I dated my husband all of three months before getting engaged. At the time I thought we were being terribly romantic.
Now I realize that we were actually acting insane. What we did was dangerous crazy sauce. It is super easy to hide the crazy for a few short romantic months … as the ladies at my domestic violence shelter will attest.
But I got lucky. The boy I met was who he said he was … and so was I (sort of). I don't even think I would recognize myself if I bumped into me as a 19 year old. I'm not such a gullible naive little darling anymore. Thank heavens.
Yeah, we got lucky. But we also worked really really hard to make our relationship work. Through my own experience and the experience of friends and clients, I've learned that happy couples share a lot of the same traits.
Here's a few:
Happy couples respect each other.
When you're young and in love you assume you'll agree on everything. You won't. You'll disagree whole-heartedly about some pretty big stuff sometimes. Happy couples respect each other even when they are mad. This entails NOT saying hurtful things in the heat of the moment.
Happy couples forgive each other.
Expecting your partner to be perfect is unreasonable. Everyone makes mistakes but not everyone has learned how to forgive. I submit that the world's happiest couples are masters at forgiving each other's shortcomings. It takes gobs and gobs of maturity. A dear friend of mine went as far as to forgive her husband for cheating on her. The two started couples counseling and are working through it. This kind of big forgiveness is not for everyone.
Happy couples are committed to each other
When I was a bright-eyed, romance-gushing newlywed my stepdad told me that sometimes marriage is not about love, but about commitment. At the time I thought he was being a lame skeptic. He didn't understand us … We were freaking soul-mates. Since becoming an adult and having two children with my husband I see he was totally right. Being committed to someone means wearing your wedding ring on a night out and not flirting with anyone. Period.
Happy couples have sex
It's true. Happy couples don't use sex as a weapon or means of manipulating the other, they simply enjoy each other's company. Often.
If you or your spouse is struggling with a pornography addiction, may I suggest counseling. The effects of pornography are anything but positive. It re-wires your brain to objectify people rather than connect with them. It makes perfectly happy people think they are missing something they're not. I have yet to meet a woman who walked through the doors of the shelter where I work who did not mention pornography being an issue for their abusive partner.
Happy couples talk
They share their lives with each other. They share concerns, fears, joys, and express their love for each other. Every couple has a different way of making things work (or not work). I know some feel really uncomfortable expressing feelings verbally and choose to show their love in other ways. That is great as long as the other partner speaks that same language or at the very least studies it. One odd way I've noticed I express my affection is through cookies. If he comes home to a batch of cookies, my husband has learned that that's one big weird way of me saying, "I love you."
Happy couples don't cheat
They understand human nature and take necessary measures to protect themselves from affairs. There seems to be so much glamour and excitement around the word "affair." But I can assure you they are anything but glamourous. They break things. Things that should have stayed intact. There are lots of simple ways to avoid having an affair.
Marriage is a partnership, a union. It is not a dictatorship. Both parties should have equal say in the direction of their lives. I am grateful for a husband who respects me enough to ask. We are A team. We don't make plans without the other because we put each other first.
Happy couples are happy
They understand that life is a roller coaster and they are glad about who they chose to sit next to and scream with.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Candy House Blog. It has been republished here with permission.