Five Keys to Stay Happily Married for 34 Years

Carolyn and I celebrated 34 years of joyful marriage just a few weeks ago on Sunday, August 4, 2013.

In San Diego on our anniversary. Did you see the statue of the WW II kissers in the background?

We marked the day by first going to church. After church we went to the gym. Then we left for San Diego where we went out to dinner and walked around Seaport Village shopping area by the San Diego Bay. Then we went to an outdoor concert. Burt Bacharach performed with the San Diego Symphony.

Burt is the composer of many popular songs such as “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “What the World Needs Now is Love,” “Walk on By,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” and “Alfie.” He’s 85 years old, yet still touring with his band, playing piano, and singing his songs.

It was a wonderful day.

But a great day doesn’t make a great marriage. That happens in the trenches of day-to-day living. It comes through good decisions, discipline and growth.

Here are five keys to staying happily married from our experience:

One: Never Use the “D” word or the “S” Word. 

Like every married couple, Carolyn and I have lived through some major difficulties, both in our marriage and in other areas of life (jobs, leading churches, health, raising children, etc.). But as hard as things got, we have always kept our commitment never to consider or threaten each other with the “D” word: divorce, or even the “S” word: separate.

I recognize that in some marriages these are inescapable. But if more couples were determined to avoid these two words and not even consider them, there would be fewer divorces and separations. Our commitment has always been to work things out, rather than even consider a bailout.

Two: Laugh at Your Differences

This might sound impossible, but give it a try, it’s fun.

Carolyn and I are different in many ways. We have differences in thermostats, cleanliness, tastes, recreational preferences, expressions of love.

When we see things differently, we have choices to make: Will we be obstinate in preferring our own way? Will we become irritated at what we think is our spouse’s “irrational” thinking? Will we argue about which way is best?

As much as possible, we try to laugh at our differences.

When Carolyn says it’s cold, I laughingly agree and say “yep, it’s freezing” as I wipe sweat from my forehead. We laugh together and move on.

When I share that it would be fun to go to a museum, we chuckle about how I can spend endless hours in a museum reading all the exhibits and Carolyn can breeze through in a brisk walk.

When Carolyn says we need to go shopping and I need to go with her, we laugh about finding a chair in the clothing section where I can sit, work on my iPhone or even take a nap.

After we smile at our differences, we quickly negotiate a win/win compromise and move on.

Three: Avoid Marriage Busters

What are marriage busters? They are behaviors that might be legal, but tend to break marriages.

Here are some examples: flirting, pornography, overspending, Facebook friendships with old or new flames, lunches alone with coworkers of the opposite sex, sharing intimately with friends of the opposite sex.

Call us legalistic if you will. We prefer to think of ourselves as careful with one of our most precious possessions: our marriage.

Four: Refuse Anger, Sarcasm, Biting Words and Hurtful Jokes

Many use angry, sarcastic biting words with their spouse that they would never use with a stranger. Their spouse becomes the butt of their jokes.

While I stated this key negatively, our goal should really be just the opposite. I once heard of a husband whose goal was to give his spouse a different affirmation every day of their marriage.

Five: Have Fun Together

Perhaps you immediately think, “But we can’t afford to do fun things.” But I’m not necessarily talking about expensive hobbies or fancy meals out. If you love each other, fun can be inexpensive or even free:

  • We love to take walks together in the evening after work.
  • We enjoy cleaning the house together.
  • We have fun going to the warehouse store together.

For five MORE keys to stay happily married see my article HERE.

Question: What’s a key to your marriage success that you can share?  You can easily leave a comment below

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Phyllis Mifflin

    Hi Mark ~ I appreciated all the points you made, and as Cliff and I prepare to celebrate our 47th anniversary on Tuesday (Aug. 20), I can honestly say we practice all of them. One thing you didn’t mention is the importance of communication. When we were first married and an argument would ensue, Cliff would never engage in a discussion over the disagreement. He would always say, “You’re right” and that was it. We would both be left with frustrations. It’s so important to talk about your feelings and realize that’s it’s ok to not agree over everything. And finally, in order to place Christ in the center of our marriage, I had to learn to respect Cliff as the head of our household and honor his decisions, even if I had a difference of opinion. If an issue comes up, we share together our opinions. Through this, we have become best friends knowing we each have a specific God-given role in the relationship. He is the head and I am the neck. I just tell myself that the head can’t turn without the neck.

    • Mark Alan Williams

      Great big congratulations on your anniversary 47! How wonderful.

      I like what you said “it’s ok to not agree over everything.” That’s a lesson I have been learning more recently in our marriage, and a good one.