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Not long after my husband, Keith, and I first said "I do" we were shocked (and a bit irritated) by the negative attitudes toward marriage we encountered seemingly everywhere we turned.
We heard about the 'first year blues' and the 'seven year itch,' but it was incredibly rare to hear someone actually say something positive about being married. And I can count on one hand the number of times I heard "happiness" and "marriage" used in the same sentence.
But there was one time I do remember—and that conversation has remained with us for all our married years.
A few months after tying the knot, Keith and I were riding in the crowded elevator of a Los Angeles hotel. Keith's arms were wrapped around my shoulders and my head was buried in his chest. One of the women on the ride observing our affection began doing what so many had done before her, and said, "Hold on to that. It won't last long..." But before she could finish, another woman turned around and added her two cents: "Happiness is a choice. My husband and I have been married 29 years and we have chosen to be happy. Every morning when we wake up we choose to enjoy our day with each other. We choose to be happy." With that, she looked Keith and me square in the eyes and said, "Choose to be happy and it will last."
As a marriage advocate, I engage with thousands of happily married women every day. In these conversations, some common denominators among happy marriages have emerged.
Surprisingly, in nearly every interview, with each couple, regardless of race, religion, culture, socio-economic status or upbringing, their secrets to a happy marriage are the same—and one of the biggest findings is the very same one I learned at the start of my own marriage, back in that crowded Los Angeles elevator: Happiness in marriage, as in life, is a choice.
Happiness in marriage is not by happenstance. It's a moment-by-moment decision. Money will come and go. There will be family drama. But none of this has to negatively affect your marriage. You have the power, from the very beginning, to become a united front with your spouse.
So believe in your love, believe in your marriage, and believe in your ability to make it last—happily.
Fawn Weaver is a marriage advocate, the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Happy Wives Club and the founder of HappyWivesClub.com.