“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” – Sam Keen

People often think a happy marriage is a perfect marriage. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A happy marriage comes from accepting there is no such thing as perfect. No perfect partner. No perfect relationship. No perfect happily ever after. The trick to a happy marriage is learning how to stop striving for perfection. Because marriage is about two imperfect humans showing up as best they can for the other person. We’ll have good days, we’ll have bad days, and we won’t get it right 100% of the time. For my husband and me, our version of perfect looks like:

  • I love you
  • I’m grateful for you
  • Thank you
  • I’m sorry
  • That hurt my feelings
  • I had a bad day
  • I’m frustrated
  • Let’s go on a walk and work this out

Embracing imperfection, however, does not mean lowering your expectations about how you are treated. Research by Dr. Donald Baucaum shows people who expect more, get more. In other words, if you expect a better, more satisfying relationship, you will improve your chances of getting that. Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned psychological researcher on marital stability and divorce prediction, advocates for the good enough relationship where people have high expectations about how they are treated in their relationship without expecting their partner to solve everything for them. Even in happy marriages, people experience conflict. As Dr. Gottman shares, “conflict is healthy because it leads to greater understanding.”

In order to foster a deeper sense of connection in your marriage, it can be helpful to carve out dedicated time to reflect on your relationship together. It’s important to have these honest heart-to-hearts so each partner feels heard, both of your needs are being met, and your relationship continues to grow and flourish. The key is to have these types of conversations on a regular basis to avoid any surprises or bubbling resentments. Have fun with it! Go on a walk together, treat yourself to a nice dinner, or enjoy a cozy night in. The goal is to go deep and reflect on the ups, the downs, and everything in between.

Here are 10 simple questions to ask each other:

  1. What was your favorite memory together this past year?
  2. What about our relationship are you most grateful for?
  3. What about me are you most grateful for?
  4. How did you feel I supported you?
  5. How can I support you even more?
  6. In what ways do you feel our relationship grew this past year?
  7. What was your biggest learning about us as a couple?
  8. In three words, how would you describe our relationship?
  9. What is your greatest wish for us next year?
  10. In one word, what do you desire our theme to be for next year?

A happy marriage is one that has the capacity to hold the entire spectrum of human emotions – happy, sad, disappointing, frustrating, exciting, embarrassing, scary, guilty, angry, and amazing. Don’t shy away from the tough stuff because that’s usually where the gold is. If it feels too challenging to do on your own, that’s ok too! Finding a couple’s therapist or going to a couple’s workshop together may be just the medicine your relationship needs.

At the end of the day, remember 1) a happy marriage doesn’t happen overnight, 2) a happy marriage doesn’t stay happy without putting in the work, and 3) a happy marriage teaches us true happiness lies in embracing all the messiness that comes with this beautiful, imperfect human life. 

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