Happy Together

May 02 2016 | by

A WOMAN recently wrote to an advice columnist relating how she met her husband. At the time, the woman was only 14 and given the honor of reading from the Bible during an Easter service. At that service, she noticed a new family in church, especially the oldest son whom she learned was 16. “His black curly hair and dimples almost made me lose my place,” she recalls; his name was ‘Jim’. He was a very bright student, graduating from high school before his 16th birthday. When American ships were bombed at Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy a few days after his 17th birthday. She saw him off at the railroad station. Jim explained he had not slept much of the night before, but prayed for two things – that he would come back alive, and that the little blond from the church would be waiting for him. Shortly before the war ended, Jim came home on a 10-day leave. On the spur of the moment they decided to get married. “The florist decorated the altar beautifully for $10. That was 53 years ago, and we have had, and are still having, a fuller life than I ever could have imagined,” she wrote.

Many people would describe a satisfying and fulfilling marriage of 53 years as amazing in this day and age. Yet, the truth is that any couple can have an amazing marriage. What it takes is paying attention to the little things which keep love alive over the decades. Here are nine steps to an amazing marriage.


I am sorry


Apologize frequently. Satisfying, long-term marriages usually contain the vital trait of knowing when one is wrong and promptly apologizing for the offensive action. Do not hesitate to express sincere regret and to apologize if your words, attitudes and behavior were wrong. Actor Charlton Heston (1923-2008) had not only one of the longest running careers in Hollywood, but Heston also had one of the town’s longest-running marriages: 64 years until his death – with photographer Lydia Clarke. Asked for the ‘secret’ of his successful marriage, Heston says, “You’ve got to pick the right girl in the first place. And much more importantly, as a husband you have to remember the crucial importance of three little words: ‘I was wrong’. That will take you a lot further than ‘I love you.’” 


Learning to listen


Take up residence in someone else’s point of view. That means learning to listen. Provide the opportunity and the freedom for your partner to express his or her opinion without interruption, interference, or interpretation. Learn to really listen to a spouse. When they are through speaking, repeat out loud what they have told you without adding or embellishing what was said. A good way to do that is to simply say, “Just so I understand, what you are feeling is this…” Improve your listening skills by reflecting on this observation from writer John Erskine, “The body travels more easily than the mind, and until we have limbered up our imagination we continue to think as though we had stayed home. We have not really budged a step until we take up residence in someone else’s point of view.”


Pray for each other


Pray for your partner. Daily ask God to bless your mate. If your spouse is experiencing stress, ask God to bless him or her with feelings of peace. If your partner is in need of clarity, ask God to bless him or her with insight. If your mate is undergoing physical or emotional pain, ask God to bless him or her with healing. If your spouse has had a success, praise God for the achievement. Apply in your marriage the command of scripture: “Pray for each other” (James 5:16). Prayer is another form of intimacy, which will further tighten the bond between you and your mate.


Laugh together


Maintain a sense of humor. Too often life is intensely serious. Lighten and brighten your marriage by cultivating and maintaining a sense of humor. Try to see the humorous side of life. Do whatever you can to add emotional amusement into your relationship. Two people who do this were actor Gregory Peck (1916-2003) and his wife Veronique Passani (1932-2012). They first met when Veronique was working as a reporter in Paris and interviewed Peck during the filming of Roman Holiday in 1953. Impressed with the young reporter, Peck decided to call her at the newspaper asking if she would join him for lunch. Upon getting through to her and making his request, Peck was surprised when Veronique didn’t say anything. After a lengthy pause, she finally agreed. Months later Peck asked her why she’d taken so long to make up her mind to have lunch with him that day. She said, “I had an appointment to interview Albert Schweitzer at the apartment of Jean-Paul Sartre.” Peck’s response: “You made the right choice.”   


Talk together


Talk regularly. That advice comes from Jerry M. Lewis, MD, senior research psychiatrist at the Timberlawn Psychiatric Research Foundation in Dallas, TX. “No matter how busy you are, set aside at least 20 minutes for an ‘end-of-the-day review’ with your spouse. Ask such simple questions as ‘What was the best part of your day?’ ‘Did anything funny happen today?’ Train yourself to listen non-judgmentally to the answers, so you can create an atmosphere in which you gradually begin to feel safe exploring the multitude of issues in your lives.” Be sure to choose a time for talking when both of you are emotionally available. For example, if one partner comes home from work drained, exhausted and irritable, schedule the talk time for later in the evening when that partner has had time to relax and unwind.


