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Unexpected Secrets for a Happy Marriage

Unexpected Secrets for a Happy Marriage

Tom and I celebrated our 45th anniversary in 2021. For a long time, we hardly celebrated our anniversaries, which isn’t very smart. Because if we don’t celebrate our successes and acknowledge them, we diminish them. That’s one of the secrets for a happy marriage: celebrate!

Being together for such a long time and still being curious about each other and loving and respecting each other can be marked as quite an accomplishment.

This year was special because we had to deal with a Fase 1 Flexibilizada lockdown and its restrictions. We used to eat out on our wedding anniversary day, but during the lockdown, the restaurants were partly closed. They were only allowed to open the terrace, not the inside, and we don’t want to be on the terrace with smokers all around us.

We did go out though – we went to the bakery for bread and en passant we took tea with cake in a corner.

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Is marriage a fairy tale?

A fairy tale

We’ve all heard or read fairytales when we were young, haven’t we? And they always ended with “and they lived happily ever after.” That gave most of us the romantic, but wrong idea that once we declared our love to our loved one, everything would be a breeze.

Around 40% of western marriages end in divorce. In some countries, it’s even almost 50%. Think of all the agony people go through. Especially when there are children involved or a lot of money (or both), the fights can be awful.

Because of the situation and because 45 years is a crown year, Tom and I spent more time than usual last Saturday on reflection and reminiscing.

A fairy tale that requires effort

Have you ever seen the Walt Disney movie Snow White? Snow White was saved by the prince, but her story mainly takes place in the house of the 7 dwarfs. Disney gave the dwarfs outspoken characters which were both entertaining and educating. 

Personally, I have no idea why the women in fairy tales are always inept to take care of themselves and have to be rescued by some man on a white horse! I liked the interaction between Snow White and the dwarfs more. 🙂

Shared power

In Snow White the dwarf Doc is very wise and likes to think carefully about problems. He tries to be the leader but he’s not always very good at it because he gets very nervous. 

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My dad was old-fashioned in many things, except for one: make sure you can keep up your own pants. And that was also valid for the girls.

I’ve always been surprised about women who played the dependent card and felt that their partner should take care of everything.

It seems that marriages with both partners, influencing each other, thrive better than marriages where one is boss and the other is dependent.

Which doesn’t mean you should both be bossy. Be equal to each other and have an eye for the strong sides of each character.

Related: Do Women love Money? Or do we have a Love-Hate Relationship with Money?

Respect each other 

No matter what anyone says, Grumpy is always complaining. He never agrees with anyone! But, if any of his friends are in trouble, he’s always first to the rescue. 

Out together

Do you know these couples who always bicker against each other?

Pointing out something to each other now and then in a loving way doesn’t hurt. If the tone is one of irritation, it is not pleasant for the other person or for the environment to hear.

Often people act less nice to their partner than they would treat a friend or even a stranger. Isn’t that the other way around?

Even when something annoys you, there are several ways of pointing that out. Choose wisely how you do that.

Be open 

Bashful is very, very shy! He‘s always blushing and twisting his beard into knots. He loves listening to stories and is always fluttering his eyelashes at Snow White. 

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Sometimes it is good to be indulgent and sometimes you have to stand for what you think. Suppose one is always compliant in a disagreement because the other cannot deal with conflicts, then you deny each other the opportunity to grow.

Accept your differences 

Sleepy is always tired and appears laconic in most situations. He likes to sleep as much as he can when he’s not at work in the mine. He yawns so much because he just can’t stop himself.

For as long as I can remember Tom takes a nap in the afternoon for 10 to 15 minutes. I can’t imagine how he does that. If I would do the same, I would feel drowsy for the rest of the day. What a waste of my time. But for Tom it’s a necessity, so why would I object?

Care for each other 

Care for each other

Sneezy‘s name is earned by his extraordinarily powerful sneezes (caused by hay fever), which are seen blowing even the heaviest of objects across a room. Sneezy doesn’t sneeze all the time, just at the wrong time like when he doesn’t want anyone to know where he is! 

How reliable are you to each other? Do you take care of each other when the other is having a hard time or something happens to you?

I am married to the sweetest man in the world. My back is my weak spot and whenever it causes me pain, Tom takes care of everything. LOL, sometimes I even think he is exaggerating and I want to do things myself, but we know by now how to interpret each other’s behaviour.

