Married Man’s Guide to Happiness
3 Keys to a Happy Marriage
Imagine a wrinkly old man with a big, happy grin sitting on his front porch, smiling while the world keeps changing. What is the secret for these lucky old fellas who seem to have figured out the recipe for happiness?
The longest running study of adult life ever conducted shows that relationships, especially happy marriages, are the key.
The Harvard Study, which began in 1937, tracks the lives of men from both poorer, inner-city families and graduates from Harvard University. Among the men in this group is former president John F. Kennedy.
The basic finding of the study: the healthiest and happiest men are the ones that are able to keep “warm relationships.”
To quote the study’s principal investigator, George Vaillant, ”Happiness is love. Full stop.” And by the evidence, love is also a longer life, and a better income.
In fact, men with weaker social relationships had a greater risk of death than people who were physically inactive or obese. It turns out the men who kept warm relationships also earned more per year.
This research, which has now gone on to study the children of these men, shows us that just coping with, or tolerating, a marriage is a recipe for disaster.
The idea of tolerating a marriage gets worse. New research by the American Sociological Association which shows that 70% of divorces are initiated by the women. While many men seem to tolerate an unhappy marriage, women are the ones who leave.
So if you want to hold on to the woman you love, be healthy, and become a happy old man, having a warm marriage is the best way to get there.
The following 3 Keys to a Happy Marriage are indispensable elements necessary for being a healthy and happy husband. Hopefully, an old wrinkly one sitting on his porch watching the world change.
3 Keys to a Happy Marriage
While our modern world tends to emphasize logic and reason, it turns out that emotions influence us to a much larger degree than most people are aware.
Are you pretending everything is fine?
Our bodies unconsciously express the emotions we are trying to hide. This is dangerous because these unconscious expressions can influence our wives even more than our words and facial expressions.
A study at Princeton University manipulated photographs so that faces showing pleasure were put on bodies showing pain.
Faces showing joy were put on bodies showing grief.
Faces showing victory were put on bodies showing defeat.
When asked what they saw, people reported the emotions of the body language more than the emotions of the facial expressions.
A man who is feeling slightly annoyed tries to portray contentment with a fake smile and a light tone. Meanwhile his wife is sensing something else and this mismatch erodes trust, intimacy, and connection.
Being honest about our emotions also requires being aware of our emotions.
Men who are happily married are men who have learned to identify how they feel and can express their emotions in healthy ways.
Emotional Intelligence is key to being a happily married man.
2. Appreciation is Necessary
Telling your wife that you love her and are grateful for who she is and all the things she does is not just a good idea, it is necessary for a happy marriage.
Decades of research by the Gottman Institute has shown that criticism is a killer of marriages. Alternatively, marriages that have more appreciation than criticism are the ones that succeed.
Unfortunately the negative interactions do more damage than the positive interactions do good. Which means we’ve got to give a lot more positivity to keep things balanced. The magic ratio the Gottman Institute discovered was 5:1 positive to negative interactions.
Positive interactions can include things like kindness, interest, affection, empathy, and appreciation.
Negative interactions include criticism, hostility, and contempt.
Marriages that thrive have 5 times more positive interactions, like appreciation, than negative interactions.
So making appreciation a regular habit is a great way to build the balance that will lead to long term love.
Here’s a great tip for appreciating:
Name a value that you admire: honesty, generosity, humor.
Next, remember something your wife did that shows this value.
Now, appreciate your wife by telling her what she did and the value it fulfilled. Voila!
“I love the face you made when the exterminator gave you the bill. I really appreciate your sense of humor.”
3. Choosing Commitment
Commitment is another necessary part of a successful marriage, but most people put their commitment in the wrong place.
Most people commit to outcomes. We do not, in fact, have control over outcomes.
People get married and say, “…til death do us part.” But many later find it impossible to keep this commitment.
Half of marriages end in divorce. Since 70% of those divorces are initiated by women, a lot of those men didn’t want to get divorced, but they had no choice.
So a commitment to an outcome is not something we have control over.
The key to commitment is to commit to a way of being rather than an outcome. A way of being is about who we are, the choices me make, our behavior and our actions. We do have control over who we are being.
We can commit to being honest. We can commit to doing our best. We can commit to listening, to curiosity, to kindness. These are the kinds of commitments that create a happy marriage.
And we don’t have to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Commitment doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes.
When we have clear commitments it is clear when we make mistakes. Acknowledging our mistakes and recommitting to our way of being is far more effective at building trust and connection than guilt, avoidance, or denial.
If we want to make our marriages work so that we can become like the happy, old men in the 75 year Harvard study, then committing to learning how to create warm, loving, emotionally honest relationships is critical to our success.
Michael Sheely is a relationship coach for married men. For more information or support about creating a happy marriage please visit: www.empathy.coach