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What’s the Biggest Secret of a Successful Relationship?

Many wise singles look back at previous relationships to discover what went wrong and what went right. They learn from the past how to succeed in the future.

One such person, 34-year-old Stephanie, voices a vital issue common to many people: “I got married in my mid-twenties, and it was a ticking time-bomb from the beginning. We were two basically good people thrown together in a bad situation.”

Here’s what Stephanie realized several years after her marriage ended in divorce: she was looking for someone else to make her feel fulfilled, whole, and complete.


“It was an impossible set-up,” she recalls. “I went into the marriage with sky-high expectations. Mostly, I was looking for someone to bring me happiness. It was that ‘happily ever after’ myth so many of us buy into. What I realized is that I am responsible for my own happiness and fulfillment. Only when I achieved that could I be happy and fulfilled in a relationship. Finding the right man was very important, but even the right man couldn’t make me feel right inside.”

Well said and so true. One of the biggest fallacies and biggest reasons for relationship failure is the idea that someone else is going to make you whole and happy. Many singles believe that only when they find Mr. or Miss Right will they be complete and content. This kind of thinking, ironically, is the very reason so many people feel unfulfilled and empty. They look outside of themselves, instead of looking inward, to find peace of mind and heart.

Deep-down contentment always comes from within. It has everything to do with emotional and spiritual well-being, and it is not dependent upon any relationship or other external factor. If you’re looking for someone else to bring you fulfillment, you’re setting yourself up for even more struggle and discontent.

Researcher Richard Lucas of Michigan State University and his colleagues examined data from a fifteen-year study involving 24,000 individuals to answer the question, “Are married people happier than unmarried people?” The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that men and women who were happy before marriage scored highest on marital satisfaction tests. The report said, “Most people who get married and stay married were more satisfied with their lives than their non-married peers long before the marriage occurred.”

The implication is clear: An individual’s life satisfaction trajectory will usually continue on the same path after marriage. That is, people content with their lives while unmarried stayed content after marriage. Happy people create happy marriages. Folks unhappy while single will not find marriage to be a magical cure-all for their dissatisfaction and discontent.