Fighting Key To Marital Happiness?
Healthy And Positive Relationships Support Our
29 December 2012
By Karin Friedemann
It is widely taught that the most important quality
in a potential spouse is high moral character. Yet,
many people still choose their life partner based on
superficial desires of the ego such as beauty or
wealth. Since both beauty and wealth are temporary,
such marriages often cannot withstand the test of
However, sometimes, in their quest to secure a
relationship with a person of high moral character,
people are still drawn towards superficialities.
Often, even deeply religious people dream of a spouse
whose style of dress will match their outfit. They
want a spouse who will increase their status in the
community. They should belong to a certain family or a
certain social class. Many single people have a long
checklist of things that they are looking for in a
person before they will even consider them in
Most people wish to find the perfect mate, with whom
they can agree on all things. However, no matter who
you choose, all married couples fight. Some will
eventually learn to tolerate each other. But that is
not the same thing as being happy! They key to marital
bliss is in how you fight, say psychologists.
Therapist John Gottman says he can predict how long a
couple will last, not by studying how well a couple
gets along, but by studying how well a couple doesn't
get along. A relationship is only as strong as its
weakest link— how a couple handles their challenges.
Generally speaking, people from the same cultural or
religious background will experience less friction in
marriage than people from very different backgrounds.
Yet, shared beliefs are also no guarantee of
happiness. Someone who is very dogmatic about religion
might adopt a judgmental and narrow-minded approach to
disagreements, even going so far as to imply that to
disagree with him is to disobey God. Even deeply pious
people might be hyper-sensitive, whiny, passive
aggressive, or overly critical at times.
Therefore, it is not usually enough just to seek a
"suitable match." What we should really seek is a
partner who is spiritually and emotionally capable of
what Aristotle called a "Relationship of Shared
The number one thing to look for in a potential spouse
is not perfection, but their sincere interest in
engaging in continued personal growth through
relationship, suggests Karen Salmansohn, author of
"Prince Harming Syndrome."
"After all, if your partner doesn't value growth, he
won't be ready to deal with non-fun, inevitable
conflicts in a high integrity way," writes Salmansohn.
"Good character values not only come in handy on a
day-to-day basis, but during those eventual,
inevitable times of conflict. If you and your partner
do not value putting in the effort of acting with
strong character values during times of disagreement,
disappointment, stress, crisis, temptation, sadness,
monetary-challenges, illness, vulnerability,
misunderstandings—then your relationship will always
"Take the time to find out if your (potential) partner
values embracing empathy, listening, direct
communication, honesty, loyalty and growth. After all,
a guy's character will always be the determinant
behind his choosing to be naughty or nice—thereby
making you feel sad or happy."
You know you are in a healthy relationship when being
together makes you feel happier and improves your
life. Unhealthy relationships make you more unhappy,
insecure, unsafe, or just plain frazzled! But negative
communication patterns can be overcome through
patience, wisdom and compassion.
Relationship therapist Arhata Osho advises: "It's good
to acknowledge and remember that those who choose to
not be friendly… are likely dealing with their own
issues while of course, denying it. It's rarely the
person who is ignored's fault… they may be dealing
with more than you or I can really help them with. Be
open to them coming around, or not… Be free to be your
real self, and move toward those few who cherish the
same way! A loving person just accepts everyone for
what they choose to be."
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D, author of
"Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of
Happiness, Love, and Wisdom," writes that when you
recognize the deeper wants of others, they feel seen
and are less likely to be reactive:
"Consider any significant relationship: How does it
feel when they misinterpret what you want? Or worse,
when they could care less about understanding what you
"During an interaction with someone who is difficult
for you – or while reflecting about the relationship
as a whole – try to see the deeper wants in the other
person, behind the acts of thought, word, or deed that
have bothered or hurt you… and if you like, try to
figure out less harmful ways to fulfill (them),"
We all have some bad communication habits that we
learned in childhood. While unhealthy communication
styles often stimulate the worst parts of ourselves to
come out, healthy and positive relationships support
our spiritual growth so that we can gain the strength
to transcend bad habits and even addictions.
This is why Muslims say, "Marriage is half the faith."
It is not enough to simply be married. The marriage
relationship helps a person develop themselves
spiritually by providing causes for conflict.
Each conflict provides a couple with the opportunity
to learn how to go beyond ego reactions such as fear
of abandonment and learn to see another person's point
of view. Disagreements which are handled in a good way
will lead to a deeper, more meaningful relationship.
Therefore, the secret to a happy relationship is in
the way you fight. Happy couples learn from their
fights. Arguing in the best way means seeking truth,
wisdom and inner beauty together – not defeating the
"As you live deeper in the Heart, the mirror gets
clearer and clearer," wrote Rumi.
The less ego we project upon a conflict, the more
purely the Light of the spirit shines through us, and
ultimately, the closer we are to God.