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Secrets to a Long and Happy Marriage

Updated on November 7, 2013

Maybe in 30 more years...

Dwell on the Redeeming Qualities

My husband and I have been married for almost 36 years. Putting it in print makes it seem like a long time, but really, in some ways, it seems like it wasn't all that long ago that we decided to take the leap of faith, that is a marriage. In my view, a marriage is a union between a man and a woman, a pledge to be together through whatever good or bad you encounter together as a team, and the promise to love and support one another in all things.

Early on, as it happens in most relationships, you notice things about your spouse that weren't on your radar before you joined in this partnership. Sometimes those characteristics and traits seem like overwhelming faults, and you begin to realize that those things really bug you.

I made the mistake of relaying my unhappy findings to some of my coworkers, who were in the habit of husband-bashing in the break room. Not wanting to be left out of the conversations, I was relieved to find that I had things to share as well. The only problem with this activity, is that the more you focus on the unattractive qualities of your partner, the bigger those irritations become and you find yourself questioning your choices.

I happened to be at a family get-together and was bemoaning my lot, and sharing my husband's flaws with my aunt. She gave me the most valuable piece of advice. "Dwell on the redeeming qualities," she told me. Her words, and tone of voice were a chastisement, that was well deserved. I realized that I had violated my husband's trust. I would have been mortified if he had been doing the same thing at his workplace. After some soul-searching, I vowed that the next time there was any husband-bashing, I would share something about my husband that magnified his good qualities. After all, he did have many of those as well.

Secret #1 for a long and happy marriage: Always speak well of your spouse, because when you dwell on the redeeming qualities, you are constantly reminded of how great your spouse really is.

Thanks, Honey!

Be Grateful for the Small Things

My husband is not one to say romantic little nothings. He is a product of his upbringing and doesn't share his feelings or innermost thoughts readily. When we were dating, he tried his best to relay his feelings; he told me he loved me, but I longed to hear him say romantic things that I had heard on movies and read in books. Sadly, I have yet to hear any of those things come out of his mouth.

Instead, I have found that his expressions of love are often practical in nature. Whenever a hairdryer quit working, or something needed fixing, he would do it, often without being asked. Here are two stories to illustrate my point.

Story #1: We used to live in an area of the country known as the snow-belt. We did not have a garage, which meant that in the morning cars had to be brushed and scraped to be able to go anywhere, and this took time. Many snowy mornings, I was surprised to find my car cleaned off and the show shoveled away to make my departure easier.

Story #2: My friend and I were sitting on my front porch, chatting, when my husband drove up from work. As he was getting out of the truck, he reached in and proudly held up a new broom. "Look," he said, " I noticed your old one was all bent over." My friend made a face and said, "If my husband brought me a new broom, I'd throw it in his face."

So this is where I shared secret #2 to a long and happy marriage: Have a grateful heart. If you are grateful for the small things, and let your spouse know how much you appreciate what they do for you, bigger and better things are sure to come.

Choose Wisely

Have a Long-Term Perspective

I used to think it was my right to expect my husband to put the seat down every time. In fact, I called him on it quite often when we were first married. I held the belief that I needed to express my displeasure, so that he would know what I did not like. I also held the mistaken belief that if I complained enough, I would change him. After some very tense arguments, and unpleasant exchanges, I came to realize that the world does not revolve around me, and also that my husband is an individual with his own tastes and ideas.

Contrary to popular convention, you do NOT always have to say what is on your mind. There are, in fact, many times that it is better to let things go that are not really that important. You may wonder how to determine if something is really worthy of an argument. Try to think of whether the offense or issue will be important to you in ten or twenty years, or at the end of your life. Will this thing be your chief concern at that time? If not, then, it's probably not worth worrying about and certainly not worth arguing about.

As I matured a bit, and began to hold my tongue about the little stuff, I found that some of the annoying things just seemed to disappear. Another benefit of overlooking small irritations, is that your spouse will be less likely to pick at your faults too.

Secret #3 for a long and happy marriage: Take a long-term perspective about the little things. Choose your battles wisely, and let the small stuff go.

What Makes a Marriage Successful?

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Summing it Up

My marriage is certainly not perfect. My husband and I are truly flawed individuals, who happen to love one another. We have spent most of our lifetimes working on this partnership and have learned a few things along the way that I hope will help someone else along their path. After many years together and reflection on what it is that makes our marriage work for us, it is simply putting your spouse first and treating them the way you want to be treated.

If you are just starting out, or if you have been together for many years, remember what brought you together and seek out the best qualities your spouse has. Be grateful for the small things and overlook small and petty annoyances.

Try it! It really works!

Research on Successful Marriages

According to David Popenoe, Ph.D., from The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, ten factors identified by their research on successful marriage are:

1. Marrying as a teenager is the highest known risk factor for divorce.

2. People are most likely to find a future marriage partner through an introduction by family, friends, or acquaintances.

3. People who are similar in their values, backgrounds and life goals are more likely to have a successful marriage.

4. Women have a significantly better chance of marrying if they do not become single parents before marrying.

5. Women and men who are college-educated are more likely to marry, and less likely to divorce, than people with lower levels of education.

6. Living together before marriage has not proved useful as a “trial marriage.”

7. Marriage helps people to generate income and wealth.

8. People who are married are more likely to have emotionally and physically satisfying sex lives than single people, or those who live together.

9. People whose parents divorced are slightly less likely to marry. They are much more likely to divorce when they do marry.

10. For large segments of the population, the risk of divorce is far below fifty percent.

It's interesting to note that my husband and I met when I was out walking in the rain and he offered me a ride home. I was twenty when I married, and my parents were divorced. We also had different religious and political affiliations. So, take heart. It is possible, even with those differences, to have a long and happy marriage.

For more information on the research conducted by Rutgers University on successful marriages go to

© 2013 lfulton


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