What makes a happy marriage?

This week marks the 18th year anniversary of my marriage to T. I booked a table for two at the Bascilico and made T bring me there for dinner. During the car ride there, I asked him how marriage had changed him over the years. He thought for a while and said that he’s no longer so up tight and shy and that he’s learnt to chill in social settings and talk about silly things while making conversation.

Hmmm. Wow. That’s quite a lot of insinuations in what he said! So I decided to clarify and asked him pointedly if I was really that loud a person and he readily said yes. Then I asked him if I made so many silly conversations in my interactions with people around me and he agreed with that too. Hrrmph…

So I tried to steer the conversation back to a more serious note and asked him how his view of me had changed since we got married. He thought for a bit and said, “Well, before I got married, I thought that girls never farted.” I GLARED at him. Well….the nerve!!! So I retorted that I, in turn, had never realised that males farted so much until I got married, and that I didn’t understand how males could make their farts noiseless at the work place but at home, could let loose like nobody’s business. And yes, I blamed him for making our sons think that it’s normal and even funny to fart any time and any way they wish to at home. Because of daddy’s behaviour, Little D has no sense of embarrassment and shame regarding his potent and pungent farts.

I tried once more to bring our conversation to a sober, serious mood. “Tell me T,” I asked, “what is the secret to a happy marriage?”

Pause. Silence. T is manoeuvring the car to annoy another driver who had just offended him some few hundred metres before. Sigh.

Let’s try again.

“How do we resolve conflict?” I asked. “I think the key to a good marriage has to do a lot with resolving conflicts. Every couple quarrels and argues. The key is: How can a couple have a happy, amicable argument?” T replied that there was no such thing as a happy quarrel. Nobody ever says, “Well, that was a very pleasant quarrel, I really enjoyed that.” Agreed. So I rephrased the question. “Then how can married couples have quarrels and disagreements and still be relatively happy living with each other? Is there a way we can learn to quarrel and still have a healthy relationship?”

I thought back over some of our most heated disagreements over the years. They were serious disagreements. And you know, they were never resolved. We never did see eye to eye in those matters, and we still don’t see eye in eye in some of these issues that would crop up time and again over the years. But T’s concluding remarks, though seemingly frivolous, had some truth in it, at least for our marriage. His conclusion was that the key is to accept the differences and live with them.

No two people will have the exact opinion with someone else. No one is perfect in character either. We can never change our spouses. We can only change ourselves, and that is tough, because it requires surrender and an entire change of mindset and beliefs (and a couple of breakthrough weekends). It is the insistence of wanting to change the other person and the frustrations and disappointments of not being able to do so that causes many relationships to break down.

During the past 18 years of my marriage, I have surrendered and submitted to decisions that T has made over the many years, several of which I did not agree with and which I felt had caused me quite some degree of pain and suffering. And you know what? I am quite happily married today. The paradoxes of God’s kingdom where you live if you die, where you gain eternal life if you hate your life, where you surrender your life to gain victory, where you bear much fruit but the seed has to die first, and where you can celebrate freedom because you enslave yourself to God…. I have lived these paradoxes in my course of walk with God and I can tell you that God does not disappoint. Although I do not discount the tears and angst in my marriage and in my life, God has granted me many moments of joy and happiness as well.

Happy Anniversary T! As I always joke with him, “if you were any other person, I would have left you for good!”