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Happily ever after: Fairy-tale or reality?

Marriage. What's the secret for a happy marriage?

I believe a lot of us - unmarried, to be married, married, or no longer married - have asked ourselves this question. I want to be blunt from the start. I don't believe in a secret formula or ingredient for a happily ever after. I do believe in healthy and strong loving relationships, and the love we put in to make it work.

My parents are far from the loving couple ideal. They have been separated since I was nine years old, though never got a divorce. They have stayed in each other's lives for better and worse which messed up the concept of marriage, at least while growing up.

I've been married for the past 8 years and this coming May will be 15 years that we have been together. We are college sweethearts and I feel incredibly grateful for having found the love of my life in my early youth.

Is being married to the love of your life synonymous of a happy marriage? I wouldn't say so. I see marriage as a constant dance between connection, compromise, and communication. The 3 C's of marriage if you will.

When one of these ingredients - one of the C's - is not in alignment, the higher the chances that the marriage is going through a turbulent phase. In case none of the C's are in sync, I'd say the marriage is not in good health. Neither the first nor the second scenario are irreversible. And none of them means your relationship will end up in divorce.

Perhaps the 3 C's of marriage can act as guidance for a regular relationship check in. Let's look at each one of them more closely.

Connection: We are connected to each other both at a macro and micro level. If you think about the first time you met your partner or the first time you went out, I bet the connection was pretty strong. Otherwise, you would have followed separate paths. This loving connection bonded you in such depth that led you to choose them as your person and eventually marry them. I don't know if this connection grows stronger after getting married. What I do believe is that you both must work on keeping this connection alive. Some people say that passion fades after the honeymoon phase. I say that passion is connection. This deeply involvement allows you to be present and mindful with one another.

Compromise: Either we like it or not, compromise is part of any relationship. We can't always have it our way and in a marriage, this is an essential ingredient. We want to be heard and seen by the person we love and often that comes across as wanting to be right. But when you dig deeper, you realize that being right or wrong is not what truly matters. Even when the scale does not pend your way, it does not mean it has to weigh on the opposite direction. Work on finding that space in between where both perspectives are valued and respected. At the end, you are compromising to get to common ground, not to give up who you are or what you believe in.

Communication: One of the pivotal elements of a healthy relationship. Open, empathic, and honest communication goes a long way. Forget the idea of hiding your feelings and thoughts from your loved one because you want to protect them. You are not protecting them by not sharing your truth, rather moving further away. By opening the lines of communication, without judgement and assumptions, you listen as well as you are heard. In your vulnerability you become stronger together, you become a unit, a team. No matter how tough reality get, never give up on communicating what you think and feel. It may not always be what the other person wants to hear, but it does not make it less true. Also, remember to communicate your needs as detailed as possible. Despite how much your partner loves you and understands, they do not live inside your head.

There is surely much more to a marriage than these 3 C's. From my perspective they represent the core of a healthy and balanced marriage.

Despite the challenges, I intent to stay married for the rest of my life. And for that to happen, one cannot just sit back and be a passive partner. Relationships take work and marriage is no different. When we do find the love of our life, we owe it to us and to them to try to be the best version of ourselves, together.



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