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Advice, Rules, and Secrets to a Happy Marriage - 6 Guidelines For a Good Marriage

Updated on September 5, 2016
cclitgirl profile image

Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts and culture and sharing that knowledge.

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10 Years and Counting

Among my thirty-something friends, I don't know very many people who have been married ten years or longer. As my significant other and I come up on our tenth anniversary, I've had several people ask about how we have stayed together.

I can say that I was afraid to get married - at first. I didn't have a lot of solid examples of what a great marriage looked like in my life. Friends and family were getting divorced left and right or otherwise avoiding the whole idea and settling for co-habitation.

I didn't want to "settle," though. I wanted that lifelong friendship. I had taken a college class that spelled out the statistics: co-habitating couples tend to get divorced at higher rates after getting married. I loved my future husband too much to start off as a potential statistic. I also knew that if I got married, it was going to be "for real".

Luckily, my guy felt the same way, too.

My natural response to my fears? Research. (Little wonder that I love to write, no? I love doing research so yes, I researched marriage.)

I went out and found some of the best books that I could find on marriage advice. I poured over them and pondered and shared them with my significant other.

My favorite was called, The New Couple by Maurice Taylor and Seana McGee. It's about how modern marriage is different than the marriages of yesteryear and fresh rules are in order to help make them more successful.

The rules included having "having mutual chemistry," "not making assumptions," and "deep listening".

While we heeded the advice of this book, we invariably developed our own "guidelines," so to speak. We began to think of rules as sort of harsh and unyielding. Relationships are very fluid - always changing, always evolving. Thus, we adopted some guidelines to live by and strive to uphold this code.

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Guideline 1: Know Your Significant Other's Personality

While we were still dating, we took the time to understand each other's personality. We both figured out that we were introverts. That was good for us because that meant we'd have no problem being "homebodies."

We also took time to understand that the other person would not change. That is, if one person liked something the other didn't like as much, we would talk about it and establish a guideline so it wouldn't become a problem.

For example, he liked working on cars. I didn't.

I liked to paint works of art. We decided that on days that we had nothing going on, I could work on my artwork and he could work on his cars. He didn't have to change his ways, nor did I.


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Guideline 2: Be On the Same Page With Finances

We figured out that one person was more of a spender and the other was a saver. We discussed purchases, budgeting and spelled out our expectations of each other.

We agreed to always be up front about finances. When we first started out, we had separate bank accounts. For a few years this worked, but we revisited this when one or the other of us was unemployed at one time or another and figured out a joint account would work better.

But, it always came down to being up front and being honest and being willing to change and evolve as our necessities dictated.

We also agreed that we would do a budget every month so that we would live within our means and help alleviate the stress of being in debt. We are now working to eradicate all of our debt, including the mortgage.

This means we both forego fancy dinners out except for special occasions and don't buy things we don't need. Since we both have come to believe in this principle, the "spender" and "saver" came together on a beautiful compromise.

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Guideline 3: Use Multi-level Communication

When we were dating and later got engaged, so many people said for us to "communicate." What exactly did that mean, though? I mean, I had friends who would give each other the silent treatment when they were mad at each other. Still, others seemed to "talk" all right, but really, nothing was said - they'd talk about sports or what they were doing next week, but not about the important things.

We realized that communication looks different at different times. At the end of every work day, we made a point of checking in and talking about what went on, as well as different philosophies, the news, or whatever was important. This became a ritual. While cooking dinner and maybe drinking a glass of wine, we began to look forward to our daily talks.

There have been times when we would invariably get into an argument. Some were worse than others. But we had made a pact before we got married that we would work to talk about our feelings. Now, this didn't mean that when we were angry or disappointed that we would have to talk in that instant. In fact, that meant that we would take some time to cool off - even if a day or two would go by. That's okay. In the meantime, we still would treat each other with dignity and as a friend. Then we'd come together to talk about our feelings after the heat of anger dissipated. This way, we've been able to avoid saying hurtful things to each other in the "heat of anger."

Guideline 4: Use "I" Statements

Have you ever noticed that when you approach someone in anger and say something like, "You are always leaving your stuff laying around all over the place!" the other person gets defensive? They immediately fire back some response in an effort to recoup some of that hurt ego.

This is a really good way to start an argument. Conversely, using "I" statements are a really good way to avoid arguments.

