My husband and I have been married for 24 years. I was 22 and he was 35 when we stood in my pastor's office, with his two boys, his mom, and my pastor's wife, and said "I do". We promised some things.... to love each other whether rich, poor, in sickness and health. I think I may have even said I would "obey"....bowing head for a moment of silent confession;). We've kept most of those promises but they have not looked like what I expected and I'm sure I would get a solid "amen" from him.
This is what I have learned about love and marriage. They don't go together like a horse and carriage. They aren't easy, they don't stroll smoothly through life, they ARE HARD!!! Maybe you ask "did you marry your soul mate?". Hmmmm, since I have a soul and he's my mate I guess so but, in my not so humble opinion, the notion that there is one person in the world out there for each of us is complete nonsense! We are both on marriage #2. He was married for 4 years, me for 3 months, impressive right? However, I'm convinced that most people can have a good marriage if both parties are willing to put in the hard work required but also acknowledge that both of us had marriages that were quite "oil and water". No matter how hard you shook the jar we just could not figure out a way to blend that mess. So don't think I'm judging, I have no right.
I married this older man with hearts in my eyes. I thought marriage would "fix" me. He was not so convinced but took a chance on me. Well, surprise surprise.....no "fix" for me and the chance he took has been one he has paid heavily for. I wanted romance, he wanted a clean house. Neither of us got what we bargained for. Here's the thing though, we stayed. We never stopped talking about what we wanted from each other. Sometimes those conversations had loud sounds coming from them. Sometimes tears came from them. He couldn't be what I wanted, I was far from what he wanted. But we stayed. We keep trying. We realize that we can't "fix" each other no matter how many times we listen to the Coldplay song.
He didn't mean to marry a majorly emotionally screwed up young girl that hides the inner drama queen from the rest of the world. How many times has he held me as I cried myself to sleep? Too many to recall. I have taken care of him when he has been sick, when he had cancer surgery. I never minded. I finally felt like I could be enough for him. As I have gotten a bit older and begun to come into myself (some people call it having a midlife crisis, I think "coming into myself" sounds a little better) he has stood by my side.
What we are learning is that even though we can't "fix" each other and we can't "complete" each other we can be there for each other when life beats us up. We can listen without the need to have answers or platitudes. We can hold each other even when we really don't feel like it. We can be a soft place to fall. So my answer and advice as to how to have a happy marriage? Figure out who you are and give your spouse the space to figure out who they are. Stop trying to "fix" them, you do not have that ability! Become happy with yourself as they become happy with themselves. Stay married. Then you will be happily married.
Oh and just for the record, I create the romance and he cleans the kitchen.