5 Things you Need to Know to Live Happily Ever After

It takes having been married for a long time and making some big mistakes along the way to learn what works in a marriage and what, just, doesn’t. If you’d like to be with this guy for the long haul (and I hope you do, because it’s not better on the other side), here are some truisms you’re better off knowing sooner rather than later.

1. Your partner is not going to make you happy

He’s just a guy with skidmarks who loves you very much but is also trying to negotiate his way through this thing called life. He doesn’t have all the answers, and even if he did, it’s not possible for one human being to make another human being happy. Of course you can enjoy a good relationship which adds value and joy to your life, but that’s only part of the deal. The rest is up to you. If you don’t like your job and you have problematic friendships and you’re frustrated in whatever capacity, he could be Adonis spewing slabs of Lindt while he vacuums the lounge – you’re still going to be miserable. So, here’s the thing – you need to officially and mindfully absolve him of the mammoth responsibility of being the sunshine in your life. He is just a star – not enough to light your whole world. Figure out what it is you need to do to make your life a sunnier place and stop making the problem his.

2. If you don’t have respect, you have nothing

Remember your first date together when you looked every part of amazing, were the most delightfully attentive listener and nothing was too much effort? Over time this hallowed, romantic space changes to unwashed hair and farting in front of each other. While keeping the same level of mystery up as when you first met is impossible, it’s really kinda important not to relax too much into the comfort of your togetherness. Just because he’s made a commitment to you doesn’t give you license to whine, nag and nitpick. Or be self-centred or on his case or mean or hit below the belt. Your partner is as deserving of your respect as he was when you first fell in love. He’s a human being and he’s doing his best. Be nice, look nice, and don’t tell him to pull your finger. It’s just not sexy, and sexy counts for a lot.

3. Stop seeing him and he’ll cease to exist

The reason why people have affairs is not about the sex. You hear all the time about men who visit prostitutes just to talk and be heard. Affairs happen when people feel lonely and unappreciated. He might be as familiar to you as your favourite pair of granny panties, but try to remind yourself of how cool he actually is, and how many other women would give their left boob to have a kind, affectionate, honest, good-looking guy like him to call their own. He’s the business, and you’re lucky. And of course this goes both ways. Women look to other men when they feel like they’ve become invisible. We find ways to fill the holes in our lives, sometimes to devastating effect. If you can, somehow, keep seeing each other like you did when you first met you’ll automatically introduce a special kind of magic into your relationship. He hasn’t changed since that first day. Look past the familiar and get the person he is in the world.

4. Being attracted to somebody else doesn’t mean you have to have an affair

Forever is a long time, and when you exchange rings you don’t die or go blind. You’re still a separate human being, and it’s inevitable that, along the way, you’re going to meet at least one person you’d really, rather like very much to shag. Don’t do it. Being attracted to another person doesn’t mean you have to act on these feelings. And don’t, for the love of god, encourage the attention, irresistible as the affirmation might be – you’re just going to make things difficult for yourself and worse, incur pain on a number of people. A wise friend (who learnt this the hard way) said to me the other night, ‘I’ve revised my opinion on infidelity. It isn’t shades of grey. It’s black and white, pure and simple. You make a choice not to go there, and you don’t.’ Because if you do, even if the relationship survives, you create terrible cracks that never, ever go away. If you want to do this thing right you have to honour the trust between you. Look, imagine if you must, but don’t touch. You will get burnt, and it won’t be worth it.

5. Keep your eyes on the prize

A lot of people get divorced for a lot of reasons, but that doesn’t make it an easy option. A psychologist friend of mine talks about how divorce brings out the most primal feelings and the rawest kind of pain human beings virtually ever experience. Whatever you might think from the comfort of your so-so marriage, you’re not going to get out of it unscathed. It will hurt you, hurt your friends and families, and worst of all, devastate your children. The prize is this: a partner who loves you above all; who will be there for you no matter what; who (probably) fathered your children and therefore has only their best interests at heart; who knows you and accepts you; who sees your flaws and loves you regardless. In this world of loneliness, broken dreams and heartache, this is not a bad deal. Love him back. Be good partners to one another. Fight well and constructively, and remember how much you loved each other once. Accept that he’s going to infuriate you and that you’ll infuriate him right back. Watch your tongue and the words you use when you argue. Make kindness the default mode. What you have is special and might not come around again, so guard it with your life.

