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How to Be Happy in an Unhappy Marriage

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After two failed marriages, Janice decided to try one more time for the relationship she dreamed of. Yet, just one year later, her marriage to Hank was crumbling. Defeated and confused, Janice cried out to God for some answers. "In that moment," she says, "I began to realize that there is no perpetual honeymoon to any marriage. Sometimes it's just plain hard work. It was then and there that God told me I could not depend on my husband to make me happy, I would only find my true happiness in God."

Even as Christians, many of us have grown up with unrealistic expectations of marriage. Hollywood and Harlequin have taught us that we must find our perfect match—our soul mates—to be happy. When difficulties occur in our marriage, we may wonder, like Janice did, whether we have found the right person or may even think we have made a terrible mistake. After twenty-six years of marriage and over two decades of counseling couples I have learned that God created marriage to mature us and for us to enjoy, but it was never intended to fulfill us or make us happy.

Marriage is God's great idea, but in every marriage there are seasons of difficulty and times of dryness where one or both partners may feel dissatisfied with the marital relationship. As we work to improve our marriage, sometimes our efforts don't produce the changes we want. During these times, the question we need to ask ourselves is not, "Should I leave my spouse so I can find another person who will make me happy?" but rather, "Can I learn to find contentment and joy while in the midst of an unhappy marriage? And if so, how?"

Change Your Focus

Everyone I know wants to feel good inside but few know the secret to lasting happiness or even what happiness is. Is happiness a feeling of emotional ecstasy? Intense pleasure with life's circumstances? An internal state of well-being or contentment? Happiness can comprise all of these things.

Several years ago my husband surprised me with a beautiful pearl necklace I had admired. I felt really happy—for about three days—until I began longing for some earrings to go with it. We all search for something to fulfill us and make us happy, whether it is people, objects, or positions of status. When we get what we desire, we feel a certain emotion we call happiness. This feeling, however, is always short-lived and, like Solomon with his 700 wives and me with my pearl necklace, we begin longing for the next thing we desire that will bring us more satisfaction.

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September 15, 2014  3:20pm

I've read various perspectives on unhappy marriages, with the most common response being to opt for divorce. I've been married, divorced and remarried to the same man and I still battle the battles we struggled with during the first marriage. The first marriage to my alcoholic spouse was harder because I was weaker (financially, emotionally, socially). God was with us in the first marriage, I felt protected by Him although I felt prompted to move and fled to a shelter. As a single mother, it was lonely and hard but God never forsakes me and my kids, we never had to beg or steal, He provided me with a job. Now that I face the same issues, I can feel God's presence and it is comforting. I'm not going to judge other on what they should do, for God will be with the abused, rejected, lonely and won't forsake you.

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Shannon Womack

August 28, 2014  1:56pm

Thank you Leslie! This article was well written, with scripture references. The truth Is hard to see and now I see more clearly. THANK YOU. I look forward to reading more articles written by you. WONDERFUL.

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June 27, 2014  9:38am

I agree with the content of this article that happiness is only through the love of God, but struggle with that all the same...I did not realize this when I made my marital choice and now am having deal with the consequence! If we enter a marriage thinking it will make us happy when we were unhappy in single life we will be sorely disappointed! Ladies we need to find contentment and joy in ourselves through the fulfillment of God's grace first! A happy woman will make a better choice in her husband...and be a better wife! ps - However, I agree with the comments that we have to take action steps in an unhappy marriage with both ourselves and our husbands...but only after self evaluation through conversation with God. Otherwise we create strife.

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