6 Secrets to a Happy Marriage
6 Secrets to a Happy Marriage
And you thought this was a business related blog! Actually, it still is. Dr. Thomas Stanley’s research, in his books The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind, found that 80% of millionaires are still married to their first spouse. (There’s the Pareto Principle again!)
We met when my wife was 18 and I was 17. We were 21 when we got married. People said we were too young to get married. Some wondered how we knew we were “compatible” with each other when we hadn’t slept together, much less lived together first.
The truth is, we were relatively young and immature. And I say “relatively” because we also had some life experience behind us. I attended college, out of state, the year after high school. Then I went on a 2 year service mission for my church, where I worked side by side with half a dozen “companions,” one at a time. My wife, on the other hand, completed her Associates Degree and worked a couple jobs during the same time period. College was also out of state for her.
The most important thing for us? We were in love. And we still are. We had a common bond in our Christian faith that gave us a foundation to build on. And we have been talking, sharing our secrets and our dreams, from the beginning.
We were immature and young. And we were able to finish growing up together, blending our paths into each other.
My wife and I have been happily married for over 16 years at the time I write this and we’ve never looked back.
What are our “secrets?” When so many relationships end before they have a chance to really start? When the divorce rate is so high, you’d think people flipped a coin to decide if they should get married?
- Communication. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read that communication is the key. My wife and I talk every day. We talk about what we are working on. We talk about our children. We talk about our dreams and our fears. We talk about our challenges and our successes. We talk about our finances. The point is, we TALK. ALL. THE. TIME.
- Common Beliefs. All good relationships are built on common beliefs. You can’t connect with others if you don’t have anything in common. There’s a reason we talk about sports, cars, clothes, tv shows, and even the weather. The more common beliefs you share with another person, the stronger your relationship is. This is also why your spouse should be your best friend. In your marriage, you need to continue to build on common beliefs. Talk about the taboo topics of religion and politics. Don’t argue about them, but look for the things you believe in common and strengthen those bonds. Talk about how many children you want to have and how you want to raise them. Unify yourselves BEFORE the decisions must be made. My wife and I started talking about these things before we were engaged, much less married. We share our religion. Not only are we both Christian, we both attend the same denomination. We are on the same side of the aisle in politics. We don’t always agree on the specifics, but it gives us an opportunity to discuss our reasons for believing what we do. And often times we change based on the conversations. We often come together, somewhere in the middle. We agreed on how many children we wanted before we were engaged. We talked about how we wanted to raise the children and our beliefs on discipline. When we didn’t agree, we talked it through until we found common ground.
- Service. Forget yourself and go to work. It starts with you. When you selflessly serve your spouse, you find reasons to love. Take out the garbage when it is full. Clean the bathroom when you notice it is a little dirty. Pick up the dirty laundry that didn’t make it to the basket. And do these things without an attitude, without a statement of effort. With a feeling of love in your heart for the person you married and want to be with. Don’t think about what your spouse “should” do for you. Focus on what you can do for them. We are constantly serving one another. Some days it is taking out the garbage. Some times it is taking kids to activities. Sometimes it is insisting the other take some time away for themselves.
- Maintenance. Anything worth having is worth working for. You wouldn’t have said “I do” if you didn’t think the person standing next to you was worth the effort. Now it’s time to work for it. Some days are easy, relaxed, joyful even. But some days aren’t. If you have a habit of doing the little things in your marriage, every day, then the less than ideal days will be fewer and easier to handle. Tell your spouse you love them. Not just every day, but several times each day. Serve them every day. Learn their “love language” and look for ways to show them your love, every single day. Kiss them often throughout the day. When my wife and I were married, the man who married us told us to forgive each other every night before we went to bed. He encouraged us to never go to bed upset or unhappy with each other and he told us to pray together every night before we go to sleep. We aren’t perfect, but this has been a wonderful guide to helping us have a happy marriage.
- Say “I Love You.” Say it in the morning. Say it in the evening. Say it before you eat. Say it when you make love. Say it often and with meaning. Say, “I love you” with your actions as well as your words. Learn their “love language” and use it to show them how you feel. We say these seemingly simple, but ever so powerful words regularly throughout the day. We say them when we kiss. We say them when we wake up and when we go to bed. We say them when we are happy and when we are sad. I know my wife loves me. She tells me all the time!
- Focus on the Positive. When you focus on the reasons why you love your spouse, you will have positive feelings for them. But if you focus on the things you don’t like, you will be unhappy in your marriage. Stay focused on the positive. Think about the reasons you said, “I do.” Think about the fun times you have. Think about the things you have in common. Think about the things that make you smile! We’ve had our fights. I can think of 3 over the past 16 years of marriage. The big thing I remember when I think about them, is that I wasn’t thinking positive thoughts about my wife before or during. I also remember that I was as much to blame for each of the fights as she was. I don’t like the negative. I like being happy. When I think about all the reasons I love my beautiful wife, the memories of the negative slip away and leave me happy.
- Compromise. All of the other 6 “secrets” make this so much easier. There will be times when you don’t agree, even after long discussion. There will be times when you aren’t as happy, even when you try. There will be times when you want to be selfish. These are the times you compromise. When you find the middle ground that will serve both of you well enough. Compromise means that neither one of you gets everything you want. Compromise is when you put the needs of the family over your own desires. If you are both career people, one or both of you will have to say no to a promotion that benefits one, but not the family. My wonderful wife was very patient with me as I job hopped in our early years. But there came a time for me to settle down and realize that the job hopping was a strain on our marriage. Although I wasn’t in a career that I was truly excited about, I made the compromise of giving it a real go, rather than continuing to look for the next opportunity. And in the end, I’ve been very happy. I was always focused on the “other side of the fence” rather than recognizing that I needed to water the grass I had.
- Common Beliefs
- Say, “I Love You”
- Focus on the Positive
There’s a lot of overlap in these “secrets” to a happy marriage. The true secret is that happiness is a choice you make and work for. Put in the effort, and you will get the results. You reap what you sow.
“No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” David O. McKay
I believe in you, now believe in yourself!