Want to know how to stay happily married for a lifetime? Talk with happily married couples, preferably ones that celebrated at least twenty happy anniversaries. They know how to make marriage work, and they usually have more wisdom about staying happily married than any expert.
My favorite experts on staying happily married
If you follow my story, you know I love a good self-help book. My favorite staying happily married book is Positive Personality Profiles. It helped me appreciate myself and my husband as two very different individuals whose personality differences were a blessing not a curse. After my first marriage crashed and burned, I was afraid my second would do the same. I thought I was a terrible wife, so I started reading books about marriage. Honestly, most of them were crap. Want to know why? The people who wrote them either had multiple marriages, had cheated on their spouses at some point or had never been married. How’s that for expertise? I trashed them and turned to the real experts, people like my in-laws, who were still madly loved with each other after nine children and 40+ years of marriage.
How my in-laws stayed happily married
They taught me there is very little worth fighting over. Talking with their children, you learned they lived that every day. None of them saw their parents argue even though my father in law taught every one of his children to debate. Their mother never participated, which I’m sure speaks volumes about why the debates never went beyond the dining room table. My in-laws never talked badly to or about one another. I married their youngest son, who lived at home until we bought our first home together. In 25 years, he never heard his parents argue. Months after my husband moved out, his father said the worst thing my husband ever heard him say, that his mother had given up cooking dinner since my husband moved out and he missed that. My mother in-law cooked dinner for over 40 years. She even fed me dinner two to three nights per week for over a year while my husband and I dated.
Making it work
For years, my father in law had two jobs, carpentry during the day and insurance sales in the evening. During that time he was always home for dinner and for bath time with his young children. My mother in-law took care of the house and the children and babysat to bring in extra money. They were a team, and after my father in law passed, my mother in law never entertained the idea of loving another man. In her mind, she already had the best so why look elsewhere? She still feels that way 21 years later, and as her health fails her, we all believe she will be happy to reunite with the man she has loved her entire adult life.
The most important lesson
The most important lesson I learned about staying happily married for a lifetime is to love my husband as he is while supporting his efforts to become better. My mother in law learned to drive in her 30s after my husband was born with my father in law’s support. My father in law served on their hometown City Council with my mother in law’s support. He was outgoing and never met a stranger. She was quiet and preferred to keep to herself. Each let the other be who they needed to be, and their marriage worked beautifully. I remember thinking when I married my husband, if we could be as happy as his parents, I would consider us lucky indeed. At this point, we’re 25 years in and going strong. Four of my husband’s five married siblings have been married longer than that. How’s that for teaching your children how to stay happily married?
Living differently than I grew up
I’ll be honest, though. I wasn’t raised like that. My parents argued, a lot. I love them, and they loved each other, but all was not well in our home. My first marriage was like my parents’. When I married my current husband, we wanted to be different. We found the secrets to staying happily married in my in-laws’ example and in Positive Personality Profiles and The Five Love Languages. When my husband and I read these books, we learned so much about one another, mostly that we’re opposites. We learned, though, that each personality type is positive when in balance. Because we saw each other’s positive aspects, we used our strengths to complement one another and create a team that rivals my in-laws.
Our version of staying happily married
As an outgoing person, I learned to appreciate my husband’s need to withdraw when he feels stress. As a reserved person, he learned that I prefer to move and/or talk when I feel stress. Being people-oriented, I stop doing tasks to attend to the people I care about. His task-orientation means my husband prefers to finish the task at hand before moving on to something else. It isn’t because he doesn’t care about people; he cares deeply. It’s just that he thinks analytically and stopping in the middle of a task causes stress. It’s why he works on cleaning out the garage for hours, but I use The Magic of Fifteen Minutes over several days to get through a project that big. Because we understand that about each other, I know he isn’t uncaring, and he knows I’m not lazy. We just process differently, and that helps us love and accept each other. It also makes us better parents, but that’s a story for another post.
How you can stay happily married too
If you have conflict in your marriage and want to fix that, I encourage you to learn more about the DISC system from Positive Personality Profiles. Check out my shop for options to do that. Also, if you’re not part of the Moving Toward Better email community, sign up below for the great new freebies and offers exclusive to the MTB email community. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!Click here for ways to support the Moving Toward Better mission.