Before I met Sonya I was Derrick and a single man. I lived my life as a single man to the fullest, as most men would.
Happiness to me was contingent on my circumstances and my environment. Happiness existed in pockets of my life. When I was around my parents and my siblings, that's what made me happy. When I went to work and my coworkers appreciated me, that's what made me happy. When I got my pay check, that's what made me happy. When I was with my boys and we were hanging out, that's what made me happy. When I was with women who had no commitment to me or the relationship, that's what made me happy. When I watched porn, that's what made me happy. That was what happiness meant to me as a single man.
I met Sonya in 1993 and we married on September 3, 1995. I expected that she and the marriage would make me happy.
The day of the wedding I had feelings of excitement, newness and hope for a better life. I was happy with the decision I made and happy with the circumstances that I received.
After the first 30 days of marriage I realized that I didn't make a mistake, I just didn't feel the happiness that I had once experienced.
Marriage didn't make me happy. My boys made me happy. My co-workers made me happy. My money made me happy. The porn made me happy. The other women made me happy, but marriage did not.
If you were to ask Sonya, she felt the same way. Her college friends brought her happiness, her family brought her happiness, her independence brought her happiness, her career brought her happiness, but Derrick didn't make her happy.
We married with the false expectation that the institution of marriage would bring us happiness. The first three years of our marriage almost ended in divorce, a phone call away from spending time in jail and footsteps away from court filing stay away orders.
So, what did we do? We put our big boy and big girl pants on and we talked. We took the word happiness out of our vocabulary for marriage and replaced it with the word "work". We had to work on redefining ourselves as a married couple. We had a “heart to heart” conversation about our definition of marriage and our expectations. We didn't know that we needed to learn how to be married.
The bottom line is, we had to learn how to be married and had to want to be married, it's that simple. In conducting marriage counseling for 20 years we have heard and seen it all as it relates to why people get married. The reasons vary. The biggest concern that we have is when singles say to us, "I just want to be happy".
Our response is, "let's talk before you say I do".
According to Encyclopedia of Psychology Research on Marriage & Divorce, 50 percent of marriage end in divorce. 60 to 67 percent of second marriages fail, and 70 to 73 percent of third marriages end on the rocks.
After 22 years of marriage we can honestly say we are happier people, not because the marriage was the catalyst. We are happier people because we both worked hard individually to understand ourselves, understand each other and understand the steps it takes to be selfless, forgive, respond to and share feelings, hear and meet the other’s needs, respect each other while making it safe and finally and most importantly, understanding who God is in our marriage.
A quote from John Newton reminds me to continue to look in the mirror. To look in the mirror at myself and not my marriage.
"I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
I am what I am. Always striving to make a better me while making a better marriage. For the record, marriage doesn't make you happy.
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