“What’s Your Secret for a Happy Marriage?”



“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

30 years ago today “some guy” lost his luggage, I found it, and we found each other. The rest, as they say, is history. In October of this year, we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. That’s three decades! Seriously? Where did the time go? It is amazing and wonderful, and surreal all at the same time. Even now, he makes me laugh harder than anyone else. My heart still skips a beat when I hear his voice, and just the sight of him makes me weak in the knees. People have asked us, “What’s your secret?” It’s hard to know where to start.

Be realistic — My (very wise) stepmom once told me, “A happy marriage is an 80/20 proposition. 80% of the time, you adore them and cannot imagine the world without them in it. 20% of the time, you want to take them to the curb with the trash.” So far that holds true for us. It is unrealistic to expect to be head over heels every day. Some days we are not at our best (because we are human), and that’s okay. We hang in there because we know that “falling in love” feeling really does come back, again and again.

Forget “perfection” — No one is perfect (but together we are close). We make room for one another’s perspectives. Even if we don’t agree, we are respectful. By being open to other ideas, we are always growing, as a couple, but also as people. Some couples make the mistake of trying to “fix” what makes them different. Why? Being different doesn’t mean they’re broken.

Have touch points — We are two people in one relationship, not conjoined twins. It’s okay to have different hobbies and different friends. What we share are “touch points.” These are rituals shared by just us two, and that makes all the difference. For example, for 30 years we have had morning coffee together to start our day. In person or on Skype! It seems small, but it has become precious and sacred to us. Sharing one thing is more special than sharing everything.

Be selective — “The key to a successful marriage is leaving about three or four things a day – unsaid.” ~ author unknown. Before saying something that might cause hurt or anger, I consider its importance and impact. I have discovered that no matter how unhappy I may be, his unhappiness hurts me more. Maybe it’s an old argument that no one ever wins, or maybe it’s as silly as his stray eyebrow hair or the way I look in these pants. Seriously, some things are better left unsaid. Let it go.

Be polite — “The secret to a happy marriage is just keep being as polite to one another as you are to your friends.” ~ Robert Quillen. Have you ever noticed that many folks are kinder to those who love them least and harder on those who love them most? Isn’t that backward? My husband is my best friend, so I remember to speak to him that way.

This is a marathon, not a sprint — Marriage can be hard work — be willing to get your hands dirty — it’s worth it. Having kids, a mortgage, making a home — these are just a few of the challenges. And, you’re going to make mistakes. Too often we hear of relationships that hit the skids when the going gets rough. Not all marriages work, of course, but the ones worth having are the ones worth fighting for.

There are many other reasons that our marriage works; but, if I had to give one piece of advice it would be to have the marriage you would want your children to have — because they probably will.


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