The Secret to a Happy and Successful Marriage

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When my husband and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary at our favorite restaurant, Lenny, the piano player, asked, “How did you do it?”

I knew there was no simple answer, but as the weekend approached, I
wondered if one reason might be our ritual of breakfast in bed every
Saturday and Sunday.

It all started with the breakfast tray my mother gave us as a wedding
gift. It had a glass top and slatted wooden side pockets for the morning
paper e kind you used to see in the movies. Mother loved her movies, and
although she rarely had breakfast in bed, she held high hopes for her
daughter. My adoring bridegroom took the message to heart.

Feeling guilty, I suggested we take turns. Despite grumblings — “hate
crumbs in my bed” —Sunday morning found my spouse eagerly awaiting his
tray. Soon these weekend breakfasts became such a part of our lives that
I never even thought about them. I only knew we treasured this separate,
blissful time read, relax, forget the things we should remember.

Sifting through the years, I recalled how our weekends changed,but that
we still preserved the ritual. We started our family (as new parents, we
slept after breakfast more than we read), but we always found our way
back to where we started, just two for breakfast, one on Saturday and
one on Sunday.
 

When we had more time, my tray became more festive. First it was fruit
slices placed in geometric pattern; then came flowers from our garden
metimes just one blossom sprouting from a grapefruit half. This arranger
of mine had developed a flair for decorating, using everything from
amaryllis to the buds of a maple tree. My husband said my cooking
inspired him. Mother would have approved. Perhaps it was the Saturday
when the big strawberry wore a daisy hat that I began to think, how can
I top this? One dark winter night I woke with a vision of a snowman on a
tray. That Sunday I scooped a handful of snow and in no time had my man
made. With a flourish I put a miniature pinecone on his head.

As I delivered the tray, complete with a nicely frozen snowman, I waited
for a reaction. There was none but as I headed down the stairs I heard a
whoop of laughter and then, “You’ve won! Yes, sir, you’ve won the
prize!”

Here are 10 principles of success I have learned from working with and
observing hundreds of couples:

1.    Happiness is not the most important thing. Everyone wants to be happy, but happiness will come and go. Successful couples learn to intentionally do things that will bring happiness back when life pulls it away.

2.    Couples discover the value in just showing up. When things get tough and couples don’t know what to do, they need to hang in there and be there for their spouse. Time has a way of helping couples work things out by providing opportunities to reduce stress and overcome challenges.

3.    If you do what you always do, you will get same result. Wise couples have learned that you have to approach problems differently to get different results. Often, minor changes in approach, attitude and actions make the biggest difference in marriage.

4.    Your attitude does matter. Changing behavior is important, but so is changing attitudes. Bad attitudes often drive bad feelings and actions.

5.    Change your mind, change your marriage. How couples think and what they believe about their spouse affects how they perceive the other. What they expect and how they treat their spouse matters greatly.

6.    The grass is greenest where you water it. Successful couples have learned to resist the grass is greener myth — i.e., someone else will make me happy. They have learned to put their energy into making themselves and their marriage better.

7.    You can change your marriage by changing yourself. Veteran couples have learned that trying to change their spouse is like trying to push a rope — almost impossible. Often, the only person we can change in our marriage
is ourselves.

8.    Love is a verb, not just a feeling. Everyday life wears away the “feel good side of marriage.” Feelings, like happiness, will fluctuate. But, real love
is based on a couple’s vows of commitment: “For better or for worse” —
when it feels good and when it doesn’t.

9.    Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears. Successful couples have learned to resist holding grudges and bringing up the past. They remember that they married an imperfect person — and so did their
spouse.

10.  A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over. Crises are like storms: loud, scary and dangerous. But to get through a storm you have to keep driving. A crisis can be a new beginning. It’s out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.

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