Humor is important 

Happy is always cheerful and happy about everything. He thinks everything is funny and just can’t help making jokes.

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Can you laugh at and with each other? Smiling and being cheerful is important for your health anyway, but certainly for your relationship. Being an idiot every now and then is wonderful.

It is certainly something that I have had to learn. When we were young I sometimes got angry when Tom tried to be funny.

His sense of humour is peculiar and nowadays I like the way he can play with language and see the humour in things that other people don’t find funny at all.

Being happy is a work in progress 

Dopey isn’t really dopey. He just likes having fun and playing tricks. He never minds if he looks silly while he‘s playing his games! Dopey always tries to steal kisses from Snow White before he goes to work. 

Secrets for a Happy Marriage: Humor

When you are young you think you can change each other. I remember when my son started dating a woman who smokes, he thought she would quit smoking for his sake. Of course, that did not happen.

Ultimately, you do influence each other, but coercion will never work. Nor when we take each other for granted.

If you don’t stay consciously aware of each other and try to discover new things in one another, your relationship will become a drag.

Do you have to be married to be happy?

Although 91% of married couples say that they are happy with their life, we shouldn’t put all our cards on another person. Happiness is first of all our own responsibility. If you do everything together as if you were Siamese twins you’re not in a relationship that stimulates growth.

Do I now own all the wisdom because Tom and I made it to our sapphire wedding? Of course not. We will continue to learn and hopefully, we will continue to surprise and amaze each other.

Do you have any additional advice for a happy marriage? Tell us in the comment box.

14 thoughts on “Unexpected Secrets for a Happy Marriage”

  1. Hey Hannie,

    I love this article. I am not a married man but I have a brother and a few friends who are all married, and they could definitely benefit from your article here. At this moment in time when we are going back into lockdown in the UK, and previously being in lockdown, there are so many couples who are married or not having spending a lot more time together. For some marriages this has been good and for others it hasn’t at all. Fortunately I don’t know of any of the married people close to me who have gone through a bad time, but I have heard of many on the TV etc.

    Married people are learning a lot more about each other during these lockdowns and I believe they could do with your articles and your advice.

    I have shared your article with my brother and friends and hopefully they will find value in it.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,


    • Thanks for the sharing, Tom!

      Yes, my son also noted – after hearing his neighbors argue viciously again – that the pandemic is bringing out the best and the worst in people. It’s horrible, isn’t it? Spain had a bad name on domestic violence to begin with and it’s only getting worse now. So sad.

      (My) Tom and I are used to be around each other, having been self employed a great deal of our lifes. We have our own rooms which helps probably. 🙂 I can’t imagine staying with anyone that wouldn’t treat me right, nor the other way around.

  2. How sweet Hannie! It actually felt like a fairy tale reading your post of a happy marriage for 45 years! How wonderful of Tom taking care of you and making you laugh. I think if we genuinely care, respect and be mindful of each other’s individuality, we can make it work.

    Me and my partner are only 7 years old (in marriage), and I must say we are still madly in love, just like the day one! However it has bit of a roller coaster learning to adjust and accept each other’s views, as we both come from 2 different back grounds. I would say that we are getting better and better. My partner plays a big part in this by making me laugh with amazing/clever humor, and Mr Bean acts off course! lol. So hopefully, we will get to your stage of marriage one day (finger crossed!)

    Wishing you a continuous fulfilled life and happy marriage.

    Best wishes to you and Tom . 🙂

    • Great to hear it’s 7 years and you’re still so in love with each other. It’s not the number of years that count, but the quality!

      LOL, yes, Habib, even if it’s a long time ago, I still remember our getting used to each other in the beginning. When we’re young we are more inclined to want to change each other. And when we get older, we do get milder. Or we just give up on wanting to change each other, ROFLOL. No, just kidding. It’s not giving up, it’s the realization that if we accept each other the way we are, we also value each other more.

  3. Dearest Doc,

    That was just beautiful to read and I feel as though I have raced through yours and Tom’s 45 years together, and shared every single tender and wonderful moment.

    I wish you both a lifetime of happiness and very happy (belated) 45th wedding anniversary (I was 3 when you two lovebirds first tied the knot).

    The figures you share about divorce are all too common nowadays, and it seems that many couples just aren’t willing to follow most of the valuable life lessons you have shared here.

    In fact, a lot of couples fail to show the give-and-take attitude that both you and Tom (Sleepy) clearly have for one another. And that’s what makes you guys successful as life partners.

