Longevity in marriage does not equate to happiness

There are health problems associated with long-term bad relationships, such as chronic stress, depression, obesity, hypertension. PHOTO/net

What you need to know:

All marriages have challenges, but not all marriages are miserable. Some people are miserably married, but are stuck because of children, financial security and the fear of what people will say.

Joshua Musaayi is a 75, has been married for close to 50 years. He has children and grandchildren, but he cannot say his marriage has been healthy. “We quarreled a lot with my wife when we were younger. We got tired and agreed to live together but separately; she does her things, and I do mine. We occasionally come together for the sake of the children and grandchildren, but nothing more.”

You want to imagine Musaayi could have done better as a husband, but he is convinced his wife, who is about the same age as he is, is the problem. Does it not take two to tangle?

All marriages have challenges, but not all marriages are miserable. Some people are miserably married, but are stuck in bad marriages because of children, financial security, the prestige of being called “married”, advanced age, fear of shame, fear of what their church or community will say about divorce or separation, lack of an alternative or all of the above reasons.

Each new day, we see couples celebrating silver, pearl, ruby, golden, or even diamond-rich marriage anniversaries, but sometimes, the quality of these marriages is wanting.Being married for many years does not necessarily mean both spouses are happy. 

There are health problems associated with long-term bad marriages or relationships, such as chronic stress, depression, obesity, hypertension, high levels of inflammation and substance abuse.    

Okello and his wife Lucy of 32 years, chose not just to wear a ring, but to work towards having a better marriage. In three years’ time, they will be celebrating their Coral or Jade (35th) anniversary.

 “We did not see eye-to-eye for much of the first 10 years of our marriage. Children bonded both of us. The very things that attracted us to each other, were the same things that we loathed about each other. But we decided to make this marriage work,” they confess.

As Roman Catholic believers, divorce was not an option for the Okellos.  “If you ask us if we would marry each other today, the answer is obviously, yes!”

Research has shown that stable, long-term relationships offer mental, financial, and physical benefits to a couple. The University of San Diego discovered from the analysis of data from 800,000 people, that being married boosted their chances of surviving cancer.

Studies also show that people in happy relationships have stronger immune functions than those in stressful relationships, eat healthier, and take fewer risks.

How then do you improve the quality of your marriage to get the maximum benefit out of it, 50 years later?  

Make joy a priority

 You did not get married to be sad all your married life, right? Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey, in their book, The Four Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages (2019), propose four habits; play together, listen for emotion, appreciate daily and nurture a rhythm. The authors arranged an acrostic that is easy to remember, PLAN. They claim that couples can increase joy in their marriage with 15 minutes of daily exercises they have designed. I want to add that these come with intentionality.

Be creative

The aura and fun of the honeymoon stage will inevitably fade away with time and reality will set in, thus there will be the need for keeping the flame lit when it dies out. Marriage is not a case of “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall it be”--this applies to biblical teachings--not to your relationship. It is being creative, experimenting, and finding new ways of making your spouse better and happier. And some of these do not cost anything at all. If you put your mind and heart into it, you will find them doable and affordable.

Communicate often

 Regardless of how long you have been married, you have to keep communicating regularly, clearly, freely, honestly, and openly. “I was introverted all my life until I got married. The longer I have been married, the bigger the need to communicate. If I do not communicate often, the more likely I will be misunderstood. 

We hurt each other, so we need to regularly talk to iron out differences. We are better at it each day. We are counting 10 years in marriage,” says Lorna.

Do not ignore intimacy

 Some marriages are stale because they lack physical intimacy.  Emotional blockages such as unforgiveness, depression, selfishness and poor health, hinder physical intimacy.

Research has established that physical intimacy releases oxytocin and other mood-boosting hormones and has great health benefits for women which include better heart health, lower blood pressure, better immune system, better sleep, stress reduction, decreased depression and anxiety, and improved self-esteem.   

Pray together

 When a couple prays together, they are recognising the success of their marriage is in a large part, hinged on God’s intervention. Prayer is saying to God, “We are depending on You.” Praying together avails the infinite resources of heaven to a marriage that would otherwise not be possible.