The third ingredient is to come up with a vision of marriage that is attainable and sustainable, and supports everyone involved. You've got to let go of some things, and readjust to others, without blaming your spouse. Aligning expectations with reality can be a challenge, particularly once we've had kids. But if we hang on too tightly to who we were before we had kids, resentment builds and happiness suffers. "I've learned to give up golf, but my wife isn't OK with giving up her stuff," one husband named Barry told us. But guess who's happier in the marriage? Being happy means making peace with your life, and not blaming your spouse for your losses. The harder you try to hold on to who you were before you had kids, the harder it is on the relationship. We talked to a lot of men who were really unhappy right after their first child was born. They felt like they'd lost their wife to the baby, and they blamed either her or the baby for it. Happiness only reappeared once they accepted their new reality.
Finally, the fourth ingredient of a good marriage is forgiveness. Not forgiving each other, for matters either large or small, creates ongoing tension. It's easy to say and hard to do, but forgive your spouse for whatever he's done, if you possibly can. Forgiveness will enable you to let go of negative feelings and live in the present. We all know what it feels like to live with resentment and anger, and those feelings can—and probably will—only worsen if forgiveness is not a regular practice in your marriage.
Published on March 11, 2009