One Step to a Happy Marriage
As newlyweds, we’ve been inundated with advice from friends, relatives, and even complete strangers about how to have our own version of marital bliss, but their words of wisdom about communication and picking battles are missing some of the things that we cherish most.
If I were sharing our wisdom with a new couple, I wouldn’t tell them to share their finances or worry about dividing their chores. I would tell them that if you want to have a happy marriage, happy friendships, and even happy relationships with your family there is only one principle you need to remember and it will take care of the rest.
I once read in WH Auden’s “The More Loving One,” the most beautiful two lines: “If equal affection cannot be, / Let the more loving one be me.” In different parts of our relationship, we were both “the more loving one”—at first, it was definitely me. All I wanted to do was impress my future husband. I was the typical lovesick 20-something. Then, after we settled into our relationship and started talking about the future, the roles shifted. Now, while it seems that we’re just about equal, we both have the attitude of “the more loving one.”
Being “the more loving one” means we aren’t keeping score, but always going the extra mile. I might give him the last bit of cheesecake, even if I really want it. Or I might wake up early and make his lunch if he’s running late. He brings me a bouquet flowers once a week or so to fill my favorite vase, and I cook far more BBQ than I could ever want because I know it’s his favorite.
Simply put, the secret to our happy marriage is a life without keeping score, where we both assume that we love the other the most and go the extra mile every single day. This one principle eliminates the need for dividing chores or remembering to pick your battles. If you eliminate the scoreboard in your house, on both sides, you’ll find yourself feeling a lot less frustrated. We’re not perfect, but it’s just like I talked about in Italian Guilt. That extra thought or extra effort is almost always worth it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here’s the beautiful, moving, and bittersweet piece referenced in my post:
The More Loving One by WH Auden
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.