The Secret to a Happy Marriage

In April, my husband and I celebrate our 2nd year wedding anniversary.

Before the day we signed our marriage contract, we had already been living together for 8 years. In a way, you could say we’ve practically been married for 10 years now.

In spite of the years I had to get to know him better while coming to grips with all that comes with being with him, marriage continues to still be oftentimes, a struggle. That’s putting it mildly.

10 years later since the day we moved in together, we still manage to go to sleep at night angry with each other without resolving whatever latest issue is the hot pick for the day.

10 years later, I still wrestle with the difficult task of deciphering what’s going on in those little gray cells that’s his mind when he’s giving me the silent treatment…sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for days.

10 years later, I still lie awake at night occasionally wondering if choosing him to be my future was the best choice.

We’ve heard the cliche: Love is never enough. Love is rarely the reason why couples just choose to end their relationship once and for all.

I’ve heard it often enough from good friends that my husband and I are their favorite love team of all time.

For those few, they know the depth and magnitude of all we’ve gone through all these years.

I wouldn’t call the circumstances of our relationship as being anywhere remotely close to the definition of a conventional relationship.

Growing up with a highly dysfunctional, unconventional and somewhat disturbing family, it isn’t a stretch to conclude that my husband would grow up to have a lot of excess baggage that may be difficult to shake off.

Match that with a woman who probably has a Messianic complex, a dangerous disposition with the potential for extremely unhealthy self-sacrifice, with the intensity of a type A personality — and maybe all we have is a recipe for disaster.

But we are the choices we make.

The day I made my marriage vows in front of a judge was the day I made that lifelong commitment that come hell or high water, I will be with this man for the rest of my life. I knew what I was getting into. I knew the man I married. I knew what to expect, the disappointments and frustrations I will continue having for the rest of my life. I knew the dreams that I would now never get to fulfill.

I had no regrets. I chose him with eyes wide open. There’s no one the wiser to blame for how life turns out to be. We choose our own destiny.

And so after all these years, I ask the question — what is the secret to a happy marriage?

Someone very wise once said — the secret to a happy marriage is still a secret.

Here I am today blabbing away on my laptop, contemplating the mystery that is my marriage.

A disagreement over the weekend, and here we are 3 days later, with my husband treating me with nothing less than cool civility. He has kinder words and warmer smiles to a cab driver and security guard than to his own wife these days.

We aren’t always like this.

On normal days, he’s sweet, affectionate and thoughtful to a fault. I’ve long since learned to turn a deaf ear to his nagging about the simplest, most mundane things like making sure I always carry my rain jacket with me even if it were hot and sunny outside; or whether I’ve taken my vitamins and fiber supplements; or whether the clothes I wear will make me feel cold in the office. He nags a whole lot more than I do… But I’ve come to realize that it’s all coming from a good place with genuinely loving motives.

On normal days, he always welcomes me home after a long and stressful day at work with arms wide open and tons of affectionate kisses that make the problems of the day fade away for just a little while. On normal days, he stops whatever he’s doing to catch up with me and ask me how my day was – and he really pauses to listen and try to help me sort out the most recent quandary I find myself in. On normal days, he can make me laugh so hard that I collapse at the end of long laughing fits from sheer exhaustion.

Not to say of course that he’s not without his faults.

On normal days, he whines and complains a lot about whatever gets his temper flaring for the day. He takes up all my remaining waking hours and makes me fuss over him – bring him water in bed, fix him up a snack, give him a back massage, stay up til the wee hours of the morning so he can talk to me about his feelings, and a host of other chores and errands that he asks me to do since he likes the feeling of having a wife who for a few hours prioritizes him and our home.

On normal days, he can be ultra-sensitive, moody and just plain unpredictable. Sometimes it requires careful tiptoeing around the prevailing mood for that hour. Sometimes he borders on being overly critical of everything I do and say.

I could go on.

And much like this recent setback of ours wherein going home these days feels like just checking into a boarding house with little to no conversation; no warmth and affection; to hugs before bedtime – I could go on and hate him for what he’s putting me through. Couple that with an extraordinarily tough week at work, I could like an injured spouse, decide to confront him here and now and raise hell.

But then, that would just make things worse. In the off chance that he’s actually starting to soften towards me already and be well on his way towards getting over his recent disappointments – raising hell would just set us back even further.

And so therein lies the idea of compromise. And infinite patience. And space. And love. And understanding.

And maybe therein lies the secret of a happy marriage.

All too often I’ve heard stories of couples who fall apart because mistakes get compounded with even more mistakes. The easy way out.

I could do that.

But I think if this recent cold war has taught me anything, it’s the fact that I want him in my life – moodiness, unpredictability and all. ‘Course life would be so much better without those things but that’s the way it is. If it means having to live with those to be able to live with all the goodness that comes with being with him, then I’ll suck it up for now. This too, shall and must pass.

Marriage. It’s a decision every single day. To stick it out despite anything. To weather the storms no matter how turbulent it gets. And to continue believing that with two good, loving and honest hearts, it will all work out in the end.

Meanwhile, I sit here on my living room couch with a silent prayer in my heart that when I go to bed tonight, I can lean on his solid, reassuring and comforting warmth and go to sleep with a smile in my heart.