How to Stay Happily Married for 40 Years
Insights on Marriage from 4 Decades of Experience
The day we’re releasing this blog, August 4, 2019, is Carolyn’s and my 40th wedding
anniversary. Of course, it’s hard to believe that many years have gone by. Over 40 years,
we’ve had quite a ride: we’ve welcomed 3 sons into the world, seen our parents grow
older and go to be with Jesus, experienced all kinds of ups & downs, started churches,
founded Discipleship Journeys with Jesus and walked side by side through it all.
Back in 2013 when we celebrated 34 years of marriage, I wrote about “How to Stay
Happily Married for 34 Years.” I stand by all I wrote then and am sharing it again below.
Here are five keys to a happy marriage 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 to never 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, etc.
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
Here are some examples: flirting, pornography, overspending, Facebook
friendships with old 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
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.
How bizarre that we treat those we love worse than a perfect stranger.
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.
That’s what I wrote six years ago, and I still believe these are important keys. If you want
some more keys, I wrote an additional post on “Five More Keys to Say Happily Married
If you have questions, please let me know through the Contact page on this website.
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Additional resources about related subjects on this site:
Podcast: Why did God invent marriage?
Podcast: How can I overcome pornography?
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