Fairy tales promised happily-ever-after. When I was a little girl, we were raised to believe that someday our prince would come.  Cinderella found her dream when Prince Charming slipped her foot into the glass slipper. Then there was Snow White; she was awakened by the kiss of her prince.  Slowly society evolved in such a way that Prince Charming came and went leaving many women in debt.

As a society our dream of happily-ever-after has been evolving into happily after the divorce settlement or happily after the next marriage.  In 2010, after a Pew Research Center survey was released, they noted a sharp decline in marriage. “In 1960, two-thirds (68%) of all twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 26% were. How many of today’s youth will eventually marry is an open question.” In the executive summary the researchers noted:

“For now, the survey finds that the young are much more inclined than their elders to view cohabitation without marriage and other new family forms — such as same sex marriage and interracial marriage — in a positive light.” (1)

Couples and conflict:

Whether married or living together, couple’s face conflict. A conversation between the late Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth and Bill Moyers focused on marriage; it can easily be applied to those making the commitment of cohabitation. Professor Campbell called loyalty the essence of marriage — “not cheating, not defecting — through whatever trials or suffering, you remain true.”  

Bill Moyers said:  “The Puritans call marriage the little church within the church.  In marriage, every day you love, and every day you forgive.  It is an ongoing sacrament — love and forgiveness.”

Professor Campbell added: “The real life of a marriage or a true love affair is in the relationship…. Marriage is the symbolic recognition of our identity  — two aspects of the same being.” (2)

If in marriage or a committed relationship the concept of  “two aspects of the same being”  can be translated into finding a person who brings out the best in you and you in them – perhaps this the start of happily-ever-after.

 The role of gratitude:

One way to enhance a relationship might well be with a simple attitude of gratitude, which brings us good health and happiness according to continued research from the University of California at Berkeley and UC Davis.  With a $5.6 million grant, researchers are studying gratitude from a scientific perspective.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at UC Davis -- whom I've interviewed -- says, “Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed . . .  Attitude change often follows behavior change.  By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel that gratitude that we live.”  (3)

Smiling, saying “thank you,” sending thank-you notes, and making gratitude visits are attitude boosters. If one thinks about a relationship or marriage as the entwining of a couple’s positive qualities as well as negative traits, then working together to tame the negative and enhance the positive -- with simple acts of gratitude -- we might see the beginning of a happiness trend.

By making a conscious effort to integrate gratitude as part of your life, the sense of appreciation eventually outweighs petty annoyances and feelings that lead to the bickering of:  “If you loved me you would...." 

At Michigan’s Adrian College graduation this May, the commencement address was  “Live in Gratitude and Thanksgiving.” Dr. John E. Harnish, pointed out, “If you approach life as a given, something you somehow deserve, you will be sadly disappointed. If you approach life as a gift, everything will be received with thanks.” 

Have you read this? Holiday Sex, Romance, and Gratitude Enhance Intimacy

 References:

1. The Decline of Marriage And Rise of New Families | Pew Research Center, Washington, DC, November. 17, 2010.

2. Campbell, Jospeh, with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. NY: Doubleday, 1988. (201)

3. Emmons, Robert, Why Does Gratitude Matter? , Greater Good Science Center, University of Callifornia, Davis, September 10, 2014.

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson

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