Ashley and I went on a trip earlier this year to celebrate her 40th birthday (even though she only looks 25). For big birthdays, we’ve always valued time away together more than store-bought gifts. We love sharing new adventures. From the time we arrived at the hotel and throughout our stay, multiple staff members asked us, “Are you Honeymooners?”
“No,” we’d reply. “We’ve been married for twenty years.”
“That’s amazing!” they’d say, “You seem like Honeymooners. We never see couples who are happy like you if they’ve been married very long.”
Wow. What a sad thought! Do people really think that happiness in marriage is destined to fade with time? We’ve never bought into that myth. We’ve always believed a marriage should age like a fine wine getting sweeter with time. Our marriage is far from perfect, but we can truly say we are very happy, and our happiness has grown deeper over the past two decades of marriage.
People will sometimes ask us what the “secret” is to a happy marriage. We’ve discovered through the years that happiness in marriage is possible for every couple, but it’s not just about one “secret.” As far as we can tell from our own experience and learning from the experiences of others, there are ten distinct secrets of happy couples, and if you’ll implement these principles into your own marriage, you will undoubtedly experience more happiness too.
In no particular order, the ten principles that can cultivate more happiness in your marriage are:
Be quick to apologize and quick to offer grace to each other.
Someone once said that being in love means never having to say you’re sorry. Whoever said that has probably been divorced five times! The truth is that we must be humble enough to quickly and wholeheartedly admit fault when we’ve blown it. We must also be quick to offer forgiveness and grace when our spouse apologizes. We can’t keep score of each other’s wrongs or use past mistakes and ammunition in arguments. We must forgive, work to rebuild the trust that was damaged and move forward. Holding a grudge makes you bitter. Forgiveness sets you free.
Make laughter the soundtrack of your marriage.
Even in the difficult seasons of marriage, there is always a reason to laugh together. We believe a lack of laughter in a marriage is like a lack of fuel in a vehicle. You need to fill up your marriage with laughter to keep it running! If laughter has faded in your home, then look for ways to get it back on track. Put “fun” back on the calendar. Be playful and flirtatious with each other. Every marriage needs a lot of laughter and laughing together is one of the most intimate and enjoyable acts a couple can share. Even if it starts with just watching reruns of your favorite sitcom together, start doing things that will bring more laughter.
Learn from other couples, but don’t compare your marriage to anyone else’s.
The “Comparison Trap” is the killer of happiness. If you find yourself scrolling through social media comparing your struggles to the airbrushed highlight reels of other people, then you’re never going to feel happy or content with your own life. It’s healthy to learn from other people (especially our mentors), but it’s unhealthy to try to measure your life or marriage against theirs. God’s plans for you are masterfully unique.
Prioritize your sex life.
It takes much more than sex to build a strong marriage, but it is nearly impossible to build a strong marriage without it. Prioritize your spouse’s sexual needs. If your spouse is the one with the higher drive, then work to meet their need since you are the only legitimate source on earth where that need can be met. With prioritizing your sex life, don’t prioritize just the act itself but also more affection, foreplay, flirtation, and celebration of each other. Work to find solutions when you face setbacks in your health or sex life and be patient and tender with each other when insecurities or limitations occur. Sex is a gift from God that’s meant to be enjoyed in marriage, so enjoy it!
Cultivate a culture of gratitude in your marriage. Say “Thank you” often.
Thank each other often and show genuine appreciation for all your spouse does. Be thankful to God as well for the gifts in your life. An attitude of gratitude is one of the biggest keys to happiness. When you choose to be thankful for your life and for each other, every aspect of life can be enjoyed with more freedom.
Communicate about everything and never keeps secrets from each other.
Communication is the lifeline keeping a marriage strong. You need to talk about everything. Make uninterrupted communication a regular part of your routine. Turn off your phones and remove distractions and really talk. Don’t keep secrets about anything. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. For us, one of our healthiest habits is going on a daily or nightly walk where we get some exercise and talk. Some of our best conversations happen on those walks.
Keep dreaming new dreams together and working toward shared goals.
In every season of marriage, you should always have something to look forward to. You should always have goals and dreams you’re working together to reach. Keep dreaming together. You might be amazed at how creating some new dreams and goals can breathe fresh life into your relationship. Throughout our marriage, shared goals and dreams have been a constant connection point. These goals can be about anything from finances, to fitness, to new ventures, to ministry, to parenting and everything in between.
Develop a “Pro-Marriage” community.
Your marriage is going to start to resemble the marriages of the people you’re hanging around the most, so make sure you choose friends who value marriage. For us, our community has always been rooted in the church. Our small group meets regularly where other couples in the same season of life come together, eat, hangout, pray, laugh, and encourage each other. We’ve also found older mentors who can teach us from their experience and younger couples whom we can mentor. Your community can be vital in helping you keep growing, but community takes work. Be intentional about developing these kinds of relationships.
Be patient with each other.
The Bible says “love is patient”, and we must always be patient with each other. Your spouse’s timing is different from yours. Their needs are different. Their preferences are different. Be thankful for each other’s differences and always be patient, loving, kind and tenderhearted with each other especially in these areas of differences. Instead of allowing you differences to be a source of conflict, make them a source of strength by celebrating each other’s unique perspectives.
Make sure your faith in God is your unwavering foundation.
For us, if this list was written in order, this would be number one! Through all the storms of life, our faith in Christ and His guidance have helped us stay strong. When you and your spouse commit to build your lives on a foundation of faith, you’re making the wisest decision possible. In all the ups and downs of life, God will be your steady anchor. We believe there’s no true happiness or health apart from Him, but in Him and through Him, all things are possible.
If you’ll work together with your spouse to start doing (or keep doing) these ten things, we believe more health and happiness is in your future!