First a disclaimer: I’m not sure there are ANY five steps that guarantee happiness in any area of life, let alone something as long-term and complicated as marriage. But I DO know that there are some things that can make or break the union of two people.

Four years ago today (as I write this) I married Al Tanksley, and I’m more in love now than on the day I said, “I do!” I know four years doesn’t seem like a long time to those who have been married fifty years or more, but I certainly treasure every moment. Yes, we have had challenges, but we have met them together. And I look forward to many more good years together.

Here are some steps to a happy marriage in our experience, and I hope will do the same in yours:

  1. Communicate about everything. That means listening as much as talking, and doing so even when you don’t feel like it. It means being vulnerable when you’d rather hide. Listening to both each other’s words and feelings is important. It keeps the ground between you clean from any wall that can separate you.
  2. Study your spouse. Know what makes them happy or sad, anxious or excited, discouraged or hopeful. Intentionally pay attention to everything about your spouse to learn what truly makes them tick, and then support them.
  3. Care more for the other than for yourself. When both partners practice this there’s just about no problem you can’t handle. Each of you gives 100%. There’s no keeping score. The result is two happy people.
  4. Be good forgivers. Each of us has a past, whether short or long. And each of us makes real mistakes going forward. Generously asking for and offering forgiveness keeps the connection between you intact and growing stronger.
  5. Place God in the center. Value each other’s spiritual growth and relationship with God. Ask God to be in the center of your home, and talk with Him regularly. His glue is stronger than any other!

Marriage is the melding of two different and flawed human beings to be as one. Thank God we have His help.

Happy Anniversary, Honey. I love you!

Your turn: What do you believe goes into a successful marriage? I’d love to hear from you!

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