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The Secret to a Happy Marriage

As a person who is always looking for ways to improve...my marriage, parenting, friendships, and self, I'm a keen observer of relationships. What makes happy marriages work? Why does this group of friends get along while this group is fraught with drama? How does that mother cultivate a respectful relationship with her teen daughter? The last one was especially relevant yesterday after I lost my shit at Target. How does buying black pants and a white shirt for a band concert turn into such a clusterfuck?

Anyway, when you watch enough relationships, you begin to pick up clues, patterns, and ideas. You see what works and what doesn't for different people.

Our marriage goal is happiness over longevity. Who cares if you've been married 50 years if you're miserable? My husband is my best friend, my person, my ride-or-die. I would choose to spend time with him over anyone else in the world. That didn't just happen. We have worked and cultivated and continue to pour into each other and our marriage on the reg. We've seen so many relationships perish because people got complacent or lazy or simply didn't speak or understand each other's love languages.

People usually show love the way they receive it. Look at how someone loves you, and you can figure out their love language. If someone sends you cards for every occasion, words of affirmation might be how they receive (and give love). Always show up with the most thoughtful present? They might receive love through gifts. You get the idea. However, if how one person shows love is not how the other receives it, then genuinely good intentions can be misinterpreted as thoughtless.

A man works 70 hours a week. He buys his wife a sports car and the latest designer purses. He wants to shower his beloved with gifts to show her how much he loves her. Her love language is quality time, so all the gifts in the world won't make her feel loved. She wants him to be home more. To sit on the couch and watch a movie. Just to be with her.

When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I cleaned, did laundry, made dinner, and was often frazzled when my husband got home from work--my love language is acts of service, obviously. One day, when I fell short of my own lofty expectations, I burst into tears and told him I sucked at this whole homemaking gig. He hugged me and said, "Baby, I don't care if the house is a mess or what we eat; all I want when I get home is a smile and a kiss." His language is physical touch.

Other times, looking past the action to the intent can turn the simplest gesture into something grand. Yesterday, my husband built a wheelchair ramp, and my heart exploded.

Several years ago, we read a relationship book called Trading Places. I have recommended this book over and over and over because it's a game-changer for real. What does it say? Walk in your partner's shoes. Empathize.

A few months ago, I observed this sweet interaction: A wife described a stressful situation that was unfolding involving some other people. The husband listened patiently and then said, "And how are you?" She responded, "I'm okay; how are you?" He said, "If you're okay, I'm okay."

I know one secret to a happy marriage. It's simple. Ready?

You don't need to understand why something is important to your partner. You just need to acknowledge that it is. It's important to your partner. Your partner is important to you. That's all you need to know.

What are your secrets to a happy marriage?

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