What does it take to have a healthy marriage that stays happy over several decades? It’s a tough question but one I am feeling more confident than ever to answer as I will be celebrating 39 years of marriage to my best friend this weekend.
My husband and I met on the elementary bus: He was in fifth grade, I was in third. We married when I graduated high school and for the past 39 years, we’ve been together like peanut butter and jelly. But like any good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it takes some effort and patience for it all to come together. I believe there are five key ingredients to a happy marriage.
The first, telling your spouse that you appreciate them and that you are thankful for having them in your life. When you’ve been married for as long as we have, you come to appreciate that every marriage is filled with a lot of tears and laughter. Giving your spouse the affirmations they need can not only serve as a reminder to yourself about the beautiful life you have created but also certainly serves as a direct reminder to them that you show up and choose to be with them every day and that you wouldn’t have it any other way.
The second, forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness needs to come in a big way and other times forgiveness comes when I show up at home with a Corvette when I was simply getting his truck oil changed. Sure, he was a little upset with me at first, but once I let him drive, the forgiveness came easily.
Related to forgiveness, or rather on the other side of forgiveness, is spending time laughing with one another. Humor gives our marriage a sense of safety and togetherness. We laugh and sing every day. Laughter is an energy source that invigorates a relationship. It quickly elevates your mood and makes life’s daily stresses more tolerable. Laughter releases endorphins and improves your immune system and most of all, laughing feels good!
The fourth is finding a way to ensure that your lives are blended as one. As two working adults that raised two daughters and now balance our hearts, home, and time with three additional grandkids, it can be easy to go about your routine without knowing what your spouse is doing. Since I’m self-employed, I’m usually the last one to leave and the first one home. He always comes in after work yelling, “Honey I’m home!” We engage in small talk — shooting the breeze, sharing our daily experiences. We have mini business meetings to discuss our daily schedules and honey-do lists. These talks keep our lives running smoothly reducing conflicts in schedules.
Finally, understanding that it is okay to disagree, respectfully. While my husband generally adheres to the old adage – happy wife, happy life, we aren't exempt from disagreements. But rather than fighting and yelling we attack the issue head-on without getting defensive and throwing it in one another’s face. Does this take work? You bet it does, but it’s worth it. In arguments, remember that there won’t be a "winner" and a "loser." Work together to find a solution.
Remember that marriage isn’t 50/50. Marriage must be 100/100 and both partners have to give everything they’ve got. Janet Zinn, a New York couple’s therapist said: “Commitment means you can gently lay your head on your partner’s shoulder because you know he or she is there for you when you’re vulnerable or simply tired. It’s a basic shared intimacy, and a necessary ingredient to a healthy, happy marriage.”
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