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[From Noel] noel portrait1BW  When counseling married couples. Rather, I should say, when providing spiritual guidance… My legal department requires that I not use the word counseling.  (Kidding!  I don’t actually have legal counsel!  It’s the church’s insurance company that won’t let me use the word counseling).

Anyway, when talking with married couples I am fond of saying that marriage does not make you happy.  What I mean is that marriage is hard work.  Central and core to whole enterprise is seeking the good of your spouse and not selfishly seeking your own good.  This advice has never set well with Julie (and I’m not fully convinced of it either).

It turns out I am wrong!  How dare they! University of Michigan published a report in May 2012 that says that marriage does make people happier!  Here is what chief researcher Stevie C.Y. Yap said:

Our data suggests that married people are happier than they would have been if they didn’t get married. Marriage protects against age-related declines in happiness.

What he means is that, typically, the general population gets less happy (no matter how you define happiness) as they get older.  Yap says that married people’s happiness peaks during that first year of marriage and then levels off, tending toward the couple’s previous happiness level.  By the ten year mark, their happiness level is the same as it was when the first got married.  The difference is that single people, on average, are less happy ten years later.

So, maybe what I mean is this: Maybe you learn a new kind of happy by being married. In the blur of 19 years of marriage, somewhere along the way, God has given me a heart transplant and things that I never would have dreamed would make me happy now do. I love clearing the counter of dirty dishes when Julie’s working. I love fixing the window on the van so Julie doesn’t have to worry about it. I love stripping off vinyl flooring and re-setting a toilet seal because Julie picked the perfect floor remnant for the main floor bathroom. There’s a joy in serving the one whom your heart belongs to and it takes 220px-Sweetland_postera long time to get to the place where you feel it. By my count (and everyone’s spouse is different) give it …  ten years.

In the movie SweetLand there’s a scene where a Grandson questions his Grandma about life. Now you’d have to see the movie to know that Grandma has struggled through a difficult marriage, and a tough life. Her grandson asks her, “Grandma, have you been happy?” After a pause, Grandma turns and says, “Son, there are different kinds of happy.” That line stuck with Sara Groves and she wrote a song about it:

Different Kinds of Happy by Sara Groves. From Fireflies and Songs

go on and ask me anything
what do you need to know
I’m not holding on to anything
I’m not willing to let go of
to be free, to be free

I’ve got to ask you something
but please don’t be afraid
there’s a promise here thats heavier
than your answer might weigh
baby it’s me, it’s me

it’s a sweet, sweet thing
standing here with you and nothing to hide
light shining down to our very insides
sharing our secrets, bearing our souls,
helping each other come clean

secrets and cyphers
there’s no good way to hide
there’s redemption in confession
and freedom in the light
I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid

better than our promises
is the day we got to keep them
I wish those two could see us now
they never would believe how
there are different kinds of happy
different kinds of happy
there are different kinds of happy
different kinds of happy

it’s a sweet, sweet thing
standing here with you and nothing to hide
light shining down to our very inside
loving each other

it’s a sweet, sweet thing
standing here with you and nothing to hide
light shining down to our very insides
loving each other
knowing each other
helping each other
sharing our secrets, bearing our souls,
helping each other come clean

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