The institution of marriage has continued to attract increased interest from sociologists, psychologists, and other stakeholders owing to its influence on people’s life and wellbeing (Stutzer & Fray, 2005). Available statistics demonstrate that between 85% and 90% of individuals in the United States of America will ultimately marry, and that approximately 2.2 million marriages are conducted in the country each year (Karasu, 2007). However, a substantial proportion of these marriages fail, hence the need to look into how couples can maintain a happy and mutually fulfilling marriage.
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Happy Marriage: Definition and Qualities
Although there is no universally agreed definition of a happy marriage, available literature demonstrates that marriage itself denotes a dyadic structure whereby “people engage in a long-term relationship with a strong commitment to a mutually rewarding exchange” (Stutzer & Fray, 2005, p. 3). Following this description, a happy marriage is defined here as a long-term relationship between two people which is predicated upon a strong commitment to harmonious living and guided by mutually rewarding attributes of trust, respect, communication, love, and understanding (Fatima & Ajmal, 2012). Of course there are many other attributes to consider in defining a happy marriage; however, the mentioned are of immense importance in enhancing the mutual fulfillment which dominates a happy marriage institution.
In contemporary times, it is evident that several qualities need to be present for marriage to be considered successful. As indicated in the literature, some of the qualities include love, sincerity, respect, age difference, communication, satisfaction, trust, understanding, family structure, spouse temperament, and positive in-laws relations (Fatima & Ajmal, 2012). Other important qualities, according to these authors, include strength through children, compromise, education and status, similarities of religious sect, forgiveness, care, and sharing. It is impossible for the marriage institution to be successful if partners to the marriage are unable to communicate effectively, trust each other, or respect their decisions. Indeed, it is evident that many marriages in the United States fail as partners are incapable of not only maintaining effective communication when solving problems, but also respecting their marriage due to unfaithfulness (Karasu, 2007).
To be successful in marriage, couples also need to spend time before entering into the relationship to ensure that minimal discrepancies exist in terms of mutual interests, expectations, and life-long goals (Fatima & Ajmal, 2012; Stutzer & Fray, 2005). Couples with similar interests in life are likely to develop stable and successful marriages than couples with dissimilar interests. For example, couples with similar child bearing or career development plans are more likely to understand each other and solve their problems without expending much effort than couples with dissimilar plans. Similarly, couples with similar religious orientations are likely to use their beliefs as a source of strength in solving their issues and maintaining the marriage institution in the correct pathway. Consequently, the courting process is instrumental in deciding the stability and success of marriage relationships, as it is only through courting that couples get to learn about each other.
Why Marriages End in Divorce
It is important to underscore the factors that are instrumental in making marriages end in divorce, as knowledge of these factors will assist couples to maintain successful marriages. Drawing from Noble (n.d.), it is evident that most marriages end in divorce because couples refuse to ask for assistance from professional marriage counselors, and also because they are not ready to share their problems or address their part of the problem. People often refuse to seek assistance from significant others (e.g., counselors, church, parents) due to the misguided perception that they will be judged as weak and unable to take care of their marital problems. This is a wrong approach which works to the disadvantage of the marriage institution and is partly responsible for the rising number of divorces in the United States and abroad. Additionally, couples refuse to change or learn from their own mistakes and hence act to fuel the dissolution of their respective marriages. However, such couples need to know that marriage is an institution where change and continuous learning must be present for success to be achieved.
Overall, it is important for couples to ensure they embrace the attributes and qualities discussed in this paper for their marriages to succeed, and also to deal with the mentioned challenges to avoid divorce. Couples need to understand that a marriage institution is a “work in progress”, and hence should be ready to learn from the presenting problems and come up with strategies to change the challenges into opportunities for successful marital relationships.
Fatima, M., & Ajmal, M.A. (2012). Happy marriage: A qualitative study. Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 10(1), 37-42.
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Karasu, S.R. (2007). The institution of marriage: Terminable or interminable? American Journal of Psychotherapy, 61(1), 1-16.
Noble, P. (n.d.) 4 reasons marriages are failing, part one. Web.
Stutzer, A., & Fray, B.S. (2005). Does marriage make people happy, or do happy people get married? Web.