Sunday, July 08, 2007

Secrets to a Happy Marriage

As I suggest in my self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships, there are no definitive secrets to a happy marriage per se – everyone and every couple have they’re own.

Nonetheless, a good friend, Jordana, recently sent to me a link to an excellent and very interesting Today.msnbc website article entitled, “7 secrets to a long — and happy marriage.” It tells about Matthew Boggs, whose parents divorced, and how he was jaded about marriage. Nonetheless, he noticed his grandmother and grandfather, who had been married for 63 years, were still madly in love. To find out what was the secret to a long and happy marriage, Boggs and his friend, Jason Miller, traveled 12,000 miles around the U.S. to talk to what they call the “Marriage Masters,” couples who have been married 40 years or more. In their new book, Project Everlasting, Boggs and Miller share advice from the happy couples. asked the two bachelors to tell them what they thought were the top seven secrets to a successful marriage. Here they are:
1. “Divorce? Never. Murder? Often!”
2. “There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, only perfect moments.”
3. Unpack the Gunnysack
4. Never Stop Dating
5. “Love is a four-letter word spelled G-I-V-E”
6. Join the CMAT Club
7. The Discipline of Respect
(I know these seven “titles” are ambiguous by themselves… they’re worth reading, however, and I encourage you to look at the site and read them for yourself.)

I like all seven but have a special fondness for #5. In my latest contemporary romance book, If Ever Again… It’ll be for Love, there’s an apropos line for which I have a special fondness: “Love is not a noun… it’s a verb.”

And before closing, I want to share with you one of my mother’s pearls of wisdom. It is from my pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


During the summer of 1995, I was spending most of my free time writing my book Adult Loving Relationships. But for ten days, I put away my files and folders and shut down my computer so I could spend some quality time with my mother during her semiannual visit from New Jersey.

During that time, many of our conversations understandably included the pivotal aspects of adult loving relationships. My mother would listen patiently and attentively as I shared some of the major constructs I was writing about in my book. On one particular evening, as we sat with our respective beer and wine listening to the water lapping against the sea wall, I said, “Mom, we both know I’ve been doing marriage and couples therapy for many years, I’ve researched the sub-topic areas, and I teach a graduate course in it. But considering that you and Dad were happily married for almost fifty years, what would you say a good marriage is?”

With a chuckle, she responded, “First of all, I would like to add ‘most of the time’ to what you said about me and your dad being happily married.” Then she went on:

A good marriage is when both the husband and the wife

wind up with someone better than they deserve.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Question: Do any of Boggs and Miller’s seven secrets to success, my “Love is not a noun… it’s a verb” quote, or my mom’s pearl of wisdom resonate with you in any special way?



Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

I like #2, #4, #5. and "love is a verb"

I have never been married, yet. I did not have healthy relationship role models so it is one of the areas I struggle the most with. I am very afraid to have a failed marriage, which is probably why I am still not married.

Have you read "If the buddha dated" or "If the buddha married"?


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello MHT… nice that you stopped by,
Thanks for your thoughts regarding 2,4 and 5 and your graciousness regarding the quote form my novel. I’m going to look for that book too – sounds interesting!
“Commitment phobia” can be daunting and troublesome… especially when our heart may be pounding because of a special someone. Not having had good relationship roles models makes it tough though… maybe, however, you can find positive roles models elsewhere… e.g., books, movies, friends, etc., and replace the “old movies in your head” with newer/better ones.
Hang in there… you’ll find your way,

Julia Phillips Smith said...

I like the 'never stop dating' advice. My husband and I call anything we do together outside of the apartment a date. Makes life more fun. Even grocery shopping!

As for your mom's advice, that's a hard one to turn into a practical thing. It's more like something you realize when you've got it. Like stage presence - either you have it, or you don't. After 15 years of being married and 3 years together before that, I still look at my husband, get all thrilly and think "How did I end up with this total hottie as my husband?"

Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

Hi again,

I think my biggest issues stem not so much from commitment phobia however from my fear of a bad/unhealthy marriage. When problems arise I tend to want to leave. I get anxious and angry when there is any hint of conflict, as I do NOT want to end up married to anyone resembling my father... this is the issue in my current relationship. I can't seem to be able to differentiate between what is healthy and what is not healthy....
at least this time when I left I did not end it, just moved out to get some space and clarity so we can see if we can fix it and to me that is a big step!!

thanks so much for your advice. I will definitely try to find better role models.

I hope I find my way :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Julia,

Thanks for again stopping by and sharing,

Yes, some things are ex post facto… yet your statement about your husband in many ways epitomizes my Mom’s quote. You’re fortunate and you appreciate it! (And I chose to believe your husband may have some of te same feelings about you.)

I’m happy for and with you.. enjoy the ride,


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi again MHT,

Thanks for your kind words. Importantly, you got what you probably needed… some space. The nice thing about not burning a bridge behind you is that you can still go back. Good for you.

There are some good role models out there… just keep an open eye. Also, I am delighted to hear that you are differentiating what you are seeing and feeling from your husband from left over baggage from your father. This is so important… learned emotional, behavioral and cognitive responses (associated with someone else) indeed can get us in trouble and certainly are not fair to the present person.

Be patient with yourself… it sounds like you’re making progress and are feeling good about where you’re at and where you’re heading,


Cole Reising said...

Hi Bill! This whole concept is how I look at life and was just explaining it to my oldest son about three weeks ago. Life isn't easy. Or marriage or having kids or... well the list goes on. To me there are 'moments'. That is what you live for--to experience those moments. To hold them dear, treasure them and let them lift you up during the rough times. And for me personally, this definitely applies to marriage(which is what we were speaking about in particular). I figure if one can be realistic about their expectations of life, they can more fully appreciate the gifts it has to offer. Thats me anyhow. :)

Great post!

Nienke Hinton said...

I agree that 'giving' is an important part of a healthy relationship. However, even more important (IMHO) is to 'give' to and respect one's self, and keep that relationship healthy. Then, there'll be more to offer other relationships.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Cole,
Oh I hear you… it indeed are those special “moments” that are etched in our heads and hearts that keep us grounded yet with a smile on our faces. Anything but the reality of life, as you suggest, is either living on the river in Egypt or on some wonderful medication.
In my last novel, my heroine is talking about what it was like as a child to take care of her alcoholic mother. “Why did you keep doing it?” her friend asked. “Because,” Diane replied, “Every once a a while she would look up at me and slur, ‘I love you’.” One of those “moments.”
Thanks for the visit and Comment!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Nienke,
Yes, “giving” is wonderful in what I refer to as an “interdependent relationship.” And let’s remember, as you wisely point out, “If you can’t take care of yourself, how could you ever take care of anyone else?”
Excellent comment… thanks!

DH said...

Definitely your mom hit the nail on the head! I often wonder what I did to deserve such a good man in my life. He tells me all the time that I am better than he deserves..
Our feelings for each are mutual. So, when he is a little tired, grumpy, whiny, etc. all I can think is how much I love him. His great heart shines right through his grumpy, tired moments. And that's all I see... DH

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello DH... good to see you again,
Thanks for your gracious compliment regarding my Mom's wisdom. And it indeed seems that you and your husband epitomize my Mom's insight.
I have a suspicion that when you're a little tired, grumpy and whiny he responds the same way to you.
With all best wishes for continued loving (yes, that four letter word is a noun),