Revealed: 20 Secrets of Happily-Married Couples

Planning a wedding is stressful, challenging, and exhausting, but also joyous, exciting, and unforgettable. Who knew it would perfectly prepare you for the adventure that is marriage? The road to happily ever after is fraught with some treacherous terrain, and successfully navigating those peaks and valleys as a couple is, well, all of the above.   

couple kissing
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The key to transitioning from a blissful wedding to wedded bliss? Simply put: Communication. But according to licensed marriage and family counsellor Ruthy Kaiser, senior staff therapist at Council for Relationships in PA, there’s really nothing simple about it. “Everybody communicates a lot about communication, but that doesn’t mean they are really communicating,” she quips. “Really effective communication hinges on a happy healthy process, one in which both parties feel safe, respected, and loved instead of defensive, accused, and hostile. When couples come to me complaining that they do not feel heard, it is most often because their process of addressing is each other is not working.”

And, says Kaiser, let’s not forget those dreaded unrealistic expectations — especially any that include the word change. “You may be able to change some aspects of your spouse, but more often than not, you need to know yourself and understand that you might be asked to adapt to those traits and habits that are a permanent part of the package.” Most importantly, she advises, don’t let small issues become big problems. “If your gut says you and your spouse are a little out of sync, try to address it right away…with your healthy process. Don’t be afraid to be the one to start the conversation.”

For more insight on how to build a happy marriage, we sought out veteran married couples with a wide variety of field experience, from a decade of enthusiastically saying “I do” to over 60 years of successfully dodging marital mortar fire. Their perceptions may or may not surprise you, but one thing is certain: The real secret to a long and happy marriage is whatever works for you.

Conflict Resolution

Never Go to Bed Angry
"When we were first married, somebody gave us this advice: Never go to bed angry. It’s an oldie but goodie, and we have passed it along to others. Whatever is bothering us, we talk it out before we go to sleep so each day, we wake up with a clean slate and a fresh perspective. Saying 'yes dear' a lot doesn’t hurt either!" —Johanna and Brian, married 11 years

Don't Keep Score
“When you see that something is really important to your spouse, it’s not losing or giving in to let them have their way. It is caring enough about another’s feelings to support and honor what is important to them. You will find if you compromise some of the time and they compromise some of the time, everybody wins.” —Julie and Billy, married 10 years

Learn Each Other's Argument Style
“We tend to approach conflict resolution differently. Steve is not a talker; whatever the issue, his healing process is simply the passage of time. For me, the more time that passes without discussion, the more whatever it is escalates. After 29 years, we have learned to meet somewhere in the middle by addressing the problem with conversation but not beating a dead horse. Don’t get me wrong. I can beat it to death, but once it is down for the count, we’re done. Enough said." —Marcie and Steve, married 29 years

Forgive and Forget
"Learning how to fight has been key. Not holding a grudge makes for a happy marriage. When we argue, we duke it out verbally, then kiss and make up, usually with a shot of tequila — maybe two shots depending on the severity of the disagreement. Then we move on like nothing ever happened. It works every time! It’s important to keep moving forward and not dwell on garbage from the past. So the key to a long and happy married life: A bad memory!" —Donna and Jay, married 42 years

Next: How to Communicate More Effectively ►

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