5 Keys to a Happy Marriage

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Garry and I have been married for over 32 years and we’re honestly happier than ever.  Not that it’s always been easy; anything this valuable doesn’t come without a price.  We’ve earned our marriage battle scars, but more importantly, when faced with the hardness of life, we’ve taken the path of joy and having a good laugh at out own expense more often than any other.

5 Keys To a Happy Marriage

More than once in our married life, people have asked us our secret to staying happily married.  Always makes me laugh.  How about this for our secret: Stay together.

No.  Really.

Key #1 : Stay together.

Easy to say.  Just two small words.  But, baby, some days those two words were about the hardest and largest things to do.

That’s right.  We’ve had our moments when we both wanted to leave.  I’M OUT!  Last count, mine was twice.  I was so mad, enraged, so white-hot-angry that I couldn’t see a way for us to stay together.  Luckily, I always allowed myself the time to think, to cool my jets, to contemplate what a divorce would mean for me, for Boy and for Garry.  At those moments, staying together didn’t feel like a secret to a happy marriage, but all these years later it turned out that it was key.

Over the years, our differences grew less and less.  Parenting a baby turned into parenting a small child, which quickly turned into parenting a teen, which eventually led to an empty nest. Let me tell you this, if you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: Stay active in your spouse’s life; go out of your way to spend time together, alone, while your children are still at home.  When your last birdie flies, if you don’t have anything in common any more, if all you had were the kiddies…and now they’re gone building their nest…you will face a crisis in your marriage that may be too tough to overcome.

Key #2: Do stuff together.

Doesn’t matter what the stuff is, just do something, anything, together regularly.

Pick a day; have some fun.  Garry and I each like having one weekend day with no outside plans, with or without the other.  During the season, Garry loves to watch football all day long on Sundays.  Me, not so much.  I get stir crazy.  Who am I to insist that he get out of the house and spend time with me when he lurvs him some football?!  Easy solution: Saturday.

Come Saturday, we play.  Lately we’ve been contemplating a new pup as a pal for Dex, so we head out to Pet’s Mart to check out the foster babies they bring in.  Then, maybe a little shopping.  Lunch.  Throw in a late afternoon movie or a Netflix marathon and you’ve got a happy twosome.

The stuff we do changes with the seasons, but if we don’t get our time together (during the week is hard, yo) we both get cranky. Even the mundane is enough to fill our hearts.

Too tame for you?  Fine.  Do your wild thangs, baby.  Just do.

Key #3: Sexy Intimacy

Whippersnappers can’t imagine anyone over the age of 40 having sex without that look on their face.  Head’s up buttercups: Sex with someone you’ve known for years, with someone who adores you, with someone who not only loves you, but cares about you is a glorious gift of a happy marriage.

Bodies don’t have to be hard and taut.  Bits and pieces don’t need to align with society’s ideal of beauty.  You can simply be yourself, which leads to a strong sense of intimacy.

There is a sweet gratitude in watching the body of your mate change, just as yours does.  Being allowed time in a relationship means adapting everyday to change.  The bodies we bring into our marriages are not the bodies we take out, yet the tale each shift of our bodies documents is a comfort to us as we travel into aging together.  If sex starts in the brain, I’ll go further and say if one is well-loved, then one loves well.  The intimacy of love is more than the physical act of sex, yet the physical act of sex is, um, sexy when coupled with intimacy.

Key #4: Communication

Don’t know if y’all have picked up on this, but I’m a talker.  I want to communicate ALL THE THINGS!  Which you would think is good.  Get it out, baby!  Until you’re married to a more quiet kinda guy.  When something is bothering me, out it comes.  When something is bothering Garry, he gets even more quiet than normal.  The key to us figuring out how much talking, how much solving, how many words are going to be used, is communicating.

He’ll tell me if he needs more time to think.  I’ll tell him that I need to say just. one. more. thing.  He’ll tell me to stop.  I’ll tell him that I need to say just. one. more. thing.  He’ll say that we should talk some more about it after we’ve had time to think.  I’ll say okay, but I need to say just. one. more. thing.  He’ll relent.  We both get to sleep that night.

While I’m mostly, but not really kidding, we’ve been married long enough to know exactly where our lines in the sand are…and where we’ve hidden the swords.  No one gets cut as long as they stay away from the swords!

IMPORTANT NOTE: While we have had our huge disagreements, it’s rare that we stab each other in the heart when we do, meaning we try like hell to not name-call or say things that will linger long after forgiveness has been begged.  Throughout the years, we’ve been pretty good about just shooting daggers at the other while thinking horrible things about the other instead of saying them.  I think this one thing has been a saving grace to our marriage as we both have fiery tempers at times.  Touch the sun; GET BURNED!

Key #5: Humor

For me, humor may be the second most important key in our happy marriage.  We laugh daily in our home.  Many of those days we laugh hard, like tears coming down your face, hard.  If life is the wound, humor is the salve.  We gots it in spades.

After each and every one of our big, divorce-provoking, arguments, we have laughed, sometimes for years afterwards, about how stupid things got.  We even do impersonations of the other, complete with voices.  Remember how MAD you were stomping out the door?  Oh-ho!  Look at me…I’m MAD!  Some might think the mocking is cruel, but we find it highly amusing because there is love and trust behind the fun.   There is not much in this world that couldn’t be healed with a well-time and highly amusing impersonation of a person going off.

One fight even gave us a catch-phrase that we still use today: It’s more than just a cheeseburger.  When one of us utters those words, I’m instantly taken back to that moment and have another laugh over the ridiculousness that was our fight.

