The Definition of a Happy Marriage

Joan Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California - June 2002

This little write up involves a somewhat cynical look at the marriage phenomenon. The main question driving this article is the following: Have you ever considered that "happily ever after" can be established in different ways?

Imagine a couple that has been married for 25 years, lives together, has raised a few kids, is now looking forward to retirement and annual vacations in far-away countries, and has set aside a decent sum of money for whenever Mr. Hard-Times comes knocking. Those are personifying the happily ever after idea in the way we all seem to interpret it, right?

But what about the couple that has also been married for 25 years, has raised a few kids, but decides after 20 of those 25 years that life together isn't all that gratifying anymore? So they split, and each of them starts a new life in their own, preferred way. However, this couple stays in touch. Actually, their relationship improves to a point where they reach a much better mutual understanding than they ever had while living together. So, in spite of - or maybe thanks to - some condoned, superficial affairs here and there, their marriage remains in tact: at least officially. And they are both reasonably satisfied with this solution. Is this, then, not also a happy marriage in its own, unique way? Haven't these people found a different, yet wonderful equilibrium in their search for "happily ever after"?

And who can tell which one of the above-described marriages is actually happier? For all we know, the first described marriage may seem happy, because we "forgot" to mention some juicy details: Mr. has been having a mistress for the last 7 years, and Mrs. has developed a very special relationship with "Johnny Walker", "Jim Beam", or "Ernest and Julio Gallo". Yet, this couple has managed to hide these little details from the eyes of the world, and succeeded in making everyone ? including themselves ? believe that they're doing great on the happily-ever-after thing.

If the just provided details are correct ? and more times than not they are ? couple number 2 has actually managed to give a more satisfying, yet not very widely accepted, observance of "happily-ever-after."

Here's the simple difference between both cases:

  • In case no.1, the world perceives a happy marriage, but the insiders don?t experience it
  • In case no. 2, the insiders live happily ever after, but the world refuses to accept this particular manifestation of a happy marriage.

    Undoubtedly, there are also numerous marriages that just last without complications as mentioned in no. 1 or 2... or should we just change the name of the complications that can possibly rise, and categorize all "happy marriages" under either no. 1, or no. 2? You should know for yourself. How? Just look around!