Secrets to a Long, Happy Marriage

From our Wedding in Argentina – 2007

Marriage is hard. We hear this all the time.

There is an article in the New York Times this week called The Wedding Effect, which really touched me.

The author is 29 years old and the article provides an honest, almost raw portrayal of her fears and skepticism regarding marriage. She calls marriage a “daredevil leap of faith,” which I think describes it perfectly.

The article held my interest for several reasons.

First, I could have written this same article at 29. My parents divorced when I was quite young – I think I was six. I was fortunate to have grandparents on both sides of the family who lived beyond 80, but both of their spouses died young.

When I was growing up, I had very few examples of marriage working through thick and thin. I had friends whose parents were still married and I remember being fascinated when I would occasionally hear their parents fight because I didn’t think people whose parents stayed together fought. I thought fighting meant divorce.

My husband and I have been married for five years this year. That feels like quite an accomplishment.

But this article reminded me of fears that I know are deeply embedded in my psyche about whether marriages can last. I am very happy in my marriage, and know that these questions come from that obnoxious inner voice whose words I simply need to hear and let go, much like the inner messages we hear telling us that we are not good enough.

From our small Baltimore wedding – we had two! Same dress…:-)

Whenever I meet couples who have been together for years, I ask their secret for a long marriage. This is not an attempt to make conversation. I am simply trying to place as many tools in my toolbox as I can to keep my marriage strong and to make up for the fact that my experience in my immediate family seemed to illustrate that only second marriages survive.

There is another interesting component to this article which is related to conversations we have had on this blog about women in the workplace. So many women have chosen to focus on their careers before marriage and before having children.

As I have written before, this can lead to women finding that by the time they are ready to have kids, their biological clocks have run out.

It is a cruel trick of nature and science definitely has it backwards on this one. I am quite confident I would be a significantly better parent now that I am 40 than I would have been at 21.

But I wonder how much of the fact that people are getting married later can be explained by fears like those described in this article. Statistics show the proliferation of children of divorce. This has to contribute to people getting married later in life.

What do you think? I would love to hear thoughts and advice for what keeps a marriage strong and healthy, through good and bad. What makes second marriages more successful? How do you silence the voices that question if your marriage is perfect? Is any marriage perfect? And do you think the fact that so many people came from homes with divorced parents is leading to later marriage? What impact do you see this having over the long term?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

85 Comments

Filed under Career Planning, Parenting, Relationships, Religion, social pressures, Women

85 responses to “Secrets to a Long, Happy Marriage

  1. One of us has a day job, the other a night job. We see each other 3 times a week max. Perfect! Retired? Have a a lot of hobbies…A LOT.

  2. I don’t think there is one secret to marraige. Of course, there are the obvious things such as communicating. However, I believe it is important to keep working at it and truly wanting it to be good. That has different meaning for each couple

  3. My husband and I married in 2007, too. Second marriage for both of us, with a long hiatus (very long in my case) in between marriages. We genuinely like, as well as love, one another, and are committed to sharing our lives. We have interests in common, and pursue interests independently as well. And we wok through the bumps and potholes that come up. It’s only 5 happy years so far…and we’re looking to many, many more! 🙂

    • Congrats on a happy marriage! I like the idea of having interests in common and seperately. We definitely have that. It’s the work on the potholes that scares me. 😉 But we seem to be navigating around those well, and maybe that is one of the most important things! Thanks for the advice!

  4. What works for us is adventure. Spontaneous, unplanned adventure pursued without fear. It puts us in a position where we must lean on one another.

  5. Amy

    Marriage is about taking responsibility. And, it’s journey, both have to grow together…

    • Taking responsibilty is a good way to put it. I have read that you make a choice every day in a marriage to recommit to the the marriage or not to. I know it can be hard, but I think that advice can really help. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  6. Compromise is key, along with the knowledge that being right is much different than being happy. We have been married 21 years..thankfully not perfect ones. You can’t learn and grow if everything is perfect. Side note: Love your dress, Love the carriage, Love that you had 2 celebrations.

