Are most marriages happy or unhappy?

In a previous thread, I asked whether or not it is ok being happy being single? The answer seemed to be a resounding YES! it is ok being happy being single.

That being said, my next question is whether or not most marriages are happily or unhappily married.

The reason I ask is that I personally don’t know many people in happy marriages. This is as compared to people I know that are happy singles or in happy boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. I know many married couples that ended up in divorces, and people who look sad, and are sarcastic that are married. I also know people who have changed since becoming married to seem more sad. I know the divorce rate is somewhere around 50% in California.

Is my perception of what a happy marriage is possibly flawed?
Would people rather be in an unhappy marriage than be single/alone?
Is my life experience to limited or data sample too small to draw a conclusion?

If anything I have said is against the Catholic Church, let it be anathema.

The thing about marriage is that it is hard. The idea of being “happy” or unhappy can fluctuate from day-to-day, week-to-week, up to years at a time. Everyone who is married no doubt has a time where they feel that they are “unhappy” and there are times where this period of unhappiness can drag out for years. The funny thing about those times, is that is when the marriage is growing stronger, it’s root going deeper. It is during those times of discord and strife that couples start to fight for one another and develop intimacy. I really believe that intimacy never comes from the happy times, but from the rough patches. If people only hold on through them, their marriage will come out stronger on the end.

I don’t think there is any such thing as a totally “happy” or “unhappy” marriage. I voted that most marriages are happy though, because I believe that people can be happy in marriage if they want to be, and that rough times happen to all of us.

I personally feel that in today’s culture the deck is stacked against you. There is a lot of whats good for me attitudes out there. If you want a good solid marriage you must have two people in agreement. The marriage must be centered on Christ. You both must pray together with the husband leading the way on this, another thing is the couple must serve each other, don’t wait to be asked to help but jump in when you see the chance. Without God in your marriage I feel there is a bad foundation that will collapse. All marriages must have God or they will either fail or be miserable. All things in life must be centered on Christ even if your single or you’ll be miserable. I’ll bet a couple that prays the rosary together every day would have a very happy marriage :thumbsup:

On the whole I would say that depends. Most properly understood marriages are happy that’s not the same as easy! And I’m not sure if that’s the majority, as marriage is often entered into flippantly now a days

There can be a lot of arguing in marriage but then that’s what happens when you care about someone if you think they have something wrong you tell them!

In short I recently visited a man who is 93 his wife is still alive and they have been married for decades and before he had to enter a nursing home if you saw one you saw the other, they were inseparable. A marriage where each spouse lives for the other is to my mind one of the happiest and most beautiful states of existence. Do they fight no doubt, do they argue no doubt, do they love each other and are happy? Absolutely no doubt! And this is not just a once off thing or confined to the older generation it exists in our day as well

Call me an optimist but ill vote yes

I’m guessing that you don’t know a lot of couples. If you are single, you probably tend to hang out with singles.

My husband and I have been married for 31 years. We know lots and lots of couples who have been married for long periods of time.

I agree with others–happiness is fleeting and based on the immediate sitation. Intimacy and joy are the true hallmarks of a good marriage.

There are many couples we know who are not “happy” because of terrible circumstances; e.g. job losses, devastating illnesses or injuries, money problems, heartbreaking choices of children, exhaustion taking care of elderly parents, disappointment over dreams that never came to pass. It would be unnatural for someone to be “happy” over a diagnosis of breast cancer, or when they lose their job!

But they have the joy of the Lord in their marriage, and this joy transcends all earthly difficulties. They know that God will be with them and help them to overcome their problems.

And they are “one”, and this delightful intimacy is what makes them strong to deal with all their trials and keeps them in love and having fun even in the midst of hard times.

I agree with the other posters that happiness in marriage fluctuates over time. But are most marriages fundamentally happy? I know mine is, and so are the marriages of all my friends. But as for the world at large, it’s hard to say. Looking at the divorce rate doesn’t help much because many people ditch out at the first downturn and end up leaving a marriage that would have returned to happiness with a little work.

You raise a good point here. That’s why I make the arguement that “happiness” vs. “unhappiness” is a horrible way to look at marriage. Intimacy and commitment is how one should look at it. Every marriage is both happy and unhappy at times. It’s like trying to tell someone how deep the water in a particular bay is to the inch - it fluctuates daily with the tides.

Like others, I’m not sure that “happy” is quite the right term, because happiness is a fleeting thing (kind of like lust, for that matter) which can come or go depending on circumstances which are as changeable as the weather.