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32 thoughts on “5 Things you Need to Know to Live Happily Ever After

  1. Living is hard, never mind marriage. The journey, I guess , is one of learning to know oneself and know what makes you truly happy and until you do, I guess you fuck up and learn and fuck up and learn until you eventually gain clarity and things get easier.

  2. After being with my husband for 38 years – I can say that this is so true. You are wise beyond your years Ms Hayden for knowing these things so early in life .

    1. Well. That’s a hard one, and I’m sure different in different circumstances. I guess healing happens when the one who created the cracks takes full responsibility for the damage and is truly, humbly willing to do whatever it takes to repair them. If the heart space is right, time and distance can make them smaller until maybe one day you won’t even notice them anymore. I hope it goes that way for you xx

  3. Thanks so much for this – I am a newly married dude – just over a year. And about a month ago I found out my wife was having an affair – you talk about people have affairs because they are lonely made me think long and hard about my part the ordeal we are going through. We are working on it and trying to see if it can work again and fill the “cracks” you speak so wisely of. So what I am saying is – your piece deserves a big hug from me.

    1. Wow, thank you so much! And a huge hug back. I hope you are both able to overcome. Sometimes we are given second chances – maybe this is yours, and the opportunity to do it differently next time round. Sorry for your sadness. Let me know how it all turns out x

  4. “Adonis spewing slabs of Lindt while he vacuums the lounge” – ha! Love this phrase, awesome imagery. I love how you write with such wisdom in such an engaging way. I’ve been married 9 months and my husband and I are attempting to be mindful or all such things from the very start of our marriage to create this type of culture, so you’ve encouraged me that we’re on the right track.

  5. I really love this post. I think it is so valuable for women to share with one another with regards to what they’ve learned. Please have a look at my blog onthecouchwithcarly.tumblr.com and spread your wisdom there as well. I try to engage people with the difficult questions about love, sex, growth and just life in general. At the moment I am collecting interviews from people about their experiences in relationships. I would love your input. Thanks!

  6. Such a great post. I really enjoyed it. Celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary next week. 3 young kids (4, 1 and 1) and still going strong.

  7. that was worth skipping a “mischu coffe’ for… Loved reading this. Gonna look/see some other goodies on your site. Just discoverd it this am thru a family friend :)

  8. I just happened upon your blog a couple of days ago and I love it! You are hilarious, incredibly insightful and impart realistic and smart advice without an ounce of the preachy or cheeseball! Im already a BIG fan and will keep visiting. M

  9. I have sent this on to all my children who are in relationships. I have always had the same rules, and it works. You should have a ‘Dear Susan’ column. I am hugely impessed.

  10. Oh my word – what a great read. Clicked on a facebook link and I’ve already read three of your articles. As a gay man in a serious relationship, you don’t often find encouraging words to inspire and motivate you as you share in someone else’s life, but your words of wisdom are universal and I thank you for your insightful and honest advice. I will take your words with me as I navigate through this wonderful rollercoaster ride.

  11. Gawd, I envy your husband. My ex asked me for a divorce 4 years ago and we completed it almost a year ago, just after what would have been our 29th anniversary. Yes, your partner is not going to make you happy, but he can certainly make himself very unhappy by trying and failing. It does take two to tango so I’m certainly not blameless, but I’d have loved to have discussed this article with her over a long glass of wine. Why didn’t you write it 5 years ago? [And me have found it and the courage to bring it up, etc. etc.].
    It does also relate to your other blog on vacations without children: living in France the saying was that for a marriage to survive you need an evening a week, a weekend per month and a week per year sans enfants!
    Please keep blogging.

  12. Hi! Do you use Twitter?I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.
    I’m absolutely enjoying your blkg and look forward to new updates.

  13. I really found this so heart-warming and eye-opening. I’m glad to have read it at this stage in my life, before too many regrets. Thanks for sharing!

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