Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18
When people say, "I do," they have two expectations for their marriage: that it will be happy and permanent. One marriage counselor, Norman Wright, even says it is a condition many make for their marriage. (One Marriage Under God, 134).
From our experience we know that not all marriages end up happy and lasting. We also know that not all marriages that last a long time are necessarily happy much of the time. Even in a long term, permanent marriage, couples can experience sadness.
But here is another truth I’ve seen work out: deep, abiding happiness often does not come in the early stages of marriage. A deep happiness that permeates the whole relationship may not come for many years. There are reasons for why happiness is delayed in many marriages.
One reason is that happiness is a changing quality. As we age and mature our needs change, so what we think we need for happiness changes as well. In our early years we might think that business success, a right education and living in a certain place are what we need for happiness. Later we learn that healthy relationships are what matter, no matter where we live or how much money we make.
Another reason for delayed happiness is that the individuals within the marriage need time to mature. Many enter marriage thinking their needs will be met. The irony is that the other person is thinking the same thing. So two people come together expecting the other one to meet their needs, and not thinking seriously enough about how they are going to meet the other person’s needs. They are on a single lane highway driving toward each other in high gear. Only after numerous clashes and crashes may they begin to see the perspective of the other person. It takes time for maturity to grow. Until it does, happiness will remain on the back burner.
A third reason for delayed happiness in marriage is that happiness is not a goal; happiness is a by-product. We don’t work for happiness. Working for happiness is like trying to grasp steam or vapor. You see it, you grab it, and its gone. Happiness is a state of mind we experience after we have done the hard work of being honest, faithful, loving and serving. Happiness is a by-product of sticking in that relationship and working hard to make it work, no matter what the obstacles.
Sadly, true happiness in marriage eludes many people because they don’t stick with each other long enough to find out it was within reach all the time! A little less self-centeredness, a little less criticism, a little more thinking about the needs of the spouse, and happiness will start making itself felt in the relationship.
No matter how much you may be struggling in your marital relationship right now it is important to remember that happiness is always close at hand. But you can’t grab it. Happiness is not a static quality we can possess and control. Rather, happiness is a quality that comes to us as we deny ourselves and extend ourselves to others. Happiness is the contentment, the peace of mind and the closeness we share with our mate when we have walked the path together.
Happiness and contentment are the reward to those who have stuck to their vows and have persevered over 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. It is the culmination of years of merging two lives into one. Can you see why it is so important to stay true to your vows and faithful to your spouse?
Good things come to those who work selflessly for an objective larger than themselves. Happiness in marriage is one of those good things.