Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Happily Married

Today we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. To mark this occasion, I want to share some thoughts on what makes a happy marriage, along with some of our wedding photos.

To have a happy marriage, you have to choose the right person. I strongly believe in choosing someone similar to you, and dislike the phrase "opposites attract", at least when it comes to stable relationships. Partners should share the same values and should agree on important matters like religion and politics, whether to have children and how to raise them, and what lifestyle they want to share.

In order to find a suitable partner, you have to understand yourself and learn what is important to you. You also have to learn how to be authentic and communicate your true self when entering an intimate relationship. The early days of falling in love involve taking some risks. At first, you may not be sure that your love is reciprocated, and you may fear rejection. Ideally, both partners share their feelings for each other early in the growing relationship and learn how to talk openly and honestly.

Marriage is the most intimate form of friendship. Friends understand each other and want what's best for each other, and married friends have a vested interest in each other's happiness and well-being. You want to do what's best for your partner, and to be the best person you can, both for yourself and because it benefits your partner. You want to support your partner's development and help them be the best person they can. There's some sort of mutually beneficial altruism in being part of a committed couple.

As one of the few people whose first relationship turned into a happy marriage, I am unable to compare relationships that eventually end with those that last, at least from my personal experience. One of the important things is to form a sense of "us" early on, and to make that the centre of your life. People around you may not see your partner the way you do, or may not understand the strength of your relationship. Once you have decided to make the commitment to spend your lives together, your priorities are decided.

People sometimes ask "why get married?". I think that making a public commitment to each other, a declaration of intentions, can strengthen a relationship. The fact that most societies have a system of formalizing relationships indicates that this is a human need. There are also legal advantages to being a married couple, which is why I think all countries should have full equality for adults to marry their partner of choice, and a range of options, including both civil marriages (like ours) and various religious ceremonies.

I see marriage as a commitment of two individuals to share their lives and form a household or family. Within this formal arrangement, each couple has a relationship based on the partners' personalities and behaviours. A good marriage allows each partner to grow and develop, knowing that their spouse gives them support and trust. My visual image for a marriage is of two trees planted next to each other. Over the years, the roots and the branches become intertwined, holding and supporting each other, but the trees are still separate individuals and can develop in their own way.

Successful marriages are those where the partners respect, trust, and even admire each other, along with the expected love, affection, warmth, and compassion. There should be no power struggles within a marriage, and both partners should know that what benefits one of them benefits both, rather than coming at the expense of the other partner.

Ultimately, happily married couples grow old together, sharing the memories and accumulated wisdom of their long, shared experience. Knowing that someone knows you so completely and has chosen to share a lifetime with you must be one of the most satisfying feelings possible.