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Marriage, the Journey

So much of what we do in life has a goal. We convince ourselves we will be happy when we reach the goal. We work hard to get there for as long we believe the goal lies within our reach. When we no longer believe it does, some of us double down and look for a better route to the goal. The rest of us move on to a different goal.

We pursue happiness.

When we marry, we set the goal of loving each other until one of us dies. Although moments may come and go when we believe we will indeed be happy to become a widow or widower, if we stick to the other part of the goal, loving each other until then, we do not expect to be happy when it happens.

In marriage, we hope happiness will pursue us.

We hope that if we love a spouse, he or she will make us happy. If not, many of us move on to another spouse or another source of happiness. The rest are not blessed with better spouses, but recognize that it was always loving, not being loved, that brought us happiness.

Positive psychology keeps discovering that what makes us happy is the stuff of loving: being part of something bigger than ourselves, feeling more gratitude, getting more opportunities to use our character strengths (because our partner has different ones), nurturing an intimate relationship, becoming more optimistic (because we see more clearly through another's eyes that our first explanation of upsetting events is not the only one), and finding so many opportunities for altruism.

We create our own happiness. Having someone to love makes it easier.

Once we figure this out, we hope for a long, intense journey on the way to our goal. Our differences add to the intensity. Our challenges make the journey more interesting. Our periods of day after day sameness signal success at extending the journey. Our new relationship skills promise to help us not to avoid divorce but to embrace and savor a wonderful trip.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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