The Not So Secret Secrets to a Happy Marriage

By M. Jane Letty

700 words/3 minute read

What’s the secret to a happy marriage? The simple answer is there is no secret. It’s no secret when two people greet every joy as though expected and meet every challenge as a storm that will pass…if you let them. It’s no secret that dancing in the kitchen to the songs of first dates to the Mr. & Mrs. to the sound of little feet to creaky bones, blesses the home. It’s no secret to keeping a piece of paper, be it a certificate of marriage or legal tender, from ever coming between the two. It’s no secret how the shiny rings exchanged get scratched and worn remain a perfect circle, however misshapen it may become. It’s no secret God blesses the moments of doubt with the same weight as the days of no worries. It’s no secret that saying, “I love you.” every day adds up to cancel any debt “I’m sorry.” may have imposed. Forgive the mortal sins with the same strength you do minor slights. It’s no secret that if you blink, you won’t miss a minute but, you will look back and be amazed at how long it took, yet how quickly you arrived.

It’s no secret. Tell anyone who asks, “What’s the secret to a happy marriage?” the answer is in the question–have a “Happy Marriage”. Make every moment count in your favor, not against. Ignore the temptation to indulge in the drunkenness of misery. Be a sanctuary unto each other. Create an oasis from the outside world. Don’t complain or harass one another. Instead, appeal to one another to team up and tackle problems. Let the years behind you be the wind at your backs while reaching out toward the days ahead and hold hands. There will be storms. Weather them, together. Bask in the brilliance after, together. If a storm or flood or fire or wind knocks everything down around you, pick up only the pieces that survived. Leave the rest behind, but not each other. If it burns, you don’t need it to keep you warm. You have each other. That’s all that matters. Smile when you see the other the way you did the first time your heart said, “That’s the one!” Thank God, every day and for everything. Those laugh lines are the same as tree rings, the time it takes is evidence of growth. Don’t keep them a secret. Share how you both arrived so that others will have hope to make the journey, too.  

And, if none of these secret-no-secrets result in a happy marriage after an honest effort has been made, let go…gently and with love. It’s no secret, but it takes wisdom to learn that marriage is about becoming the best version of yourself with and for the other person. Sadly, sometimes becoming the best version of one’s self leads to discovering you bring out the worst in one another. I’m not excusing divorce, but what marriage isn’t about is being miserable together. 

It’s no secret the secret to a happy marriage is like a sculpture of two people who learned to love the other not more than they love themselves, but not loving the other…less.

*Thank you for reading! My husband and I celebrated our 27th year of marriage, yesterday. This essay was posted on my Facebook page to celebrate our 25th year of marriage, revisited. I’m sharing it because there’s a sub-narrative building that concerns me of marriage not being necessary. It’s not about being necessary. It’s about choosing to make a commitment to another person based on a spectrum of beliefs, religious or romantic. However, I find the reason some are attempting to disparage this tradition worrisome and as a form of religious persecution as a way of backdoor dehumanization. It also takes faith and work to build a happy marriage. Trophy not included. While I hope and pray those who are too young or broken or both who don’t find value in the tradition of marriage one day mature or repair, let love and faith be. These are virtues that might not be appreciated, now, but likely will be later. It takes nothing away from one way or the other to respect the differences freedom affords.