    • Thank you! It wa sthe second dress I tried on and my mom thought I shoudl keep shopping in case I found something better. I told her that if I stopped shopping, I wouldn’t find something better. Off the rack from David’s Bridal. 🙂 21 years…..oh, how I admire you! Compromise seems to be the hardest part, especially since I got married at age 35 so I was used to doing things my own way, but I am getting better at it with time. Thanks so much for reading and taking time to provide some free therapy! 😉

  7. The secret is taking your marriage vows seriously. Making a vow before God and witnesses to love until death doth part is serious and requires no backpeddling. Two individuals come with separate needs and the joy is coming together as one. The separateness is still there, but mingled to become one flesh. When apart there is a longing to come together again. This takes time. P.S. 30 years this year.

  8. stickyquote

    I really don’t think we have a secret to marriage, but what we have done over the course of twenty seven years is to listen and talk to each other about anything and try to be the best of friends to each other.

  9. My husband and I met playing an online role playing game (FFXI) back in 2003 and married in 2008. We have been through so many things that would tear other marriages apart. What has kept us together? Open, honest communication, teamwork, empathy, compassion, LOTS of walk/talk sessions (go through our gratitude list together), healthy sex life and a deep mutual respect for each other. When we get into a “slump” we actively communicate and find ways together to get through it. We also let each other “have space” when a problem comes up that the person having it needs to work through. Never assume, never take anything for granted. You have to tend the garden DAILY! Never go through a day without an I love you and don’t say good night without a kiss. One thing we say to each other each night, hubby taught me this, is thank you for everything today.

  10. well as a single girl I need to find teh right guy first but overall married or not it’s all about partnership

  11. My wife and I just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. You’d think I could give up the secret to a long marriage, but there isn’t one. There are many — as many as there are successful marriages. There isn’t a formula for successful marriages, though it helps if you both have a good sense of humor!

    • That is so inspiring. I am restoring my hope in long, happy marriages today, so thank you for that! Carlos and I both have a good sense of humor, so I am glad to hear that helps! 🙂 Thanks for reading and for the comment and on behalf of your wife, thanks for staying committed for 50 years!!! Amazing!

  12. Dear News,
    I loved this post.
    Loved your pictures, too!!!
    You are a gorgeous bride; handsome couple.
    My husband and I met when I was 14, and he 17.
    We’ve been together since.
    We married when I was 18.
    So, now that I’m 40….we’ve put in quite a few years together.
    They haven’t all been rosy. I think even he would say that.
    But, we’ve never given up.
    We just didn’t allow ourselves that option.
    I know that doesn’t work for everyone. And not everyone should stay married.
    I have come to love my boy in such a different way than the first time I saw him walking around at our high school with no shirt on and sweaty from football practice.
    I love who he is. I love how he loves our children.
    I am totally turned on when he cleans up the kitchen and tells me he’l handle the kids for the night..:)
    I love traveling to new places with him, and I know after we lose our treasured babies to the world..to their own lives,
    we will be ok.
    I guess that’s how it’s gone for us.
    I don’t know if this is advice, but thanks for letting me share.
    😉
    Love, Lis
    xoxooxox

    • I love this comment and was hoping you would take some time to share your experience because it seems like you and your family have something very special. It is nice to hear how things evolve and how you notice the little things. I am really feeling so inspired by all the comments so thank you!!!!

  13. Roxy Fearless

    Beautiful pictures! Congratulations on 5 years! I am nearing 10 myself (as you might know) 😉 I think the secret for my marriage is that we have a shared dream for the future. I don’t have a clear picture of what that future is, just that it -WITHOUT A DOUBT – involves by hubby and continues to grow from where we are today. I still feel like we are on own way … to somewhere, not sure where. I can’t imagine not having that feeling. Blind optimism? As ambiguous as that sounds, I think that’s why the younger generation is having a hard time to commit. I see that in my 20-something stepsons. They are strugging so to find their place in this awful recession, no one wants to hire them. They just don’t want to grow up yet.

