What Are the Ingredients to A Happy Marriage?

secret-ingredients-1Recently I was asked by a dear friend a familiar, yet an unexpected question, “Is there something called happily ever after?” in marriage?

I was somewhat surprised by the question in the context of our conversation.  I had to pause and think about where her question came from.  Then she proceeded by inquiring what are the secret ingredients to my marriage.

Let me digress for a minute. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Chinese and married a Caucasian, a white guy or “Gui Lao” (an endearing way of saying “foreigner” in Chinese) for the past 14 + years.  I am not the one bragging, or even talking about my personal life in a normal course of conversation.  I tend to enjoy listening to other people talking more about their ups and downs in life.  I really can’t pin out exactly why I am the way I am.  Perhaps, my friends often have more challenges in their lives and they need to bend my ears; or I am just a private person; or any issues or problems in my life are not that insurmountable.

Obviously my friend was not going to let me off the hook on this one.   I thought for a few seconds and here are some thoughts to summarize what has worked well in my marriage:

1. Respect Each Other in Terms of Time and Space

My husband and I are good at providing each other “space’ and “alone time”.  Both of us have our own circles of friends and have our unique hobbies besides the common ones shared by the both of us.  For example, my husband enjoys skiing and plays the piano.  On the contrary, I love shopping, reading lots of books and walk with my friends.  None of us has the tendency to restrict each other’s schedules and both of us are very understanding of the differences and needs.

2. Support Each Other’s Endeavors

Professionally and personally we make our best efforts to support each other’s endeavors and new pursuits.  My husband does an exceptional job in pushing me to actualize my potential and never once would he feel threatened by my so-called success.

3. Intellectual Curiosity and Exchange

I wish you could be a fly on the wall to listen to our dinner conversation.  It’s very rarely that we talk about just the mundane events during the day.  More often than not, we talked about the books we’ve read/listened to during the day; new things we’ve learned; and new ideas that we are inspired by.

4. Emotional Stability

One great advantage of getting married at a later age (in the 30s for me) is that we have matured so much emotionally.  There is no room or inclination to play the little mind games to manipulate a given situation for personal gains.  We understand that each of us will have our “up” days or “down” ones.  When one experienced a bad day, the other would be there to support by assessing the situation and putting things into perspectives.

5. Attitude Towards Money

I know in real life, many couples would have plenty of occasions to argue or fight over money matters.  Who is spending more on what?  Who is the irresponsible party? etc.  For our marriage, we share a joint account completely and both of us contribute to the best of our capabilities.  Both of us have the discretion to spend money on what we choose to within a reasonable limit RESPONSIBILY.

6. Relationship with the In-Laws

I am forever grateful for having such a healthy relationship with my in-laws.  Culturally, it is vastly different on the relationship with the in-laws.

In the Western culture, I see my in-laws a couple of times during the year and we show our ways to celebrate each other’s special occasions.  It is very common that in-laws here don’t tend to interfere with their children’s life and decision-making.

On the contrary, in Chinese culture, dealing with the in-laws, especially as a daughter-in-law, is one of the most monumental tasks due to the sheer ambiguity of your in-laws’ life versus yours.  In China, it is still not that unusual that two or more generations live together under the same roof.  The elderly tend to “participate” in the children’s lives too willingly. Inevitably there will be more opportunities for frictions between the generations due to generation gaps, and value systems towards many aspects of life.

7. Play Our Part

As a couple, we function as a team.  After all, a family is a microcosm of a society.  We have our loose definitions of division of labor and responsibilities in our daily chores and we complement each other by utilizing each other’s strengths.

8. Trust Is the Foundation of Every Successful Relationship

Lastly, but not the least, is the trust we have for each other.

I don’t want to pretend or sound for a nino second that we have THE perfect marriage given the divorce rate of the first marriage in the United States is 50% or higher.  What I may offer is:

Healthy Relationship = Trust + Respect + Understanding + Compromise (when needed).  Don’t forget to water and fertilize it, either.

What has worked well in your marriage?

2 Responses to “What Are the Ingredients to A Happy Marriage?”
  1. Dave Gary Says:

    The secret to a happy marriage is simple and can be expressed in one simple mantra. It’s cross-cultural and enduring.

    What’s mine is hers and what’s hers is hers.

  2. Stephenie Wasilewski Says:

    With my husband an active military member, a new born, and myself being a full time student we find ourselves having to schedule out life as a couple. We don’t get “date nights” but do what we can as a family every free moment that we have. Sometimes all it takes to keep us laughing is a little Wii time. I agree, love’s success comes with all you mentioned above.