Happiness For Dummies
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A happy couple is one where the two partners retain their own separate, individual identities while working together to meet life’s many challenges and accomplish mutual goals. This is sometimes difficult to do, but if you both want it to work, it usually will.

A minister refused to continue the traditional marriage ritual where the bride and groom light a joint candle — symbolizing their union — and extinguish their respective individual candles. He argued that it was a mistake to ask the couple to forsake their individual identities in order to enter into the sanctity of marriage — and he was right!

On the other hand, it’s equally naïve to imagine that you can be in a committed relationship (one with no “back door”) — and be happy together — without adjusting your interests, needs, and lifestyle to those of your partner.

The hard part is deciding just how much of an adjustment to make — and that’s where the idea of balance becomes important. For example, consider Katherine and Mel. The problem that led Mel to seek a divorce was that he made too many adjustments to suit his wife and essentially ended up with a marriage that was all about the two of them and not enough about him.

He complained, “I’m tired of always doing what she or the kids want to do. It’s my turn now. I’m going to do what I want from now on. I’m going to play golf with my friends, go where I want to go, eat the things I like.” For 30 years, it had all been about Katherine, his children, his parents, and his in-laws — now it was all about Mel.

Think about how you spend your time on the weekends — who you’re with, the kind of activities you engage in, where you go, and so on. Now decide which of these are we activities and which are me pursuits. Examples of we activities include things such as:

  • Meeting another couple for dinner

  • Going to a movie together

  • Attending church together

  • Working in the yard together

Me activities include

  • Spending some time by yourself browsing through a local bookstore

  • Checking out the local flea market on your own

  • Playing basketball with your buddies

  • Going to the spa with your girlfriends

  • Reading

  • Having lunch alone with a close friend

How balanced are these activities? If the numbers are too unbalanced (more than 80 percent for one type of activity and less than 20 percent for the other), it’s time for a change.

The key to happiness lies in balance.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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