Expect Happiness

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal

My friend Matthew is getting married this week and I find myself wishing there was a good way to tell him how thrilled I am for his happiness. So I will do what I always do when I feel the need to emote—I’ll write.

Maybe my excitement is because I believe in marriage. I am a divorced woman whom, with her whole heart, believes in the formal union between a man and a woman.

I don’t like to say that my marriage failed. It ended. And it only ended after many years of trying to stop it from ending. Both of us worked hard at keeping it together. Our marriage produced five children and some extraordinary memories.

My former husband and I have since created a situation in which our children and grandchildren know they are loved and cared for by both of us. We are still a family. We just look different than we used to, that’s all. I don’t call that a failure.

I was married long enough to know that I would like to do it again someday. Here’s why:

Because when a couple unites in this particular way, they learn things that can’t be learned in any other way—specific things about themselves, things about each other, and things about life in general.

Because I experienced enough joy to know that when a committed relationship is humming on all cylinders, it’s quite a beautiful thing.

Contrary to what popular society tells us about marriage, I’ve seen some great ones.

My best friend and her husband have been married over 40 years. In many ways they are the poster children for “How to Make a Marriage Last Forever.” They have not had smooth sailing. They’ve both endured major illnesses, all of their five children have suffered considerable setbacks, they are not living in cushy retirement—and probably never will, plus, their personal relationship has ebbed and flowed through crazy good and stunning bad. But simply watching them together tells their story better than they can put it into words. They really like each other.

They are part of the reason I know that happy, thriving marriages are alive and well in the world.

I contend that marriage should be joyous. However, let me explain something. I was married for 26 years and raised five children. I know that for most of us, life is not lived in a state of perpetual bliss. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed and work to do.

But I think we sell marriage short. We blame all kinds of things on our failing relationships, when in fact, if we expect it, our unions can be sources of unimaginable joy.

But as it turns out, we don’t expect it, do we?

Robert Holden, author of “Happiness Now!” writes about the bits of wisdom people shared with him and his new wife on their wedding day.

“Enjoy today—it doesn’t get better than this.”
“Make the most of this—this is as good as it gets.”
“It takes more than love, you know.”
“Enjoy love while you are young” (I take personal offense at that one).
“Love is hard.”
“Love is never easy.”
“The first year is the hardest. Survive that and you’ll be okay.”
“You’ve done it—you’re trapped now.”
“Don’t let love stop you having fun.”

In defense of his guests, Holden says he and his wife also received “other wonderful thoughts of love and of hope for love.”

I should hope so.

Holden maintains that we are all creatures of love and light and that in our natural state, we want to give and receive love. But we don’t readily allow ourselves to experience life in that manner. According to Holden, ego gets in the way and keeps us from enjoying the happiness available to us.

I agree with him.

It’s easy to fall into a cynical mind set about marriage. The hard work involved and continual compromise everybody talks about makes marriage sound about as fun as a series of rabies shots.

But I believe, along with a few other folks, that it can be amusing and joyful. Not every second of every day forever and ever—but often enough to make it pretty amazing.

Because when you genuinely enjoy the person you’re with and willing to take this ride with them, it doesn’t matter how the stars are aligned.

Expecting love alone to conquer all is too much to ask, but two people making the choice to love, every single day, is not.

I’m not an expert concerning any of this, but I know what I know.

Have a wonderful wedding and a happy marriage, Matthew.

Expect it.

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