No one gets married to be unhappy, but unless you have excellent marital role models, the road to a happy marriage can be fraught with frustration.
As a happily married person for over 25 years, I know these tips work because we live by them.
Learn them and use them and your marriage may be as happy as mine.
Happy Marriage Tip #1 – Learn to understand your spouse
Everyone is different.
If you’re a woman, you know you’re different than other women, same for men.
I am outgoing and people oriented.
My husband is reserved and task oriented.
We share a supportive personality trait, and because of that we have a loving, mostly calm marriage.
I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had what I would call a fight and most of those came early on in our marriage.
I used to think that was the secret to a happy marriage, but I was wrong.
We know a couple who fuss and argue with each other, a lot, but they love each other, a lot.
They need challenge and excitement in their lives and when it’s not there, they create some.
It’s not the way we operate, but it works for them, so who are we to judge?
That’s the thing about personality types, what works for one person doesn’t work for others.
The trick is to understand how your partner processes life, not as a character flaw, but as an avenue to the happiest marriage possible.
Opposites attract, at first
It seems with most couples that they’re attracted to someone that is different than they are in some way.
If we are naturally reserved, we admire someone who is naturally outgoing.
If we are messy and perpetually late, we are attracted to someone who is punctual and organized.
We initially admire qualities in others that we struggle with in our own lives.
We see how their strengths help us compensate for what we may see as our weaknesses and how we can be the perfect couple because of it.
When the cuteness wears off
At some point in the relationship, though, those once charming differences become stumbling blocks.
Your partner’s need to be on time or early for everything conflicts with your casual approach to time.
Their need for an organized, clean space clashes with your free-spirited approach to cleaning and clutter.
You may even think their way is overbearing while they think your way is lazy, and you end up fussing about these details of life when the real issue is how you approach life.
By learning to talk through these issues based on your personality type, you come out much happier on the other side.
Happy marriage tip #2 – Complement rather than Compromise
When you learn to appreciate someone’s differences, your relationship blossoms.
Notice I said appreciate and not tolerate.
As I said, I am outgoing; my husband is reserved.
When we go to a party, my husband finds a spot to sit or stand and stays there.
He’s happy to talk with anyone who stops to chat, but he’s also happy to sit quietly by himself.
I rarely sit down at a party.
I love to catch up with people I know and meet as many new people as possible.
I want to hear what everyone’s children and grandchildren are up to and see the pictures.
If I sat in a quiet spot all night, I would be miserable.
If my husband had to mingle constantly, he would be miserable.
He will meet anyone I ask him to, and I stop by occasionally and chat with him, and we’re both happy.
Growing through your differences
When I met my husband, he said his dream life was to live on a deserted island surrounded by books.
While I could get excited about living on an island, the thought of never seeing other people was horrifying for me.
Through the years, my husband has amended his dream.
It includes me, our children and our current and future grandchildren.
It includes Wi-Fi, and maybe even a small town where his very social wife can chat with the locals daily so he can get some quiet, alone time.
I dream of getting paid to travel around the country and maybe the world helping people to live their best lives.
My husband is happy to come along on my dream if we get to return to his between trips.
Again, we both win, and we’re both happy.
Happy Marriage Tip #3 – Be authentic and vulnerable
This one is difficult.
Authenticity invites ridicule, and vulnerability invites rejection, but both, when honored, create a deep, lasting partnership.
My husband didn’t have much choice about this.
Having Type 1 diabetes, he taught me how to save his life in an emergency.
Much later, he shared that he thought marriage and family wouldn’t happen, because he didn’t think anyone would accept his disease.
If there was any way I could cure my husband, I absolutely would, but his disease is part of why we’re a strong couple.
We compare our marriage to that of first responders.
Each day, when a first responder leaves the house, their spouse is fully aware it may be the last time they see their loved one alive.
When you know that, you live differently.
We know that, and I am truly thankful for each day of the almost 26 years we’ve been married.
Choosing to be authentic and vulnerable
While my husband had little choice whether to be authentic and vulnerable, I had plenty.
Authentic was easy because I stink at being fake.
Vulnerability is a different story.
When I started dating my husband, the wounds of my first marriage were not fully healed, so I was careful with my feelings.
I didn’t plan or want to fall head over heels, but I did, but I was scared.
I refused to marry again before living with my future husband because I wasn’t making that mistake again.
Despite our parents disapproval, we did what I needed to.
I needed to live with and learn to trust it would last forever.
After more than a little drama, I figured out this was a man worth trusting and being vulnerable with.
Happy Marriage tip #4 – Choose your companions well
Friends come and go.
When you like and love your spouse, those friends sometimes come and go quicker.
I’ve always been comfortable in the living room watching the “big game” or in the kitchen making chit chat at any party.
It becomes uncomfortable when it turns to partner bashing.
It usually starts with general complaining then escalates into topping each other with embarrassing spouse stories, and I refuse to participate.
So does my husband.
I understand it’s standard for some, but there are many things I would rather do than bash my husband.
Are there times I get frustrated with him?
Are there people I confide in or ask for guidance from?
Absolutely, but I know those people understand how dedicated I am to my husband, and they help me find solutions rather than try to drive the wedge deeper.
Happy Marriage tip #5 – If you have children, be unified in your parenting
My husband is my favorite human being on the planet.
I know I am his favorite human being too.
Even with newborn babies, sick babies, an immune compromised baby, toddlers and teens, we always remembered and affirmed that favoritism.
We rarely disagreed in front of our children and always united in difficult times.
We didn’t always agree about how to parent, but when we spoke to our children, we presented a united front and fully supported each other.
I know some of you are saying there’s no way you would do that, especially if your spouse was wrong, but stay tuned.
When we disagreed, we stepped away from our children and talked it out.
We knew there was a day when those children would be gone, and we would be left with each other, and we wanted that to be something we looked forward to, and we still do 25+ years later.
It wasn’t easy, especially when following through on disciplinary action, but it was essential to keep our happy marriage.
The most important questions for us were what was the best response for our children’s future and ours?
I’ve seen so many arguments resulting from one parent circumventing or undermining the authority of the other parent, and it rarely ends well.
They’re a love letters to everyone raising children and are available on our Moving Toward Better shop page.
Get yours now.
Happy Marriage Tip #6 – Keep the romance alive
This isn’t what you think.
Most couples, especially parents, have no time for bubble baths, long weekends and love letters.
In truth, most parents don’t need that.
Some do, but not most that I know.
Some need an affirming word about something they do.
Some love gifts, big or small.
Some need a physical pat on the back or something similar.
Some need you to show your love through an act of service like doing the dishes.
Some want your time.
It really isn’t, especially when you read the book The Five Love Languages.
It will change your life and improve your marriage, especially if you take the Five Love Languages quiz with your spouse and share the results.
Once you do this, you’ll understand why some people love gifts, some a long walk, some an uplifting card, some a home cooked meal and some a back rub.
When you and your partner speak each other’s love languages, you revolutionize your relationship.
The 50-50 happy marriage myth
A lifelong, loving relationship is a gift you and your partner give to one another.
Anyone who says a happy marriage is 50-50 doesn’t get it.
Marriage is 100%-100% even though your 100% may change from day to day.
If you are happily married you understand exactly what I’m saying.
If you’re not, there are ways to change that.
In addition to the Love Languages, learn more about your personality type and your spouse’s personality type as well
It will make you a better person, a better spouse and a better parent.