    This was an amazing story to read, I loved your analogies, and you’ve truly touched my heart.

    Lots of Love

    Dopey Xx

    • LOL, then you weren’t even born when Sleepy and I first met, Dopey! Thanks for your sweet wishes.
      You gave me the inspiration for this post in the first place, as you know, and it amazed me how easily I could come up with tips. Especially with the analogy with the fairy tales.

      Obviously we had to learn the give-and-take attitude. It hasn’t always been the way it is now. In fact we also had a couple of crises that meant nearly the end of our marriage. A friend of ours used to say “I wish everyone to have their own crisis” and he was right. That way you get to know each other better and you also learn to appreciate what you might risk if you throw in the towel.

      Thanks for your friendship! xxx

  4. First of all, congratulations of 45 years of a successful marriage! That’s a huge milestone in a relationship and it deserves a big celebration. I’ve learned a lot from your experience and the biggest take away is the line from the beginning. We have to celebrate more to strengthen up the bonds with our partners in life, marriage anniversaries especially! Marriage is not an easy thing, but I hope that I will get to celebrate the 45th anniversary one day 🙂 Thanks for sharing this post and keep up the good marriage!

    • Thanks Ivan. Yes, it is definitely something I need to remind myself of as well: celebrate. There is enough to celebrate for, not just a marriage. 🙂

      Maybe marriage is not an easy thing, but in a sense it makes things easier as well. Someone who understands you almost without words. Always a buddy to talk to and to rely on. I don’t know how I would survive the lockdowns and the agony about COVID without Tom. But you’re right, at times it also has another side. Always have to take each other into account. Not just have it your own way.

      As long as the pluses are worth more than the minuses, we’ll be fine. <3

  5. I loved how you used the seven dwarfs to illustrate your tips for a happy and successful marriage!
    I am not married, but I come from divorced parents, and I was 12 when it happened. It is indeed not nice for children to witness the quarrels and the pain. I think it influenced me into thinking that we have to choose our partner well. Many people get married, still believing in the “happily ever after” myth. At least my family finally stopped asking me when I am going to get married. What a relief! Lol.
    Happiness is something we are responsible for ourselves, and we cannot burden our partners with it. We cannot make other people our cause for our own happiness, that is putting too much pressure on them … Happiness comes from within, I couldn’t agree more.
    Congratulations on your sapphire anniversary!!

    • Thanks, Christine. 12 Isn’t a good age to witness parents fight. What a pity, because it seems to have shaped your life. And I also think that your family isn’t very considerate if they kept asking when you would get married. They should better have worked on giving a good example.

      I am so glad you came out right and have a healthy opinion about relationships and happiness.

  6. Your story seems unique, but it reminds me of my future wife and me. I’m so happy for you and your husband, and I wish you nothing but happiness.

    You’re right, marriage is not only a fairytale, but it’s a fairytale that requires effort. We must learn to respect, cherish, and care for our partners, and our immeasurable love will come right back at us.

    Thanks for creating this amazing post, and know that I’m looking forward to your next one.

    • That’s so sweet to say, Gorjan, thanks. I don’t see us as unique, even though most of our friends are divorced at least one time by now. One of our friends just left his 5th wife and it always amazed me how each new wife thought she was the one for whom he would change his behavior.

      We often see that when people marry a second or a third time, the new wifes are copies of the former ones. And for women the same rule applies. The new men are copies of the former one. That’s why we can better put our energy in one relationship to begin with. 🙂

      I love it how you already see your future wife in front of your eyes! Good thinking. 🙂

  7. Hi, Hannie,

    First of all, congratulations on your anniversary! 45 years is easier said than done. That’s half a life together!

    It’s a pity that many marriages end in divorce. If I ever get married, I’d like to be together till death do us part.

    I loved your analogy between marriage and Snow White. I couldn’t agree more. Relationships are about building together but that doesn’t mean doing everything together or being together the whole time. Each person needs some independence and privacy, but that doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t love his/her significant other.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and anecdotes. To many more years together!

    • Thank you so much for your wish, Enrique. We too hope for many more years together. 🙂
      You’re right about wanting a relationship for ever, but there can be circumstances that it’s just not possible. If the relationship is good you will develop personal growth in the same direction. But people change. Within 7 years all our cells have been replaced. And sometimes the change will go into 2 separate directions.


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