There were a few hundred couples in attendance at a recent marriage retreat, and I gave what I thought to be a transformative talk during a session with the wives. As I concluded and opened the floor for questions, I expected the women to ask me to dive deeper into some of the concepts I'd shared on the power of teaming up with your spouse to create the life of your dreams. Instead, a woman came to the microphone with tears running down her face and clarified that she really loved her husband and he really loved her — but she wasn't sure she would describe herself as happy.
She did her best to compose herself, wiping the tears on her cheeks, and she eventually asked her question: What do you consider to be a happy marriage?
The audience clapped their hands, nodded their heads and burst into "uh-huhs" all around the room.
I walked over to the woman at the mic, gave her a hug, looked her in the eyes and gave a simple response: "A happy marriage is whatever you and your spouse — and you and your spouse alone — consider a happy marriage to be."
Comparison squelches happiness
When wives consider their own happiness, one of their greatest mistakes is to make comparisons to others around them. The apostle Paul warned against this tendency when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:12, "When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding."
Let's quit comparing ourselves with others and agree that a happy wife is a woman who recognizes that a happy marriage is defined by what she and her husband consider a happy marriage to be.
So what makes you happy? What brings a smile to your face and laughter to your heart? Do your husband and your marriage come to mind when I ask you those two questions? If they do, then you, my friend, already know the secrets to being a happy wife.
Marriages worth emulating
Four years ago, I traveled to 12 countries on six continents to interview couples happily married for 25 years or more. I reached out to friends I personally trusted and told them I was on a quest to discover the secrets of a happy marriage. I asked each of them to point me to the couples in their community who have shown an enormous amount of love for each other throughout the years. I wanted the couples to which everyone in their family would point and say they wanted to emulate their marriage.
In North America to South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia, I sat down with couples who were so in love they radiated. When they looked into each other's eyes, after a quarter century together, it was as if it were the first day they fell in love. I recorded every response during each of my interviews. When I returned home, I transcribed each recorded interview onto notepads, highlighting the common words and ideas among the various couples. I quickly discovered that no matter the longitude or latitude of their place of birth, regardless of having come from a loving home or a broken home, whether they were wealthy or poor, the secrets to a happy marriage and the secrets to being a happy wife were the same around the world.
What happiness looks like
After evaluating my international research, I discovered 12 common denominators among each couple, and I've included all of them in my book Happy Wives Club. Chief among the common denominators of a happy marriage was a commitment to creating with one another the life you dream about. I came to understand the importance of teaming up instead of turning against each other in hard times, and the importance of giving your spouse the same love and respect you most desire to receive. But most importantly, I discovered that you can truly live a happy life when you determine what happiness looks and feels like to you and your spouse, and then spend each waking moment creating that life together.
I'm convinced that the greatest marriages are built on teamwork, mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration, and never-ending portions of love and grace. A happy marriage doesn't mean you have a perfect spouse or a perfect marriage. It simply means you've chosen to look beyond the imperfections in both and that you choose, each and every day, to create a life of happiness with your spouse. The difference between an ordinary marriage and an extraordinary marriage is in giving just a little extra every day — for as long as you both shall live.Fawn Weaver is the USA Today and New York Times best-selling author of Happy Wives Club: One woman's worldwide search for the secrets of a great marriage.
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