The Secret of a Happy Marriage
Fawn Weaver's book hit the bookshelves yesterday, and it is a great read. She traveled the globe looking for happily married women and asking them how that happened. Then she turned it into a very readable travelogue about a world filled with love.
Fawn, in case you don't know, is the founder of the Happy Wives Club, her personal contribution to dispelling the bleak picture of marriage currently on TV and in the media. This online club now has half a million members in 110 countries, and it is growing daily.
Happy Wives Club: One Woman's Worldwide Search for the Secrets of a Great Marriage tells of Fawn's trek across six continents and through eighteen cities to visit some of these members and share with us what they have learned about marriage.
Since Fawn did not visit me for this book, I want to add what I strongly believe is the secret of a happy marriage. It's not who you marry: it's your skills. How do I know? Because I married a really great guy and really blew it, thinking he was the problem. When he suddenly dropped dead, I got a crash course in who was causing my "marriage" problems, and she was still right there in the mirror.
So the three techniques I teach are not about how to please your husband or how to change him. They are about how to handle your disappointments and frustrations, so you can free yourself to see all that is good about him.
First, when you are upset by something he does or says, Assume Love. As soon as you get upset, your brain will assume you are in danger, and you need to counteract this. So ask yourself this question: "How might I explain what just happened if I had absolutely no doubt that my husband loves me fiercely and is a good man?"
Come up with a few explanations. One of them is likely to fit. It is also likely to jog your memory, so that you recall his plans and childhood experiences and important dates and have that great aha moment of understanding him and falling even deeper in love with him. (And if you can come up with none, even after asking others for help, please proceed with your fear or anger and take action. A small number of husbands truly are dangerous. The rest are generally still trying to love us.)
Second, when it feels like something is missing or you are wanting him to do something he keeps putting off doing, Expect Love. By which I mean, stop expecting those proxies for love that you got from watching your grandparents or some TV sitcom and start paying more attention to how your husband actually shows his love. When those get some appreciation, they tend to multiply.
When you stand there, arms crossed, tapping your toe, waiting for him to shovel snow or take a dance class with you or buy you flowers, you create a boatload of marriage-corroding resentment. You have a right to expect love from your spouse, but the moment you believe "if you loved me, you would _____," you chase it away.
You will still have all your needs and wants whether he stays or goes, lives or dies. If you learn to take care of most of them for yourself, you'll have a really great time while he's in your life.
Find Third Alternatives
You two are going to disagree. It's a given. How you deal with this changes everything. You can Find Third Alternatives you both like for almost all disagreements. Getting locked into either-or thinking about the first couple of options you two thought of may hone your debating skills, but it won't do anything good for your marriage.
Your spouse is on your side. Keep him there by letting go of your first option if it conflicts with what he wants. But don't compromise. Instead, find the Third Alternative both of you like at least as much as your firsts.
What do you like about yours? (Not why is it better, but what attracts you to it?) What does he likes about his? And what does each of you hope to avoid by rejecting each other's preference?
When we were building our house, I really wanted our laundry room separate from our family room, to avoid the smell of detergent and machinery noises. Did I reveal this? No. Instead, I argued for the window it would have where I wanted it. He argued for having it where we were required to put a sump hole and pump, "just in case."
To find a Third Alternative, we both needed to come clean about what really mattered. He did not care if it was off the family room. He cared that we not need to walk through "a creepy unfinished basement, like at your parents' house" to get there. If he could have that, the window would be a nice bonus, as it was for me. We moved the family room wall on the blueprints to add a brightly painted hallway with an oak floor and some artwork leading to a laundry room with a window, and we were both very happy with the house and each other.
Should you learn about Love Languages, Love and Respect, making and receiving bids, the Four Horseman, Active-Constructive Responding, Active Listening, the Dance of Anger, and Love 2.0, too? You bet. Each of them will help you think of loving explanations when you Assume Love, recognize the love you rightfully expect to come with marriage, and keep your cool when it's time to look for a Third Alternative.
Here's the trailer from the book, where you will read lots of other opinions on what makes a marriage happy as part of Fawn's highly engaging tale: