What is the secret of a happy marriage? The overwhelming rate of divorce among couples, during the past two decades might suggest that there are no such secrets; or that they must be buried in remote places that even Indiana Jones would have difficulty uncovering.
But despite the alarming divorce rate and the deterioration of the central role "family" traditionally played during the various stages of child and adult life, there actually are couples who report having successful marriages. And there are families that are absent the dysfunctional qualities that seem omnipotent in today's society. "How come", you might ask? "Happy couple-- isn't that an oxymoron?" One might think so or at least a "jewel", or a "rose among thorns." There has to be some secret formula to account for this phenomenon, right?
When people are uncertain about the cause of a behavior, they frequently attribute it to some internal, meta-physical, biochemical or hypothetical event. A frequently cited example in this instance is something called, "chemistry." Odd that a science so exact in its methodology is applied so imprecisely and cavalierly to account for effective communicating between two individuals.
"The reason we get along so well, I guess is that we have right chemistry."
"I know in five minutes if I will love someone; the chemistry has to be there."
Can you imagine a training program for successful couples advertising: Better things for better couples...through chemistry? (Perhaps they could acquire DuPont as its sponsor). Nevertheless, chemistry is widely accepted as an essential ingredient for successful relationships. Yet, although many couples will attest to its merits, they have no idea what it is, how it happens or how to help others get it!
Therefore, it would be prudent when considering the elements that help promote effective relating among happy couples, to leave chemistry out of the mix for now. Couples who report being happy seem to share several common ingredients in their manner of relating to one another:

  • 1- Great expectations build great relationships. Many people believe it is important to be "realistic", not "idealistic" regarding the assessment of a spouse's qualities. Accordingly, viewing your spouse through rose colored glasses is indigenous to early courtship, after which the rose color rubs off the lenses. Yet, there is some research to indicate that people live up-- or down-- to the expectations of others. In fact, the most happily married people frequently idealize their spouses. Many openly revel in the fact that they have the most generous, or affectionate, or versatile, or intelligent husbands (or wives) in the world! And that belief certainly helps bring out the best in their partners.
  • 2- There is agreement about disagreement. Creative fighting-- that is dissention with rules, including impulse control-- is common between spouses who share so much time and experience. Rules may include: Avoid leaving the house angry, never say, "always and never", and only verbal weapons may be drawn, to mane a few.
  • 3- Happy couples spend a lot of time together. They have developed a "shared reality" or network of agreement about a variety of concrete and philosophical issues such as, home improvement, education, teaching discipline, the arts and investments. Over time, each member of a couple stopped feeling single at heart and came to be married at heart. The absence of this phenomenon frequently leads to trouble in a marriage. In contrast, a popular myth about successful couples is that they need to have "independent" lives; that having separate identities is essential to their survival. This is not supported by the majority of successful, happy couples. Even if they do not share all the same interests, the better portion of time among happy couples is spent in each other's company. After all, there is an attraction between them... maybe it's a chemical reaction!