A common space for harmonic peacemakers
What is a happy marriage?
by Akli Hadid
A happy marriage is a marriage with an interior ministry and a foreign affairs ministry. I just made that up.
If you go on a date and meet a potential mate, you probably want to figure out how often the person is using the pronoun “you.” When I was in my twenties, the main mistake I did was to look at how ambitious the potential mates were by listening to them talk about themselves. “I want to get a good job, I want to be famous for this, I want to travel here and there, I get excited by this and that.” When choosing a mate, my criteria was to figure out how ambitious the mate was and what her likes and dislikes were, before I realized that they weren’t trying to find out anything of what I wanted or what I did.
A happy marriage is one where “I” is just as important as “you.” “I did this. What did you do?” type of conversations work better than in marriages where partners tend to argue about who gets more time to talk about themselves.
In the end, tastes about food, travel or career ambitions tend to have little relevance in marriages. What is relevant is discussions about what goes on in the household (the interior ministry) and how to relate to the outside world (the ministry of foreign affairs). A lot of conflicts stem from what the partner is or isn’t allowed to do outside the household, or how the partner is supposed to behave inside the household.
The more you and your partner know each other, the better the relationship can work out. That is because there will be times when you will have to read between the lines. Discussing your past, present and future is really the baseline in your couple, the rest is details.
If your partner isn’t always being honest about his or her past or does not want to talk about the past, that could be a warning sign. That’s because some things in the past resurface. If your partner finds out that his or her ex got married that usually means a big deal to them. If they meet someone traumatic from the past it means a big deal for them. Their past relationship with their family and friends can resurface in the future. Someone they wanted out of their life might resurface or show up. Debts that they had may resurface. That’s why an honest conversation about the past is one of the best things you could do with your partner. If you’re getting conflicting stories about the past or if your partners are refusing the answer questions about the past, a boomerang from the past could rock, or perhaps even destroy your marriage.
Another important conversation topic is what goes on in the present. If your partner is not disclosing important news about day to day activities, that could be a warning sign. “How was your day” is not merely a greeting, it’s an important question that warrants detailed answers, because something from outside could hurt the relationship if put under the carpet.
Ongoing honest conversations about the future are another important conversation topic. Where your partner is headed in their career, what your partner wants to be headed, what they want to accomplish. They will need your support, and you will need theirs when it comes to future plans. Consensus is important, because sometimes plans for the future end up not going as expected, and can sometimes end in disaster. If your partner is constantly changing their mind about the future or seems not to include you in their future, you have reason to worry.
Another important warning sign is if your partner or spouse doesn’t seem to care or be interested in a topic that you think is of great relevance or importance to you. How your favorite sports team does may not be of interest to her, but if things are not going as planned at work or there are bills the partners does not seem to care about, that could be a warning sign.
So if you go on a first date, try to find out about each other’s past, present and future. If that conversation is not happening but you still go on a second date, it probably means that your partner sees you more as a trophy than as a partner, i.e. you either make them look good in front of their friends or they need someone to marry for their career advancement or paperwork.
Then there are those who like to act like they’re hard to get. You might have the perfect conversation with them on the first few dates before they vanish or make it difficult to repeat such conversations. That’s a huge warning sign, because it usually means everything else will be hard to get with those people.