A Happy Marriage

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This week is our 45th wedding anniversary. We have spent our lives together.

We were married young. I was eighteen, and Julie was nineteen. People are usually amazed when they hear of the forty-plus years combined with being married at such a young age. I’ll throw a couple more things in there that cause people to walk away befuddled. The length of our engagement was only eighteen days. She accepted my proposal on August 12, and we were married on August 30. Lastly, we were both virgins when we wed.

What are the secrets of married bliss? There are no secrets. What makes a happy marriage is there for all to see. The problem is people do not look for the ingredients for a good marriage until it is too late. People need to check to see if all the things that make a good marriage are in place. For many couples, marriage is like making a chocolate cake without having all the ingredients. You pour the needed flour into the mixing bowl, then discover no eggs in the fridge or sugar or chocolate in the cupboard. You could throw some water in with your flour, pour the mixture into a pan, and toss it into the oven. After an hour of 350-degree heat, whatever comes out of the oven will not make anyone happy.

In no particular order, here are the ingredients of a happy marriage.


Some may think love goes without saying, but I have discovered that most people do not know what love is. People associate love with a feeling, but love is a decision.

God commands us to love. Therefore, we can obey or disobey. We must choose if we are to love God, our enemy, our spouse, or anyone.

If we can choose to love or not, then what is love? God defines love in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave…” Love is when you give yourself to someone or something. I say, “I love spaghetti,” but in reality, I do not. Spaghetti is one of my favorite foods, but I do not devote my time, resources, and set my desires aside for spaghetti.

A husband must give himself to his wife. A wife must give herself to her husband. We devote our time, and resources, and set our desires aside for the benefit of our spouse. This type of love works in every room of the house and all areas of life.

Example – the kitchen. I enjoy Mexican food. Julie does not care for it at all. I never suggest having tacos for dinner or going to a Mexican restaurant because she dislikes the food. I set aside my desires for her happiness.

On the other hand, occasionally, Julie makes tacos for supper. She has set aside her happiness for mine – we both sacrifice for the other. The example was in the kitchen, but the bedroom will never grow old when you apply the philosophy of making the other person’s satisfaction paramount.

Moving on from love to decision-making and communication.

I will not get into all the details, but our relationship began on an eight-hour bus ride. At the time, we were not much more than acquaintances, and circumstances (God’s plan) worked things out for us to sit next to each other on the bus. We talked the entire trip. The topics grew more profound as time passed, from the weather to what we expected to do when we arrived at our destination to our dreams for life.

When I returned home, I sat down to read my Bible. I took a sheet of paper and wrote the words “Dear Julie,” Then I wrote my thoughts on what I was reading. I did this every day until the next time we met (we only saw each other at church). I handed her the letter. I continued writing every day. I was so thrilled when she had a letter for me the next time we met. We continued the notes until we were married. In those letters, we talked about everything.

If you think all we were doing was taking Bible notes, so all we talked about was religion or church, you need to start reading the Bible. The Bible covers every aspect of life. We wrote about disciplining children, finances, how to handle difficult people, and hundreds of other topics. We did not realize it then, but we were building a foundation for the rest of our lives together.

These written discussions, made before either of us was thinking of marrying the other, have kept the arguments over the last forty-five years to a minimum because we made the decisions before we were married. We had shared goals with the same opinions on how to live our lives to attain those goals.

If the future is discussed, with many couples, the daily routine of getting there is rarely discussed. What do you do when a ten-year-old tells you they will not clean their room? Under what circumstances do you borrow money? Who has what responsibilities in the relationship? Do you send the children to public school or private school, or do you home-school? Are you happy with jobs, or will one or both of you pursue a career? How do you handle the pressures from extended family? What about habits and activities that are detested by the other? These are only a handful of the millions of questions plaguing a marriage. It is impossible to think of every scenario, but the more you can agree on before marriage, the less rocky the road of life becomes.

Humility is also essential for both of you.

All I will say about this is that there have been times over the years when one of us said to the other, “That is not what we agreed to in the letters.” That was all that we needed to put us back into our place.

Last but not least, we had a foundation.

We did our best to align our views with God’s opinion. I understand that some people reading this are not religious, and seeing what the Bible says about a subject is not something they wish to do. Still, a marriage must have something as its foundation. We believe in God, and that faith causes us to listen to Him. If you wish to lay something else as your foundation, that is up to you. All I will say is this: a foundation of Rock will withstand the storms, but that built on sand will eventually crumble.

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