How To Stay Happily Married

by Dr. Cathy Tsang-Feign

Happily Married Ever After

Give Freely of Your Time, Thoughts, and Feelings

There are a lot of myths about marriage. For example: “After several years, marriage is bound to become less exciting; routine and dull.” Yes; if you want to settle for a merely mediocre marriage, then that is what you'll get.

Marriage is like a living plant which constantly needs water, fertilizer and, most of all, care. The longer you are married, the more work you have to put in to keep the marriage flourishing.<

Following are several questions a therapist routinely asks to evaluate the state of a marriage. These will give you some guidelines in evaluating your own state of marital or relationship satisfaction.

HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND WITH YOUR SPOUSE?

“Plenty,” say many couples. However, when we get down to it, time that couples spend together exclusively for intimacy and expression of feelings towards each other is very limited. Such time can be viewed in a hierarchy. Is the time you spend with your spouse:

a) high-quality time: attentive and intimate, either verbally or non-verbally communicating with each other without outside distractions?

b) medium-quality time: more business-like, voicing each other's views about children, in-laws, other family issues or work?

c) low-quality time: together within the same premises, but either one or both is occupied by chores, television, children or newspaper?

Special effort is required to create more “quality time” together when living in a distracting foreign environment.

WHAT KIND OF PRIORITY DO YOU GIVE YOUR PARTNER AS FAR AS TIME IS CONCERNED?

a) Do you make time to be with your spouse no matter how busy you may be?

b) Do you spend time with your spouse only when he or she asks?

c) Are you sharing your left-over time with your spouse, only when you have absolutely no other things to do?

For many couples, priority is often given to children. For others, career and job come first. The only time they spend alone together is when they are in bed, half-asleep. The couple ends up with only left-over time for each other.

DO YOU ENJOY TALKING WITH YOUR SPOUSE AND SHARING YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS?

Many people will answer: “Of course I enjoy talking to my spouse” ... but ...

“I'm too busy...”

“Our children take up too much of my time...” or ...

“We don't have much to talk about anymore.”

Enjoying talking and sharing your thoughts with your partner is the basic premise of a satisfying marriage. Couples need to identify what may be the possible causes that limit their talking and sharing. Does the busy lifestyle take away time that a couple share? Or does basic incompatibility make them create excuses to avoid communicating with each other?

HOW INTIMATE AND MEANINGFUL IS YOUR COMMUNICATION?

Couples often occupy the same house and bed but feel like strangers. They want to share and be intimate, but find themselves growing apart. They communicate ideas and facts but rarely share their personal feelings about each other. However, when open communication is established, couples will be free to share feelings and thoughts. Through this they increase mutual understanding which will enhance intimacy and the growth of their marriage.

DO YOU AND YOUR PARTNER AVOID INTIMACY?

Often couples work as a team to avoid intimacy without realizing it. For example, one partner may continuously keep him or herself busy at home or at work, while the spouse is absorbed by television, computer or hobbies. Superficially, both look quite content and peaceful without being bothered by each other. At the same time, the chance for closeness is being sabotaged.

HOW DO YOU AND YOUR PARTNER CREATE INTIMACY?

Open communication is the way maintain intimacy in a marriage. This means a willingness to share your honest feelings and thoughts as well as to listen to your partner. It means seeking ways to resolve conflicts rather than ignoring them. It means respecting each other's differences. It is a willingness to apologize or forgive and not dwell on past grievances.

Love and romance are important in a marriage, but they are not the only ingredients. To keep a marriage - and romance - alive, both partners need to have open communication and quality time together.

A happy marriage is not a matter of chance. You can make the choice for marital happiness, if both you and your spouse are willing to put in the work. In this way, you will enjoy a good marriage rather than become victims of a bad marriage.

Dr. Cathy Tsang Feign, Hong Kong Psychologist

About The Author

Dr. Cathy Tsang-Feign is a Hong Kong-based psychologist and author of the book Keep Your Life, Family and Career Intact While Living Abroad. She is the former columnist for the South China Morning Post and American in Britain on topics of psychology and adjustment for expatriates and their families.

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