    My best wishes to you for a long, loving marriage. You are a gorgeous couple!

    • Roxy Fearless!!!!!!!! You ARE reading! 🙂 What a great surprise!!!!! I love to hear your advice. I have wondered, since you have been married for 10 years. That is amazing. Of course, you saw your parents in a loving marriage your whole like so that probably helps with your optimism. They are a good model for me, too.

      I miss you my dear sweet best friend of all times. Love you lots! Greetings to the boys. Love, Crystal Powers 🙂

      • Roxy Fearless

        Miss you too, more than you know! And I just talked to my role models- married 44 years. They say “patience, forgiveness, and compromise.” All of which are right-on for meet too. I am good with compromise and forgiveness (though sometimes I’m stubborn). It’s probably patience that I need to work on most of all. I am sending them this link. I think they will really enjoy your blog. They are two of your biggest fans you know!

        • Forgiveness. That’s a good one and I haven’t heard that one as much. That is great advice! Please do share the blog with them!! They have some time on there hands they can spend reading, right? 😉 Thanks for checking out my favorite new hobby! Miss you!!!!

  14. My husband and I had to figure out where the other person was coming from. Based on our upbringings we have different points of reference. The more we understand, the better we can communicate.
    Gail

    • Great point. Carlos and I have very different communication styles, which has pros and cons. I hear where you are coming from. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience!

  15. I’m 29, engaged and the prospect of my upcoming wedding scares me! The fear more to do with my family history (parents and grandparents all divorced) than with my relationship. And then there’s the high divorce rate and all failing love stories around. I still want to get married though! I’ll have to overcome my doubts I guess 🙂

    I really enjoy those topics you chose and the links to other great articles from NY Times or else you share, thanks!

    • Glad to know I’m not alone. If you read the amazing comments here, I think you will share my new optimism. Thanks for the comment…and the kudos! And thanks for reading!

  16. Even though I have no advice nor answers to your questions, I love your post. Great pics and gorgeous couple:-)

  17. Nice pictures. Thanks for sharing. My wife has put up with me for almost 27 years. Since there is no such thing as perfect people, through extrapolation there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Yet, if you “ying and yang” well together, you can be better together than you are apart. I guess key ingredients are a sense of humor and friendship with your spouse. I also think a realization you will mess up on occasion, so when you do an “I’m sorry I screwed up” helps salve the wounds. On a different subject, as you are in Colorado, I am so sad about the shootings in Aurora. Seeing parents (or anyone) who lost a loved one doing something so natural as going to the movies breaks my heart.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment OF. 27 years. That is wonderful. Looks like Hugh wins so far for the longest married. I like the say you’re sorry advice. It goes with my friends’ parents advice about forgiveness. These seem to be critical ingredients to make a relationship work over the long term. I appreciate the advice. And yes, Colorado. The gun lobby here is intense and powerful, which does not help. Such a sad event. Thanks for reading OF!!

  18. Interesting discussion, something we all worry about. Love is such a weird thing, but I think it helps to share similar values and a similar idea of what you both want from life and what each is willing to compromise for the other. I sometimes worry about my parents, married for 29 years now, how their marriage will fare into retirement because they have really different views of what they want from retirement (Dad endless touring, Mum gardening). Up until then they were on the same page and were pretty good parents.I guess based on all that experience they will figure it out.

    • That is such an interesting point. I have seen couples fall back in love in retirement and it can be really beautiful to see. I hope that is what happens for your parents! Thanks so much for joining the discussion!

  19. Nice blog. I don’t believe anyone has the “perfect” marriage. Marriage is complicated and demands a lot of give and take. Sometimes you may feel like you are the one who is doing all the giving, but it should all balance out so not too much of a burden is placed on anyone. Love along with a little wisdom is usually enough to get a couple through most difficulties.

    • Great point. It is probably important to try and remember the times when your partner has been the one doing all the giving when you feel like the balance is reversed. Great tip. Thank you!!!

