The Surprising Key to a Happy Marriage

Here is the simple key to a better relationship.

Posted Feb 03, 2019

One of my favorite cartoons, drawn by my friend Jennifer Berman, shows a dog and a cat in bed together.

The dog is looking morose and reading a book called Dogs Who Love Too Much.

The Cat is saying, “I’m not distancing!  I’m a cat, damn it!”

I adore this cartoon because marriage goes best when at least one party can lighten up about differences. Of course, we all secretly believe that we have the truth of the universe and that the world would be a better place if everyone were just like us.  I have this problem myself. But it is an act of maturity to recognize that differences don’t mean that one person is right and the other is wrong.

We all view reality through different filters, depending on our class, culture, gender, birth order, genetic makeup, and unique family history.  There are as many views of “the truth” as there are people who hold these views.  There are also differences in the habitual ways individuals manage anxiety (under stress, she seeks togetherness while he seeks distance).

Intimacy requires that we do not …

(a) get too nervous about differences,

(b) operate as if we have the truth of the universe,  

(c) equate closeness with sameness.

Marriage requires a profound respect for differences.  “Respecting differences” does not mean that we accept demeaning or unfair treatment from our partner.  It’s just to say that differences don’t necessarily mean that one person is right and one person is wrong.  Work on staying emotionally connected to a partner who thinks and feels differently than you do, without needing to convince or otherwise fix her.

Try to appreciate the fact that you and your partner may have opposite ways of managing emotional intensity and getting comfortable.  Keep in mind that connection in marriage takes different forms, and love is communicated in different ways.  Try to welcome that “way” rather than wasting energy trying to change it.