Happiness, I’ve decided, isn’t really the goal of a marriage. Or relationship. Or whatever you call what you have.

I mean, it isn’t good or bad based on how happy he is or I am on any given marital day. Frankly, I’m a little suspicious of people who claim bliss, all the time. I wonder if they’re telling the truth, the ones who say we’ve never had a fight or he always does this or she never does that.

I once heard a friend say she’d never seen her parents fight. I used to wish my children could say that but, you know, no. Now, I wonder. Maybe they’ve seen us fight, but they’ve also seen us make up and forgive and stay together and grow. So there’s that.

I don’t know if happiness can be a goal in anything, really. I love being a mom but it doesn’t always make me happy. I love writing but, again, sometimes it’s more of a pain than a pleasure.

And I love being married, except when I don’t.

I think I have a good marriage. I can even say I have a happy marriage. But it’s two people, People, so there’s conflict at times, and goal adjustment, and give and take, and we all know that, don’t we.

In our marriage, my husband and I have experienced – individually and collectively – moments, days, and even seasons of unhappiness.

Friends, we have had times of such miserable-ness, I wondered if we could survive. The thing that made the difference, if you’d like to know, was honesty. I don’t mean honesty between us, although that is super important, too. I mean honesty out there, in the world. I mean the kind of honesty where we quit pretending we were perfect and all was just grand, thank you very much.

When we decided the struggle was not going to be our little secret, we got healthier. And when we got healthier, we got happier.

It could have been different. If one of us had decided it wasn’t worth it or gave up or got too tired, we might not have made it. It takes two, it’s true. And if your marriage hasn’t worked, I’m not judging and I’m truly sorry. But if you are in the midst of the struggle and you think there might be hope, I’d encourage you to talk about it. Talk out there, with someone you trust. Be as honest and as transparent as you have the courage to be.

I won’t lie to you; I was terrified. I was terrified when I told my husband I was going to talk to someone about our marriage, and I was terrified when I met that older woman that day for lunch, and I was terrified when I shared my heart with her. And honestly, she didn’t really help much. She was sweet and she listened, but she didn’t fix my life.

It was the experience of telling the truth that was the game changer. Our marriage didn’t automatically become beautiful and happy, but the way we dealt with our problems changed. It all became very real and urgent, and we just kind of quit covering for each other.

We aren’t perfect, now, and neither is our marriage. We don’t have all the answers and there are probably other people out there with better advice. But here’s mine.

Be honest. Tell the truth. Don’t fake it.

It worked for us.