Thus, whenever we are expressing our feelings, we try to start with the word "I". For example, if I don't like the way he's driving, I'll say something like, "I get scared when you drive like that," instead of "You're driving like a maniac!" That way, I bear the burden of how I feel (which I should) and the other person doesn't have to get defensive.

This works with positive statements, too. "I just love it when you clean the kitchen for me," as opposed to "you never clean the kitchen when I want you to." In this way, you show appreciation for your significant other while expressing something you'd like to see get done.


What does real communication look like?
What does real communication look like? | Source

Guideline 5: Compliment Each Other

You're marrying your best friend, right? Best friends find reasons to compliment each other, no matter how long they've been married. I still take the time to tell my husband that he looks great when he dresses up. We try to remember to say "thank you" and appreciate when one of us does something around the house.

My husband often gets up to make breakfast for the both of us. It's easy to assume that he'll always do this because it's become a habit. However, it's important to remember that he doesn't have to do anything like that. He chooses to, and I express my appreciation.

Each day, I try to find at least one thing to compliment my significant other about, and he does the same for me.

Guideline 6: Use Teamwork

It takes two to tango, and it takes two to make a marriage. There will always be some give and take.

Decide early on who will do what and how often and revise as you go along. This sounds unromantic, perhaps. Maybe it also sounds like it would go without saying on assuming who does what.

But that's where you can get in trouble. Just because she's the girl doesn't mean she automatically cleans the bathroom or does the laundry. Just because he's the guy, he shouldn't automatically have to go around fixing everything that breaks in the house.

Work all these details out. When life happens, rework those details. When we were first married, I was working part-time and going to school. This meant I had more time to cook and clean, so I did a lot more of it than he did. However, when the economy took a turn for the worse, and my husband's job evaporated, he graciously became the person who cleaned a lot more, made breakfast, kept the fire going (both literally and figuratively), and ran a lot of errands. Basically, when one or the other person has time, we've agreed that that person will pick up the slack.

Even now, with both of us working, we take turns cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the animals. We also have "jobs" that one or the other does: I'm really good at paying the bills; he's really good at changing the water filter every week. I'm good at making yummy dinners; he's really good at watering the plants.

Every so often, we talk about the things that we bring to the relationship and see if everything's going all right. It's great Teamwork.

© 2012 Cynthia Sageleaf

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Hehe, Kathryn! It's been a wonderful day! I hope you've also had a wonderful day! :D

      Vicki - wait...didn't you tell me that you have a beau somewhere over there? Hehehe

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Wow, you should be a marriage counselor. You are pretty smart, CC! I'll remember this if I ever decided to take the plunge. heehee :-)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Happy Valentines Day to you, too!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Kathryn - Thank you for both of your comments. :) All those life experiences only help us in our future endeavors. I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day, by the way.

      Natasha - I think you're right. And like Kathryn said, I think I need to go look up the word "copacetic"

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      @ Natashalh, I had to look up the word "copacetic", because I have never heard that word before. I thought I had a decent knowledge of vocabulary! I learn something new every day.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I had a kind of crapy, fairly long, and (occasionally) co-habitating relationship that taught me a lot of these same lessons. The 'new' guy and I are much more proactive with our relationship. Good, lasting relationships don't just happen because of some magic, they are created and maintained. I like all your advice, but I think tips 4 and 5 are the most important to keeping everything copacetic.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      This is the best article on marriage I have seen in a long time, and congrats on being married for 10 years. Thank you for sharing this advice.

      I was married once already, but it ended years ago. I became a statistic. I learned a lot from my mistakes. But the next time I marry, I intend for it to be for keeps. I will keep these tips in mind.

      I'm sharing this fantastic article!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Well, hello my witty friend, WO. How in the world have you been? I am really glad you have been happily married for 42 years. Knowing you and your personality, I am sure you do well with celebrating each other's strengths and differences. You have become wise, grasshopper. I'm with you there: you get to be with a really cool person; why would anyone want to change that? Here's to the next half-century. :) Thanks for coming by - it's been awhile. I'll try to be better, too. :) Cheers!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      tammy - (HUGS) You are a person with a heart of gold. You always make my day when I see you and you truly are a wonderful asset to the HP community and to the world. Knowing you, I am SURE you are a powerhouse of joy and I also know that any guy who gets to spend his time with you is one lucky dude. :D

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      writeronline 5 years ago

      I enjoyed this, cclitgirl, it's all good advice. If people actually lived their marriages this way, there'd be a lot less divorce.