Mutual loyalty


Be loyal. When Melissa, the only daughter of comedian Joan Rivers (1933-2014) was about to be married to John Endicott, the comedian wrote an open letter to ‘Missy’ offering her advice as she began this new chapter in her life. In her letter, Rivers emphasized the importance of loyalty to one’s partner: “Daddy and I used to say that the two of us were a little army. Even before you came, he and I were shoulder to shoulder against the world. You and John must become such an army. Through the years I’ve always admired your loyalty to your friends, your family, your schools; but the moment that ring circles your finger, your primary loyalty should be to your husband. Loyalty is the absolute essence of a marriage.”


Make room for joy


Expand your joy level. Remind yourself not to let the pace of life constrict your level of joy and pleasure together. The many pressures couples face today – working, commuting, housekeeping, parenting, volunteering, making mortgage payments – conspire to make daily life a series of pressures, one after another. Slow down the pace and make room for joy. “Sometime we get parsimonious about love – too few hugs, too few compliments, too little time for each other,” writes Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen Hunt, MA, in their book The Couples Companion: Meditations and Exercises for Getting the Love You Want. “Often our frugality reflects the scarcity or impermissibility of pleasure in childhood, our indoctrination that fun or pleasure is ‘evil’. We take no pleasure in pleasure,” they note. Their advice: “Time to begin retraining your old brain to revel in intense and abundant pleasure. Come up with something that you and your partner can do today to stretch the limits of your potential for joy. Ten minutes of belly laughing? Staying in bed till noon? The world’s largest banana split? Go for it!”


Be courteous


Always be courteous and considerate. Do not let engagement courtesies fall by the wayside after marriage. Continue to treat your partner as though it was your first date. Always be courteous and considerate. Here is sound advice by Dr. Leo Buscaglia from his book, Born For Love: “We are often more considerate and understanding of total strangers than we are of our wives, husbands and children. Curiously, true consideration and genuine affection often seem reserved for insignificant, rather than significant others… yet… a kind word, sincerely stated, can work magic, most notably in relationship where the magic is gone. We are never so sophisticated or so comfortable in a relationship that the little niceties can be neglected. If they are good enough for total strangers, they are certainly good enough for the people we love.”


Keep learning


Finally, educate yourself about love. In the story of Candide, Voltaire has his hero and heroine discuss their loving future together. Their love blinds them to the fact their expectations are massively different. Her dream is for pearls, ruby rings and palaces with marble swimming pools. His goal is to live simply on a few acres of land with a pig, a cow and a vegetable garden. They are naive in their expectation that their love will bridge the differences. Too many people enter into marriage overly idealistically. They mistakenly assume that everything will fall into place without effort. Consider shaping your idealism into a practical, workable reality by educating yourself about love and relationships. Read books and magazine articles on ways to cultivate a successful marriage. Participate in a seminar on communication skills. Attend a retreat for married couples. Enroll in a class on marriage and family life. Keep learning all you can about marriage. If you run into a problem in your relationship visit a library and find some books relevant to the issue. Read and study them. Then, apply what you learn to resolve the matter and strengthen your relationship.



Over the years, the Holy Father has addressed engaged and newly married couples at various papal audiences, and he has also talked about family problems on different occasions. Here are some of his tips.

·         Marriage is also a daily job. We could even say it’s like craftsmanship. In a way it’s like being a goldsmith, because a husband makes his wife more of a woman, and she in turn should make her husband a better man. Growing together in their humanity, as man and woman. 

·         Love is something that comes about. It’s a reality that grows. As an example, we could even say that it’s like building a home. You build a home together, not alone! 

·         You can’t base a marriage on feelings that come and go. Bur rather on the rock of true love, the love that comes from God.

·         When we pray the Our Father we say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When it comes to marriage, we can say, “Give us this day, our daily love.” 

·         “May I?” This is the polite way of joining someone’s life, with respect and attention. Do we know how to say “Thank you”? As engaged couples and soon as a married couple, it’s important to acknowledge that your spouse is a gift from God. When you receive a gift from God, you say “Thank you.” 

·         We all know there is no such thing as the perfect family or a perfect husband or wife. I won’t even mention a perfect mother-in-law… It’s us who do exist, sinners. Jesus knows us well and He tells us a secret: Never let the day end without apologizing.  

·         Make sure it’s an authentic celebration, because marriage is a celebration. It’s a Christian celebration, not a worldly one. Imagine having a party sipping some tea? No way, without wine there’s no party.

So Francis’ tips include love, patience, understanding and prayer. Once you say “I do” the Pope said, “you can’t cross your arms and wait, because marriage is work… and a life-long commitment.”

Updated on October 04 2016