The Keys to a Happy Marriage

Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

by Germán Velasco

Congratulations on your new life together! We often hear this exclamation at weddings. While we may think this is just one more phrase said without much thought to its literal meaning, like happy birthday, the newlyweds would do very well to consider the literal meaning of those two words – new life – for the sake of their relationship as well as each for his or her own sake.

In my marriage preparation and divorce mediation work, I have learned that the flexibility and the agility to navigate the changes life demands are two vital tools for a successful, happy and rewarding marriage.

After working with hundreds of clients in seven years, I dare to say that the best advice I can give a new couple beginning a life together is to remember and understand deeply that they are starting a new life. A new life for her. A new life for him. That is to say, both individuals must be strongly predisposed to changing old customs, preferences, family traditions and habits. If one of the two understands this and the other does not, the necessary balance and harmony for a successful relationship begin to fail, as if the marriage has developed a bad virus that will eventually be impossible to ignore.

Marriage means sharing life with a person who comes from another planet, and this being from another planet is someone we love. As a general rule, the person we choose to share our life with has a lot in common with us, but also as a general rule, it is logical to expect him or her to see life in very different ways from ourselves. Love is not enough to build a healthy and rewarding relationship for both partners. We have to make the commitment to understand that living with this being from another planet will demand changes, and we have to be happy and willing to make these changes.

The biggest mistake in marriage is to enter into this institution with a personal philosophy that resists change. Those who believe that the way they were trained at school or at their parents’ house is the only way to live are the people who contribute the least to a successful and happy marriage. These people usually walk through life always feeling cheated by the world without knowing why.

Having established that the first gold key to a happy marriage is personal flexibility and agility to change, the next gold key relates to the two partners together; namely, learning to evolve as a couple over time. Evolving together is another important art to master. Life demands constant change, sometimes abruptly and always gradually and constantly. Couples who want to enjoy that wonderful institution called marriage must work consciously to evolve together.

Congratulations on your new life together!

Germán Velasco is the executive director of La Mano Amiga, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing informational resources to U.S. Latino communities.