      I especially liked "We also took time to understand that the other person would not change." My wife and I have been happily married for 42 years, and that's been the central tenet of our relationship. More than that, we actively value, respect and celebrate each other's differences. It's worked so well for us that I actually wrote a Hub about it some time ago (which I won't link to here, of course). The key thing really is that you get married to be *with* each other, not to *become* each other. Love the one you're with, don't try to mould them into some other ideal. It sounds like you're onto that, so here's to your next 32 years!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub on a successful marriage. I will use these tips on my second time around. I am sure your wonderful personality has a lot to do with your success. Voting up and sharing.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      tsadjatko - hehe, thanks for stopping by on another of my hubs. :) Hehe, I'm a transplant from Colorado, but my hubby is from here. So, this is my home, at least for now. :D (HUGS)

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 5 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      You and our husband are just like all the other North Carolinians I've met.....Wonderful!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      tsadjatko - HAHAHA. I had to read your comment ALOUD to my husband. Hehe. We are both sitting here chuckling and laughing. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. (HUGS)

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 5 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      An old woman was sipping on a glass of wine while sitting on a patio with her husband and she says,

      "I love you so much, I don't know how I could ever live without you."...

      Her husband asks, "Is that you or the wine talking?"

      She replies, "It's me......

      talking to the wine."

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Joyfulmommy - ah, yes, the I-statements. My hubby and I use these all the time and we talk about how they're useful at work and with friends - they really help to avoid unnecessary conflict for sure. Thanks for stopping by! (HUGS)

    • joyfulmommy profile image

      joyfulmommy 5 years ago

      These are great guidelines - it is useful for me and my hubby especially the "I statement"! thanks for sharing! Useful and voted up.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thank you for your comments, Movie Master. I hope they are useful to others - I've had so much fun being married these ten years. Such a great blessing. :)

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I like these guidelines, they are a good foundation for a great relationship, thank you for sharing and voted up.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      This is all good advice. I'm surrounded by divorce as well. I think the thing that gets most of my friends are as you said "We also took time to understand that the other person would not change." Congrats on your long term marriage and anniversary.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      anartiststyle - Congratulations on getting married! Now remember the guidelines. Hehehe. Cheers!

    • anartiststyle profile image

      anartiststyle 5 years ago from FL

      SO perfect, I am getting married in May 2012, I enjoyed reading this very much thank you!!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Rachel - those "I" statements come in handy not only in relationships, but also in the workplace and in relationships with other family members. I sort of discovered that accidentally when I was using them to express my feelings and found that I was able to get the point across much more effectively and in a non-confrontational way. Thanks for stopping by...hehehe - here's to the next 10 years! :D

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      The Macs - keep those discussions going! Those talks and sessions of sharing are like the oil that keep the engine running, so to speak. Thanks for the congrats and for stopping by. :)

    • Rachel Richmond profile image

      Rachel Richmond 5 years ago from California

      I love your "I" statements! YES! Rock on to the next 10 years. :)

    • The Macs profile image

      The Macs 5 years ago from Peoria, IL

      Great hub! We are new to hub pages, but joined because we have been surrounded by divorce as well. We are discussing relationships from a man and woman's point of view. Check us out. We enjoyed your hub! Congratulations on your milestone anniversary!!!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hi, myrtle! I appreciate your feedback and comments! Will head over to your hubs, too.

      Glad to hear that things are good on your end. I love it when that happens. :)

    • myrtle McKinley profile image

      myrtle McKinley 5 years ago

      Hi cclitgirl

      Thanks for a great and informative hub. It flows so nicely and is spot-on with vital information.Communication is SO important.

      It reminded me to work even harder on my already good marriage. Check me out as I am new to hubbing.

      Thanks, Myrtle

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      stephhicks68 - thank you for the warm compliments. :) Alas, I had edited and edited to get this article "organized" and what did I miss? The word "among" in the first sentence! Oh, I hate typos! I fixed it, though. Hehehe. Thanks for reading.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Not only is this hub filled with good advice for a long and healthy marriage/relationship, but its so well organized it makes it a breeze to read. Rated up!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, alocsin. I appreciate your stopping by and the votes. :) I've been called "practical" probably more times than I've been called "dreamy" though I think they're probably close. Hehehe.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I like these practical rules, and your pic as well. Voting this Up and Useful.