Hax: Trying to explain a happy marriage

The Washington PostOctober 8, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I got married five months ago. People often ask if I'm happy with married life or if it has surprised me.

I know they're just making conversation, but my honest answer would be that it's been completely anticlimactic. Nothing changed since before we were married.

I've given this answer once or twice with a smile and finished it off with " … exactly what I was hoping for," but people still seem as if I've answered in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

Is there an implication here that I should be aware of? All I can think is that it suggests we lived together before marriage (gasp!). Should I just say something empty and get back to work? I'm not a romantic and I didn't buy into the whole bride thing. Is this one of those times where I fake it?

ANTICLIMACTIC

It might not be that you're inducing gasps, but instead just deviating from the fairy-tale playbook.

How about instead: "Yes I am happy/No I'm not surprised! That's why I married him." It's the same answer, just a bit sunnier than "anticlimactic," and it has the most polite little touch of " … but thanks for the stupid* question," which we all know it is, despite coming from a good place in most people.

It's also, if anyone's reading hard between the lines, a great way to make the point that you married because you were happy, not that you're happy because you married, a fine point that might appeal to the nonromantic in you.

And it could be that, given many people's thoughts on marriage, they don't believe you and expect to hear that all marriages are unhappy work.

* Yes, stupid, because: Answer A, "I'm so happy!" can sound fake even when you mean it, especially if you're forcing cheer through annoyance at the question - and if you're unhappy, what's Answer B? A question with no good answer is pretty much the definition of putting someone on the spot.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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