Earlier this year we asked, "What's your secret to a happy marriage?" We were overwhelmed by your creative responses. Peri Simmons of Tennessee wrote: "When my husband, David, and I were still single, a common whine we used to hear from 'old married couples' was, 'He's (or she's) not the same person I married.' When we got married, we agreed to remind ourselves,This is the same person I married; I just learned something more about him/her." Bill Stonebraker of Montana shared, "If we can't agree on an important issue, both of us pray, 'God, if I'm wrong, change my heart.' Usually God ends up changing both our hearts." Keep reading for more insightful responses.
The ability to laugh at ourselves or our situation has allowed us to keep things in perspective over the years. Sure we argue from time to time, but the overall theme of our marriage is joy and laughter.
—Darci and John Engle, Tennessee, married 10 years
We do a Bible study each morning. We read one verse and give our thoughts on it and how we'll apply it in our lives. It's interesting what we've learned about each other this way. Occasionally we even pick the same verse, which is amazing.
—Steve and Helen Newton, North Carolina, married 12 years
We've always seen ourselves as a team. There isn't a "your side" and a "my side"—it always needs to be "our side." This attitude keeps our entire family strong.
—Cynthia and Jeff Jobe, California, married 25 years
We allow each other our own space and way of doing things as much as possible. I let him be him and he lets me be me.
—Richard and Ruth Ann Danielson, Washington, married 38 years
I know this is cliché, but our secret really is communication. Lack of communication at best says, We don't need to talk, we already know everything about each other. How arrogant! A lifetime isn't enough to fully understand each other. At worst it says, I don't think my spouse is worth the effort of trying to understand; I've given up. It's only a short step from there to, We have nothing in common; we might as well end it. So we really make a point of keeping up the talking!
—Jai and Faith-Anne Reid, Ontario, Canada, married 12 years
We pray a lot together, for God's protection and blessings in our lives. We've adopted the motto: "I can't change my spouse, but through prayer, God can work on us both."
—Christopher and Carol Tucker, North Carolina, married 19 years
Knowing we're in it until death do us part means we're committed to our marriage and know we'll always work to resolve our differences. We made a vow before God, and we know that God's plan is for us to remain together forever.
—Erin and Mark Horaski, Washington, married 14 years
Are we arguing to resolve the conflict or win the fight? When we give an honest answer to that question, it helps us put the disagreement in perspective.
—Phyllis and Bob Schlageter, Indiana, married 29 years
From the beginning we viewed our marriage like a business partnership where each spouse brings a certain expertise. As in any good business, communication is a must. We also have to allow for growth, more in some areas than others depending on the season. We must be flexible to change—after all, life is a movement in the market of time, and changes will occur. So we have to expect the unexpected. These points aren't always easy to follow, but they work for us.
—David and Renée Steedly, Georgia, married 17 years
We're emotionally naked with each other. That kind of connection is built on trust, honesty, love, and effort—lots and lots of effort on both our parts. We don't believe in 50/50. We believe in 100/100.
—David and Ashley Hanson, Texas, married less than 1 year
Discover your spouse. Figure out what lights up his or her eyes and try to do something small every day to make that happen.
—Teresa and Mike Eastwood, Washington, married 3 years
We've learned to joyfully do the things the other doesn't enjoy doing. She makes dinner; I do the full clean up. I take care of car maintenance; she cleans the house. We share most things without needing to keep a tally of who did what.
—Bill and Carolyn Norris, British Columbia, Canada, married 30 years
Make your mate's needs your complete focus. Since this is a two-way street, your mate will be meeting your needs as you are meeting his or hers. It takes dedication, but the rewards are overwhelming.
—Michael and Jeanne Berry, Washington, married 30 years
We have a few code phrases for when things start to get tense. They never fail to make us laugh at ourselves and remember we're in this by choice. Things such as, "Making diamonds, honey?" which means, You're being really uptight! Or "Be like a duck, honey"—let it roll off your back.
—Joe and Jaylene Lynch, Washington, married 5 years
Make your spouse your number one priority—even before yourself!
—Carm and Michelle Fenech, Malta, married 28 years
When we had kids, we realized we weren't spending as much time together because we couldn't afford to get out as much. We established Thursday nights as on-the-couch date nights. After we put our three kids to bed, we eye each other and break into a huge grin. We put on our comfies, make popcorn, and cozy up on the couch to watch our favorite tv shows.
Our friends and family know about our sacred Thursdays and have stopped calling (we don't pick up) or trying to make plans with us for that night. It's a great bonding time, and you'd be amazed at how much talking can take place during commercials. It forces us to get straight to the point!
—Debbie Kroeker and Kevin Kilbrei, Manitoba, Canada, married 10 years
We always try to live by four three-word phrases my wife's grand-father told us when he performed our wedding ceremony. He told us to say them every day and with a tender heart:
(1) I love you.
(2) I'm sorry.
(3) Please forgive me.
(4) Let's try again.
—Jerry and Janelle Banks, North Carolina, married 11 years
Each month we write a list of things we'd like our spouse to do for us. It's always something we'd enjoy, usually one item per week. We print our lists and hang them on the bathroom mirror as a daily reminder.
—Angie and Keith Alford, Georgia, married 2 years
Don't Take for Granted
I'm an Army officer and have been in life-threatening situations many times. Afterward, I'm always struck by the overwhelming relief that my last words to my wife were not harsh. Each dangerous event serves as a constant reminder to avoid conflict with my wife and constantly show her how much I love her. The bottom line is that most things just aren't important enough to fight over.
—Rick and Angie Graham, Indiana, married 19 years
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.