last a lifetime, and about ⅔rd of divorced folks remarry. Roughly 25 – 40 per cent of them stay together for life too. These figures, I suspect, are much higher in India.
What does this mean? It means lifelong love is normal, not rare. The majority of the population forms a lifelong bond! And they’re usually happy.
Bonus! Happiness lost is frequently regained in the very same marriage.
Those we have loved, we can usually fall back in love with. For instance, in one study, 86 per cent of people who had stayed married through a period of unhappiness were happy again within five years.
3. Happiness in marriage isn’t random—it’s learnable
Although many people feel that finding and keeping love is a gamble, something random that might, but probably won’t, fall onto them from some benevolent-yet-unpredictable ‘Love God’, that’s not so.
The skills that create and sustain happy marriages are highly learnable. Finding and keeping love is a series of positive actions. It is something I learned. It’s something my clients and students and blog readers have learned. And it’s something you can learn, too. I’ve written about that elsewhere!
What’s common is love like Katrina’s for her husband. She says, “Recently we were apart for two weeks and he was picking me up at the airport. I suggested that there was no need to park and that I would walk out of the airport and meet him. About quarter way down the escalator I saw my husband standing, waiting for me. I realised seeing him made me grin from ear to ear. He makes me as happy today as he did when we met 10 years ago.”
Look around you. There are actually plenty of people who find and keep a wonderful mate. My husband and I share the kind of love Katrina feels for her spouse. A lot of folks do. Open your mind to it. Your heart will follow, charting a new, happier course.
Adapted by the author from her book Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do.
This was first published in the April 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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