However, I have seen more marriages like my grandparents’ (married for 59 years when my grandmother died), my parents (married 45 years, both still living), my aunts and uncles (one aunt married when I was 4, another when I was 11, and my uncle married when I was 21, I’m 44 now). And one thing that I have seen is the commitment to endure through heavy difficulties (my aunt and uncle who have been married for 33 years have lost two of his children–it was his second marriage as his first wife was killed in a car/train accident and he brought four children to become my cousins when he married my aunt).

My own–well, my husband (from whom I am in the midst of seeking a divorce) made a wreckage of the marriage with repeated infidelities, and finally in a decision to rape another woman, and in the wake of his arrest, a realization that we had all (myself and my four children) been subject to verbal/emotional abuse. But this is not the norm.

However, even with my own personal experience, I would say that the normal marriage is a happier one than not, which is to say that the parties are happier in their marriage than they would have been without.


I do think though in extreme cases people can be “unhappy” - abuse of some sort comes to mind.

Most marriages… I don’t know.

I know mine is, and to be honest that’s all I can worry about.

Oh, yes. I probably should have put a disclaimer in there. Thankfully absuive marriages are not the norm. That’s why I voted that most are happy above. :o


Your friend from the previous FL forums~:)


I’ve never really understood this. I’ve been married for 13 years this November, and I have never thought of being married as ‘hard’ or difficult. Why do people say this? What does it mean to be ‘hard’?
For me, I love my husband so much that the thought of not being married to him is terrifying. If there is a problem in the relationship, it is my selfishness (and sometimes his). It is never our marriage that is the problem. Marriage is the solution to our problems. Marriage has helped us to grow and develop stronger characters. It has helped us to become increasingly selfless. It has given us children. It has given us a shoulder to cry on, a hand to squeeze, a neck to hug, and so much more. Anything that life might throw at us, we can lean upon each other to get through it. If anything, I would say marriage makes life easier.
Sure, we have our fair share of marital spats. But that is just us having a moment of stupidity or selfishness and once we snap out of it, we can laugh and move on.
So, why do people talk about marriage as ‘hard’? I am sincerely curious about this, too, so please don’t misunderstand my questions here. I decided not to participate in the poll yet, because while my marriage is very happy, and always has been a source of happiness in my life, I see the reality that most married couples around us are not happy and have no idea what is going wrong. :shrug:

Because marriage requires constant self-reflection, sacrifice, compromise, and putting someone else above yourself. I admit, I have only been married three years, but hubby and I know that if we feel “comfortable” then we need to be doing more for our spouse. There are times that I am exhausted, stressed, and coming from from school at 10 in the evening and hubby has also had a hard day. I need to put my frustrations aside, and listen to him and make him feel better because he comes first to me. He does likewise for me.

We have a strong marriage, and we passionatly love one another, but there are times where it’s hard. Compromise, sacrifice, and striving to always put the spouse first.

I think this MIGHT be an issue of semantics.

Why I might consider marriage “hard”:

While I adore my husband, he comes with family that I probably wouldn’t hang out with on a regular basis (or maybe ever.) But they are not bad people, and they are important, especially to DH. I can get over myself and cheerfully invite them into my home. NOT always an “easy” task

DH works very hard and I appreciate that. He also loves what he does, and I’m happy for him. His hours are INSANE! Because we have small children my schedule IS his schedule. Therefore MY hours are INSANE. Plus, I “work” in the middle of the night and even when I’m sick. That’s HARD! Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a “team” effort. And when you’re tired, like anything else that takes effort, it’s easy to blow up and make mistakes.

DH went through the horror of having cancer. Not only his life was potentially in jeapordy but EVERYTHING we planned for together. This was one of the HARDEST things we’ve ever been through. Each of us having our own roles to play. It was scary for him. He wants compassion. He also has to be a good patient. I have to be a researcher, and supportive, and scared without showing it, but showing enough to indicate concern without stimulating panic etc… THIS IS NOT EASY…

Basically, you hand your heart to someone, and they hand you theirs. You trust each other not to break it, to protect it, to nourish it. It’s hard to relinquish that control, and it’s hard to know that you’re doing everything right.

Again, it’s like the little clipping on my bathroom mirror says…" Successful marriages don’t work on automatic pilot - at least not for long. Like a garden, they require constant attention: fertilizing, watering, and weeding. Healthy marriages, like gardens, don’t die suddenly. More often they fade away from a gradual lack of attentiveness, letting things slidde, taking each other for granted.

