The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Relation Tips -

VERY BRIDE and groom who stand un­der the chup­pah ex­pect that af­ter the wed­ding and the hon­ey­moon is over, they will set­tle down to live a long and happy life to­gether. Yet the statis­tics sug­gest that a very large mi­nor­ity of those peo­ple will end their mar­riages via the di­vorce courts.

Rather than trust to fate that you will be one of the lucky ones, there may be steps you can take from the out­set to en­sure that your own mar­riage runs smooothly. Re­late coun­sel­lor Chris­tine Northam feels that mar­riage is not a blank can­vas, be­cause ev­ery­one brings bag­gage from their child­hood. Al­though there are pos­i­tive steps you can take to in­crease the odds in your favour, the fact re­mains that if you want a happy mar­riage you should choose your par­ents care­fully. “Com­ing from a happy fam­ily and hav­ing a happy child­hood will leave you feel­ing grounded and rea­son­ably con­fi­dent in your­self. A lot of the prob­lems we en­counter come from peo­ple with poor ne­go­ti­at­ing skills.”

But if both part­ners are will­ing to work at th­ese skills, they will in­crease the odds in their favour. Northam main­tains that if th­ese is­sues are ad­dressed at the out­set of a mar­riage, there is a vastly in­creased op­por­tu­nity for long-term hap­pi­ness. “There’s a very good Re­late book called Be­fore You Say ‘I do’, by El­iz­a­beth Martin. It goes through all the things you need to con­sider . Where do you want to live? How im­por­tant is hav­ing a fam­ily to you? How many chil­dren do you want to have? Do you both want ca­reers, in which case how are you go­ing to man­age that with chil­dren? That’s a big one th­ese days. Who is go­ing to do what in the house? Will you buy a house or will you rent?”

Start­ing off on the right foot is clearly vi­tal, but is there one piece of ad­vice cou­ples can hang on to in the quest for long-last­ing con­tent­ment? Oliver Burke­man, the author of Help: How to Be­come Slightly Hap­pier and Get a Bit More Done, feels there is. He thinks that you should for­get about com­pat­i­bil­ity — that this is an ar­ti­fi­cial con­struct put on re­la­tion­ships and one which has lit­tle mean­ing. He says that the key to con­ju­gal bliss is sim­ply to find some­one and stick with them. “Longterm stud­ies of cou­ples seemed to de­ter­mine that com­pat­i­bil­ity only arose as a prob­lem when the re­la­tion­ship was in trou­ble. All you re­ally seem to need to make a re­la­tion­ship work is the ba­sic chem­istry of at­trac­tion plus the will­ing­ness to cre­ate that com­pat­i­bil­ity. That is, two peo­ple who want to make the re­la­tion­ship work.”

Si­mone Chin­man has seen both sides of the equa­tion, as some­one who mar­ried young and di­vorced sev­eral years later but who is now bliss­fully happy with her sec­ond hus­band, Rob­bie. She feels that ma­tu­rity has cer­tainly helped in terms of her abil­ity to con­cen­trate on what mat­ters in a re­la­tion­ship, but that there is one huge dif­fer­ence be­tween her first and sec­ond mar­riage. “The es­sen­tial thing is that I know Rob­bie is the right per­son for me. I didn’t need to marry again so if he wasn’t com­pletely and ut­terly the right per­son for me I wouldn’t have mar­ried him. We got mar­ried purely be­cause we loved each other so much. Liv­ing to­gether wasn’t enough, we wanted to make that com­mit­ment. More or less ev­ery day we say to each other, ‘we’re so lucky aren’t we?’. And that’s af­ter two-and-a-half years.”

How­ever, she does feel that there is more than just luck to a happy re­la­tion­ship. “We’re a unit, but we main­tain our in­de­pen­dence so that we’re not crush­ing each other. We give each other space. We’re both quite as­sertive, so that we know that one of us is not go­ing to take ad­van­tage of the other. We both are on an equal level and nei­ther of us is dom­i­nant.”

But be­yond the ne­go­ti­at­ing skills and the abil­ity to re­spect each other, there is one mas­sive fact that gives the Chin­mans a huge ad­van­tage along the road to long-term hap­pi­ness. Si­mone says: “In the past I’ve al­ways craved the friend­ship of my girl­friends. But with Rob­bie I never need to, be­cause I have him. He is my best friend.”

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