Leo Tolstoy famously writes in Anna Karenina that, "all happy families are alike." But are they? The fact is, no matter how many smiles and hugs and functional interactions families have, no two are exactly the same.
That also applies to marriages. We see examples of happy marriages all around us, but the reasons they work vary as much as the people themselves. One person's joy might be another's misery. We all have different love styles and things that matter to us. To give you an example from my own relationship, gifts aren't important to me, and I don't care if my husband brings me baubles. But I definitely care if he forgets to tell me that I'm beautiful or that he loves me. His words make me happy. Jewelry and other material things don't do as much.
So in our quest to find out some secrets to marital satisfaction, we asked 10 married couples to define a "good marriage." Their answers were poignant, funny, true, and sometimes surprising ...
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1.) "Once when my husband was helping me with something I normally take care of, he said, 'I'm just trying to lighten your load.' That really stuck with me. I think a good marriage means constantly helping to lighten the other person's load." -- Holly Moirs, married 10 years.
2.) "When the going gets tough, it's easy to take it out on each other. But if you have an 'us against the world attitude,' it makes a huge difference." -- Stacey Paxton, married 10 years.
3.) "A good marriage takes work from both of us. It is takes good/honest communication. It involves laughter. It relies on having sex and cuddling as often as possible. It means date nights. It means making each other the number one priority. No matter how much you love your children (and even your parents, friends, and others), your spouse needs to come first. Those children will grow up and move on. If you haven't had a solid marriage for all those years, what will you be left with?" -- Jennifer Beck, married 15 years.
4.) "Showing kindness and love to your partner even when their actions may not warrant it at the time makes a good marriage." -- Julie Nogueiera, married 12 years.
5.) "I think good marriages are based on sweetness. My love keeps a note on his phone to remember how I like my latte. He's constantly surprising me with sweet love. I think strong marriages need that kind of attention and sweetness." -- Tanya Strauss, married seven years.
6.) "A good marriage is one where love, friendship, family, and soul meet and stay together through the joys and the pain. It is amazing, life-changing, perfect, imperfect, exhilarating, and at times infuriating. It’s easy some days, hard on others, effortless, yet requiring the hardest work you’ve ever done. But it really is the most wonderful thing." -- Catherine Donaldson-Evans, married three years.
7.) "The best advice my husband got leading up to our wedding 'Happy wife, happy life.' Works for us …LOL." -- Ericka Souter, married 11 years.
8.) "A good marriage is a ton of hard work and sacrifices by both parties to make it really work. It's not always rainbows and butterflies, but sometimes it can be. Communication is key -- work really hard to always be on the same wave length. Same with sex." -- Lisa Hamel-Smith, married 14 years.
9.) "Staying connected, being aware of your pitfalls so you don't take them out on the other person, and being able to work as a team. Also, being able to make each other laugh is hugely important, I think. Whenever we're in a difficult situation, being able to laugh about it (even if it's really dark humor) helps us feel like we're there for each other." -- Amy Kuras, married 12 years.
10.) "Laughter: hands-down the most important." -- Stephanie Sulzbach, married 10 years.
Ten different women. Ten different marriages. Ten different definitions of what makes them strong. All are good. All are happy. And all offer some pretty smart advice on how to keep them that way.
It's easy to fall into a world of comparison. We all look at others and think they have something we don't have. And we all search for the secret to happiness ... in marriage and in life. But you know what? We're wrong. And the brilliant Mr. Tolstoy was wrong. Here's proof. Though they might share some common threads, no two great marriages are exactly alike. And that's where the beauty lies in each of them.
How do you define a "good marriage"?
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