Humor has an honored place in our lives.  It has eased us through the pain of losing loved ones, through the hardship of 3 rounds of unemployment, through the bittersweet moment of sending Boy off on his own, through the unpredictability of cancer, through the terrifying aspects of serious health issues, through the ridiculous arguments that cemented us together in love and through the unmeasurable joy and blessing that has been our lives together.

There you have it.  Our five keys may not be your five keys, but I’m willing to bet you have the majority of them if you’re in a happy marriage.  The trick is to keep them over the years instead of throwing them in that weird Bermuda Triangle kitchen junk drawer.  You may find them again, but you’ll have to test them on every door until you find out where they go.

Got a key not listed?  I’d love to know what it is.



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  1. Great advice!! My husband and I have been married for 2 years now and I absolutely love the “do stuff together tip.” Our shared hobbies definitely strengthen our relationship! Looking forward to many more years! 🙂

    xo, Alice

  2. This is my favorite post of yours. Ever.
    Engineer and I have been married for 16 years and all of what you said is TRUTH!
    All I would add would be #6 – To remind yourself (and even better, your spouse) of all the little things you love about them. If he holds the door open for you, or washes the dishes, or sends you texts with nothing but a heart emoticon, be appreciative.
    Again, LURVE this post.

  3. YES!! To all of this! The Hubs and I have only been married for 3.5 years but we’ve earned out share of battle scars… We’re both learning to temper our words and be careful that they don’t have long term effects. We love doing things together and humor is something we excel at! This advice is invaluable!

  4. Great post!! Congrats on 32 years!!!

  5. Great Advice! We do most of these, we are about to starting adding a “date night” to our routine that I think will help because sometimes we get so caught up in our daily routine and it seems to be always the same. We try to have fun together quiet a bit whether its working in the yard or just going out to the lake and fish.

    • While the kiddos are small, it’s important to remember why you married each other to begin with…you gotta have that time, no matter how you spend it. Thanks, Teresa.

  6. “Try to remember, every day, that loving this woman is the most important thing you will ever do.” I said those words when it was my turn to address the happy couple at my son’s wedding a dozen years ago. I think he must have been listening.

    • Omgosh, Bob. I’m totally stealing your line (interchanging woman/man where needed). Beautiful and filled with wisdom.

      • Please feel free to use my line, Patti. It’s one of the few smart things I’ve ever said so let’s spread it around. Grandma B and I marked off forty years last August, so she must have worked her butt off to keep us together. 🙂

  7. Yes yes yes I so agree after nearly 32 years with Tim, married for going on 31 years I can say that the older we get the more we enjoy being together

  8. My husband and I have been married for 42 years (28th) and we would agree with what you’ve written (and #6!). We have it down to one word: commitment. It’s basically your # 1. For us that made us do the rest. When you know that you’re going to be ‘stuck’ with someone forever, you work on the little things as much as the big things. And you also learn to accept each other as you are, because life’s a whole lot more pleasant that way.

  9. Beautiful post. I am not married, but there’s still so many take-aways in your essay about basic human kindness and caring that are great life messages. As always, thank you for sharing your hear with us!

  10. Great post and so true, too! Love the cheeseburger line. It’s funny what we say sometimes when we get frustrated!

  11. Great post! So very true. Married 29 years in August and we love each other immensely. When the kids were young my hubby would set up a baby sitter and date night. It made me feel special and kept the romance going. Communication is our response when asked about our happy successful marriage. It’s key to everything: love, child rearing, house buying, money (that’s always a tough one), goals, careers, retirement and so much more. And let’s not forget sex. They more you communicate the better it gets!!! The better the sex the more intimate and connected you feel. And thank goodness there are therapists to help you when you’re having a tough time communicating. Money well spent.

  12. I’ve been married 23 years (in August) and I agree with EVERY SINGLE WORD of this post. Stay together is our #1 and Laugh is #2. Marriage isn’t easy but I do believe that once you figure out these key ingredients, it gets easier.

  13. Great keys! I’ve never really taken the time to think of the keys to a happy marriage, but I’ve ready several articles about it. We just returned from our first vacation together without the kids~ to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We are both from dysfunctional families riddled with divorce, so we had no role models and therefore are very proud of ourselves. We’ve always said divorce is not an option. You are right that having things you enjoy doing together is important. I see so many people that split when the kids graduate. Sad!

    We are happy!!

  14. Hi Patti, I’m visiting from the Creativity Unleashed Party where your link caught my eye. I’m so glad I pressed the link because I so enjoyed reading your very well written post. We just hit year 28 as well as became empty nesters. Yup, whatever you’ve swept under the rug in the busyness of raising a family will come back to bite you in the you know what once they’re gone. Ouch! Your 5 Keys are bang on – very good advice. Congrats on 25 years!

  15. These are so important! Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable marriage experiences. I needed to be reminded of a couple of things on your list. This is candid and so helpful. We’ve been married 10 years and I think we have learned a lot but have a long way to go. We definitely both are so committed to staying together no matter what. It’s the only choice we want to make. Good to know from someone married longer that that is a key point. Thanks for linking up at Wonderful Wednesday!

  16. Marsha Westerbeck says

    Hi Patti, that is a wonderful article on marriage & so true. Don’t know that I ever met you & haven’t seen Garry in many yrs. but I am his 1st cousin on the Morgan side. I lost my husband suddenly almost 5 yrs. ago after 33 yrs. of marriage. I always say New love is great but Old love is the best! Wish you both the best & maybe we will meet some day. Marsha

    • Marsha! Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment. I think we may have met years ago at the family reunion, but I can’t say for sure (so many years ago!). I’m so sorry you lost your husband.

      We agree: new love is great but old love is the best!

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