And I gotta tell you… I LOVE a beautiful garden. One that’s all attended to. Lots of pretty flowers, and decidant fruits and veges. with little suprises planted here and there… but it takes work. That doesn’t just spring up…

And even more, even if MY garden isn’t perfect and has a few weeds… They’re MY WEEDS! And I’m thrilled to be out there playing in the dirt… I’m HAPPY about it… even if my back hurts, or I get a sunburn… So, I’m voting marriages are mostly happy!

I think I understand a bit better now why people say marriage is hard, although the perspectives offered here are still coming from people who view marriage as a sacrament that is lifelong and faithful and fruitful, very different from the secular (or even non-Catholic) perspective. It seems like what you are saying is that life is hard, and we can’t take our spouses for granted, that we must continue to serve even when we don’t feel like it. It is painful to die to the self, and it can be challenging to encourage our spouses through the same process while accepting them exactly where they are.
I get frustrated sometimes, just like everyone, but my opinion is that marriage is the answer. I am not alone on this difficult journey of human life. I married into a large (albeit somewhat dysfunctional) and loyal family, which made up for the lack I experienced in my own family life. I snagged a keeper of a man, who adores me and looks more like Christ with each passing year as he continues to mature. He and I got to grow up together, having eloped at 19. We both take the attitude that whenever we are in conflict, it is one or both of us being difficult or selfish, not the marriage that is the problem. The marriage is what gives us the opportunity to grow in maturity and deepen a relationship that yields so much joy.
So I can understand better why people say marriage is hard; it is because people can be difficult, right? But I think we can all agree that God knew what He was doing when he gave humans marriage! :thumbsup::slight_smile:

I am in a very happy marriage (19 years). But I would say that it has taken work. Others have commented on how selfless a role it is to be in a marriage and the difficulty over the years usually came from understanding what that truly means. Through persistence, you can get there. When we first married, I did not understand what it would take to be successful but I am sure that I thought that I did. I have posted the following before but when people ask me about marriage I tell them that they have to wake up every morning asking themselves how they can be a better spouse and parent and then follow through on their thoughts. If you are not ready to do that, then you are not ready to commit to being married.

Here is another half-formed thought that I imagine might add to this discussion. Others please feel free to correct or expound upon this.

Marriage is one of the seven sacraments. A sacrament in and of itself is not hard, but what is the tough part is the preparation of ourselves that we must go through to be ready for reception of the sacrament. Some of the sacraments are easier to prepare for, especially when they take place in childhood. For example, an infant need not prepare himself for baptism. However, preparation and follow-through are performed by the parents, godparents, priests, and other supportive persons. Preparation for other sacraments are harder for the individual receiving them. For example, confession can be quite intimidating if we must confess some sins that we are afraid to admit out loud. But despite the difficulty that we must go through in order to properly prepare for a sacrament, the sacrament itself is the blessing. The Sacraments are what fill us up with sanctifying grace, draw us closer to our Lord, and give us a foretaste of heaven.
So when people admit that they find marriage is hard, we as Catholics can try to help them compassionately by reminding them that marriage is one of God’s answers to our human failings. Relationships in general are only difficult because people can be difficult and we are all prone to error. But marriage is more than a relationship. Even if a person denies Catholic doctrine, we know that the reality of marriage is such that any validly contracted marriage of baptized persons is indeed a sacrament. So we should be able to counsel our Christian brothers and sisters in a way that reflects that reality, in order to lift them up and to bring glory to God.
Okay, maybe my idea was not quite so half-formed after all. It was just something that kept simmering in my mind throughout the day. So many marriages become unhappy and fail. The Catholic Church does have the ability to become a shining beacon to the rest of the world, as long as we Catholics continue to encourage each other in truly understanding the nature of marriage, what its purpose is, and how to grow and deepen the marriage.

“Happy,” perhaps not. Peaceful, maybe. :slight_smile:

marriage is a roller coaster, at first it is a great high and then trouble hits, it really tests the relationship. After that it has its ups and downs the thing to keep in mind is not what the other person gives you but what you two can give each other. people are created to give ourselves to other people.

ok now the answer to the question. most are unhappy becuase most people are more concerned with themselves then other people. a easy example is this. Mom and Dad get a divorce, the kids dont want it, the parents will do anything for their kids… but get along and love each other. remember love is a act not a emotion.:thumbsup:

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