4 Awesome Ways To Stay Happy In A LONG Marriage


Once you find love and get married, how do you stay married? Here's 4 tips from my 35+ year romance.

“A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short,” according to French essayist and author Andrew Maurois in his 1942 memoir. Though most twenty-first century relationships seem like brief emails versus long conversations, this is still true in 2015..

This August marks 38 years since I met my husband Glenn, and our long conversation is still a work-in-progress. We met on a job interview when I went to work for an LA rock music manager. Glenn was using an office in this managerʼs suite to finish writing a novel inspired by his experiences as a rock-and- roll roadie. 

Iʼd just ended a brief but intense romance and was not seeking new relationships. Ironically, I found love anyway as our paths inadvertently crossed at the office.  I left the job three months later, but kept Glenn.

When we met, he had just returned to LA after building a house for a friend in Oregon while getting divorced from a ten-year marriage. He had spent his first-marriage years mostly "on the road" as a a driver on tours with superstar bands like The Stones and Elton John.

His first marriage -- to his college sweetheart, who stayed home and spent his paycheck -- had been doomed from the start. Iʼd survived a few live-in relationships and short-term flirtations, but was looking forward to a respite from romantic challenges.

Our "long conversation" began as we discovered significant things in common during my first week on the job: (a) weʼre both writers and (b) we were both more interested in long-term attachments than romantic flings. When Glenn moved in with me one week after we met, it felt easy and comfortable. Nearly forty years later, it still does.

The year we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, I asked my friends who also had long-relationships to share what has kept them together.  I wanted to see if what has worked for us was similar to what had worked for them. Hereʼs some of what I learned:

1. Keep each other laughing. 

Glennʼs boyish sense of humor still keeps me laughing even when he doesnʼt intend to. When he tries to make me laugh on purpose, itʼs usually to lighten me up as Iʼm upset or I think he should do something “my way." Telling bad jokes works in a pinch, but truly ironic jokes work even better for my sense of humor.  

I suggest you find a good joke book at the library or a used book store, and try a few jokes you like on your "significant other" to see what types of humor work best for him or her.  Then keep this book and other jokes handy for "lighten-up" occasions.

2. Create family traditions together

Glenn and I got married on Chinese New Year in 1979, and we've celebrated our anniversary on Chinese New Year ever since.  This can be tricky as the date for this New Moon-related holiday changes each year.

We staged our own private wedding at a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills with a dozen friends in attendance. Our anniversary tradition became eating at an Asian restaurant each year since.

Our first anniversary required Chinese take-out, however, as our daughter had just been born. For our 10th and 20th anniversaries, we expanded the tradition by inviting all our friends to bring their favorite Chinese take-out to our house for amazing potluck feasts.

On our 25th anniversary, a dozen friends toasted us with green tea at a neighborhood Chinese cafe which was reminiscent of our wedding though our friends had changed.

This fun annual tradition makes our anniversaries extra-special -- and delicious. Creating family traditions -- even for common national or religious holidays -- gives you special occasions to look forward to with your spouse and loved ones, and often your friends too.  This creates happy memories that last for lifetimes and are priceless.

3. Identify your “deal breakers.”

In every relationship, differences of opinion spring up. But not every disagreement is what I would call a “deal breaker."  Thatʼs something you absolutely canʼt live with, no matter how much you love your spouse or partner.

Since marriage is still primarily a business arrangement (think finances, insurance, taxes, legal responsibilities, health care directives, et al), knowing what your deal breakers are can save you a lot of confusion and frustration. 

Deal breakers are different for each person and also for each relationship. For example, infidelity can be a deal breaker for some but may not be a deal breaker for others, depending on the circumstances. By identifying your deal breakers and re-evaluating them from time to time, you can relax as you wonʼt likely make mountains out of molehills.  You'll also know quickly when itʼs time to make changes or end the deal.

4. Put up with small annoyances (or guilt your partner into changing them)

Glenn and I both hate washing dishes, but heʼs much better at it than I am. His mother taught him to help around the house while mine generally took care of these tasks herself.

So I tend to avoid the dishes when the sink gets full, though I can keep them at bay when he's out of town and there are less to wash each day. This of course drives him nuts. When he finally complains enough, I feel so guilty that I wash my dishes right away … at least for a while.

In turn, it drives me nuts when Glenn leaves his shoes in the middle of the living room where I tend to trip over them. But instead of complaining, I've learned to just move them out of the way. When he does this frequently, however, I put his shoes on his side of the bed.

This seems to help him remember not to leave them in the middle of the floor, at least for a while.

These are a few examples of how weʼve learned to cope with the small annoyances of coupled living, as well as ways to gently remind each other that “enough is enough.” It helps prevent battles and stress, and also reminds us that neither of us is perfect.

I'll share more lessons about long-term married life in another article -- but I'd love to know what you've learned from your long-term relationships too!  

If you've been with your partner or spouse for 10 years or more, please let me know what you've learned and how you've made it work for you.  You can message me at YT or email me at Barbara@YourLifeandSoul.com with "Married Tips YT" in the subject.  Many thanks!