  20. My husband and I have been together 15 years, and it’s been far from perfect, but not bad either. When I married him though, I think on a sub conscious level I knew I was picking a true life partner, versus just a romantic ideal. What’s kept us together is that we share the same values, the same goals in life and knew he supported my career unconditionally.
    We hit a bumpy spot a few years ago, where I almost came close to throwing in the towel, but I had a epiphany when I realized that marriage is hard because we’re human, we’re animals on some level and expecting one person to fulfill all your emotional needs is probably not realistic. In fact, marriage was originally created as a business proposition to join land owners, so most were arranged. Some how this has made me feel better and freed myself to not put so much pressure on my husband for fulfilling all my nooks and crannies. I think that in our society today, there is too much pressure put on marriage to be this romantic ideal, when to me, the reality is it takes elbow grease and commitment to get you thru those late night diaper runs at Walmart:)

    Becca (narcissista.me)

    • Great comment. I think you are right about all the pressure to make a marriage all things and for the partnership to meet all needs. It does help to broaden that perspective. Sometimes I think that this marriage model is so idealistic, just for the reasons you describe. It is amazing that people are able to stay together for 50+ years like good old Hugh here. I aspire to that and am committed to that, but I do think it is an incredible feat and have heard many people wonder if we were really meant to mate for life. But I am up for the challenge! Thanks so much for reading and for the comment.

  21. Both sets of our parents celebrated their 50th anniversaries, and their marriages only ended when death parted them. Their’s was the example for Hubby and I. After 33 years of marriage, I’d have to say, we are each other’s best friend. We have many interests in common and we know when to give each other time to do things they enjoy. He loves to golf and I love to write and do crafts. We finish each other’s sentences and often voice what the other is thinking. It hasn’t been all wine and roses but, despite tough times we aren’t prepared to live without each other and honor the vows that bound us gladly. Wishing you love and happiness for all your days, too!

  22. After 23 years of marriage, I think two essentials are respect and a sense of humor. You have to treat your spouse with respect, just as you would a colleague or an acquaintance, and you need to be able to laugh things off. Marriage is no place for grudges. 🙂

    • Great point! It is so easy to treat your partner with less respect than you do a colleague or acquaintance. Such a crazy and sad reality, bit true. Thanks for an excellent reminder. And thanks so much for reading!!

  23. Great post regarding marriage. While my partner and I are not legally allowed to marry, we consider ourselves married and we have been together now for 14 years. You make a good point that when one does not have good role models for marriage it makes it very scary to get married. I waited until I was 35. While we certainly have our issues, I have to say I am fortunate enough to have someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with and that we care about each other.

  24. Thank you for sharing this tender honest post!

    My husband is my very best friend in the world. I trust him more than any other human being on earth and I cherish each and every day with him. We met online 12 years ago and will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary in about a month.

    I honestly believe that one of the key things that makes our marriage and friendship so special is the fact that we stay aware of the importance of having “new eyes”.

    Though you might get what I mean, let me explain…

    I’ve looked at my husband thousands upon thousands of times. I’ve studied him. I’ve memorized him. I can anticipate his feelings. I know his likes/dislikes/sensitivities. But… I never, never, never assume I know him better than he knows himself. I make a point of seeing him with “new eyes”… of discovering new perspectives… and clearing the activity of our yesterdays so that I can discover him today.

    There is a certain look I see in his eyes when he has cleared space to discover me and I am sure he knows that look in my eyes too. Our direct intention to see each other each day clearly and with love and respect has an incredibly positive impact on our relationship.

    I wish this for every couple and you and your hubby too!

    • That is so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing this concept. I know just what you mean and can see the power in looking with fresh eyes every day. I really appreciate your sharing your tips, tools and experience with me. Thank you for reading and taking time to share your thoughts.

  25. Great post … but can’t give any advice about marriage and how keep it happy forever, because I never been married and never had the longing for it neither. No children .. no husband, but I had an exciting life and we can’t have everything .. we have to make our choices and I guess it’s the same in a marriage. Nobody has proven to me that marriage works.

