How to Stay Happily Married

Seven married couples describe the habits and attitudes that help keep their marriages happy.

- Posted on Jun 7, 2016

happy married couple

While not all married couples have wonderful relationships, those who have achieved the magic of a deeply happy marriage have much to share with us. Most will admit that marital joy isn’t magic at all, but a lifelong commitment to building and sustaining a meaningful life together in ways both big and (seemingly) small.

Whether you’re about to celebrate a major wedding anniversary or just about to walk down the aisle, these tips from the happily married may make a difference in your relationship.

Greet Each Other

Claudia, who lives in California with her husband of 36 years, shares a daily routine that fosters connection first, life stresses second. “Unless the house is on fire, don't greet one another at the door with a complaint about the job, kid, parent, in-law, or spouse,” she says. “We have a routine where the first person home greets the second one with ‘Welcome back.’ The other answers, ‘Glad to be back.’ It's like saying goodnight. If you don't say it, you miss it. If you do, it provides completeness to the day.”


Have a Daily Date

Lisa and her husband meet every morning at the Starbucks in their hometown of Deerfield, Illinois after they get their three teenaged girls off to school. It’s 20 minutes for coffee and conversation before they get into their days. Their phones are off, and everything is on the table. “Even if we are [angry] at each other, we meet there and work it out,” Lisa says. “This special time—more than trips to Tuscany and the South of France—has been the secret of our deep love and friendship.”

Assume the Best of Each Other

Over 27 years of marriage, Mary and her husband, who live in Moraga, California, have learned not to take personally quips and quirks that don’t have to do with the relationship at all. “My husband and I were taking turns destroying each others' sleep with our snoring,” Mary recalls. “I was so whacked out from lack of sleep, I convinced myself he was doing it to me. He, in turn, had been putting up with my snoring without complaining. We agreed to a gentle pillow tug to turn the snorer's head. If snoring goes on, one of us volunteers to sleep in the guest room for a night or two. The spirit of compromise and the understanding that we aren't out to get each other is vital.”

Be Present to Each Other’s Pain

Stacey, who lives in Los Angeles, lost her mother recently. She worries about how her grief might be affecting her husband of 8 years—and he is heartbroken that she is in so much pain. Their plan right now? Simply be present to each other through it all. “We're hanging on tighter to each other,” Stacey says. “Right now I'm picturing how he held me in the driveway of my mother's now-empty home Saturday afternoon while I wept.”

Build on Your Common Values

Wendy and her husband, who live in San Francisco, “bring our values into everyday interactions,” she says. The couple’s oldest child is in high school, and as he grapples with making college decisions, Wendy enjoys how she and her husband are approaching their advice-giving from the same perspective. They encourage their son to take the time to find and pursue his life’s passions. “If we didn't agree on this approach,” she says, “we'd be playing out our values battle through our son. Instead, we've grown closer.”

Compliment Each Other—in Public

Telling others about your spouse’s strengths reinforces the things you most love about each other. Keith, who lives in Santa Cruz, California, says, “Once I was in a large meeting explaining to a testy customer that if we planned correctly, we could meet their entire demand. He responded by asking me, ‘Are you telling me you have infinite capacity?’ I answered, ‘Sir, the only thing in this universe I am sure has infinite capacity is my wife's patience.’ Everyone laughed, but I was serious. I'm fully aware every single moment of the day how thankful I am for her patience and love.” 

Learn and Grow Together

Wendy and her husband, who live in West Orange, New Jersey, celebrate their 48th anniversary this month. She shares that one secret to their long-term happiness is to cultivate a spirit of growth and learning in their relationship. “Do something surprising and adventurous together—going to a yoga retreat, whitewater rafting, taking different courses, traveling, and having other learning experiences,” she says. “One of the best things my husband and I did was to go to Omega Institute, a holistic learning center, to take workshops. He initially didn't want to go, but later he became a big proponent, and we went maybe 10 times. We brought the kids!”

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