Happier at Home: Marriage

Recall that last month I started reading “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin, the sequel to her bestseller, “The Happiness Project.” Here’s where you can read my initial thoughts on the book and the overall concept.

October was focused on marriage. Gretchen’s mini resolutions to help intentionally bring some extra happiness to her marriage were to kiss in the morning and at night, give gold stars, make the positive argument and take driving lessons. Kind of an odd assortment, and I can’t really remember what the driving lessons had to do with marriage, but instead of rehashing the chapter let’s just skip to my thoughts.

Marriage is hard.

It’s also wonderful, beautiful, fun and absolutely worthwhile. But it’s not easy.

To be honest, I read this chapter quickly at the beginning of the month, and then promptly forgot about it until the end. I wish I hadn’t. I actually think October started off as a particularly challenging month for our marriage, not for any specific reasons, but just because. It probably would have been made easier had I put into action some of the things Gretchen did during her October. But instead, I took the easier-in-the-short-term route and didn’t hold back any of my complaints, criticisms or sarcasm from Peter whenever the mood struck. That never brings happiness.

Kiss in the morning, kiss at night

Gretchen suggests that routines and rituals are important to adults as well as children, and kissing can be a simple, yet effective, ritual to add intimacy and joy to your day. Since day one (or night one) of our marriage, I’ve made sure that I get a goodnight kiss from Peter. Even if we’re both half asleep, I still lean over for a peck. It’s one daily ritual we never, ever skip – a small gesture, but it ensures we end our days on a good note. Any ritual that involves affection is bound to bring an extra bit of happiness into your life.

Give gold stars

In short, giving gold stars can be anything you do to serve your spouse – texting a cute picture of the kids while he’s at work, being accommodating, focusing your attention on him when he’s speaking, thanking him, etc. This can, at times, go against everything I’m naturally inclined to do. It can be painful. But it’s right and good, and because it doesn’t always come naturally, I know I need to work on it. To have a loving, happy relationship, you need to take the first steps to be loving. Even harder than giving gold stars is holding back “black marks,” as Gretchen calls them. Sarcastic comments. Eye rolling. So difficult to refrain from at times! I don’t think I did my best at being intentional about giving gold stars or holding back black marks this month, and that’s probably why the beginning of the month wasn’t the greatest our relationship has ever been.

Make the positive argument

Toward the end of the month, I think I subconsciously started to put “make the positive argument” into effect. The idea is that you can find evidence to support both sides of opposing claims, depending on which you choose to embrace. Whenever Gretchen heard a voice in her head making a negative claim about her husband, she would reverse it and look for evidence of the opposite (“Jamie isn’t very thoughtful” became “Jamie is very thoughtful,” and – surprise – she was able to come up with thoughtful behavior to support it instead of dwelling on the negative). When I intentionally think about the things I love about Peter instead of dwelling on the things that bug me about him, it makes me happy. It also makes it easier to be kind and cheerful when we’re together. Pretty simple, but it’s amazing how I can fall in love all over again just by dwelling on the positive.

Take driving lessons

Gretchen got over her intense fear of driving in this chapter, and somehow it related to marriage. Doesn’t entirely connect with me, but I did willingly drive almost the entire way back from St. Louis in mid-October, while using every ounce of strength to stay awake at the wheel. That probably fits more in the gold star category though.

As I grow older, I’ve become more and more aware of my innate inability to be a “good” person. This is good in the sense that I realize just how much grace I need. But sometimes it causes me to want to just give up. Looking back on this chapter reminded me that although I will never be perfect, my efforts are not futile. Putting forth work can still reap benefits and work is necessary to have a happy marriage.

November’s theme is parenthood. Should be interesting to see how much applies to parenting a baby!

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