    • Thanks so much for the comment. I really appreciate your honesty. Some of the comments here have restored my faith in marriage, but it would be easier in some ways just to know that you don’t want to have children or a marriage. I guess there are pros and cons to both, just like anything important in life. Thanks so much for reading and for your honest comment!

      • My mum has been married 4 times and still never found a happy ending. All my friends are none married for once. Personal I don’t think we are made to only made for one person, we develop through our life … we get new values and experiences. Enjoy what I saw and read over in your world.
        We all love a happy ending, but very few finds it.

        • Thank you so much! Yes, I hear where you are coming from – believe me. And I do think it is quite a feat for those who are able to stick with one person for a lifetime. Looks like we have a few of my readers who deserve that gold medal! 😉 Thanks again for reading!!

  26. No magic answers and a lot of mistakes down the road, but your article touched me. My parents divorced when I was 5 and I don’t remember much other than acrimony from those early years. I do know that they married “because of me”. Back then pregnancy outside of marriage had to be resolved. It certainly left its scars. At least that pressure has been relieved.
    I guess it helps that I found a pretty tolerant guy. I mean, he’d have to be to put up with me all these years, wouldn’t he? You see- you only have to scratch the surface and the insecurities are there. Before you end up with the story of my life, I’d better just say that I love your post, and many of the very wise comments. (a hug for Lis) You look stunningly happy, and I’m sure you’ll find a way.

  27. This is a great post with terrific comments as well. I have no advice but I will say you are a gorgeous bride, my friend. Beautiful inside and out. He is a lucky guy!

  28. An amazing post and it was great reading through all the comments. My hubby and I have been married for 11 years (and were together for 5 more before we got married). We met when I was 18 and, as with everyone else, it hasn’t always been perfect but I feel so lucky to be spending my life with my first love. A sense of humour is KEY and also allowing each other to grow and change as individuals within the relationship while still remembering who you are together. And taking a minute every day to just stop all the chaos and connect. Beautiful pictures – thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thank you!! I like the idea of allowing each other to change and grow while still remembering who we are together. That is great advice. And the minute every day to connect. I am going to work on that one. It is so easy to miss that time on many days. Thanks so much for reading and for your comment!

  29. Great post, and wonderful discussion! I love the various perspectives and advice from the “front line” of marriage. I think humor, patience and fun are a few important factors in a lasting relationship. But I’m only thirty so I know I’ve got quite a bit of learning left to do when it comes to longterm commitment. Thanks, as always, for the insightful post!

    • Aren’t the comments just amazing? They really give me so much hope that I didn’t exactly feel before this post. Thanks so much for taking the time to swing by and read my post – I hope you don’t mind that I included it in my comments. I adored and could completely relate to your post, which I am going to link to here so others can read it and I am one of your blog’s biggest fans!!! To go to the Truth and Cake post, go to: http://truthandcake.com/2012/08/06/the-marrying-kind/ Thanks again for stopping by!!

  30. my mum’s advice to me: never let the sun set on an argument… but then my parents divorced acrimoniously when i was very young and looking at them now it’s unclear what ever brought them together in the first place!! with only 2 1/2 years of marriage under my own belt, maintaining your own interests does appear important. after all, for a couple that doesn’t want children, we’ll be needing something to talk about over dinner… oh yes, and always sit down to dinner. ;0)

    • We don’t have children and I know just what you mean. I have to say that sleeping on an argument seems to actually help diffuse the situation for us, but I don’t know if it is the best general practice. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! Here’s to the next 50 years for both of us!

  31. Thank you for this intersting post. My wife and I have been married for 33 years. Probably the number one reason that we are still married is that we learned that there are three parts to any two-person relationship: the two people and the relationship itself. When we learned to focus on improving ourselves and our relationship rather than focusing on trying to fix each other, our marriage became much stronger and happier.

    Russ

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