Harold and Louise have been married for half a century, but they still act like a couple of teenagers in love. When I first met them at a marriage conference where my wife Ashley and I were speaking, I asked Louise, “What’s your secret? Whatever you two are doing is working and we all want to know how we can have the same thing fifty years into a relationship.”
She smiled as she winked at Harold and then she looked at me and said, “Well, there’s isn’t just one secret, but I’ll tell you a big part of it…”
She went on to tell me a story of how they started, “On the one month anniversary of our first date, Harold brought me a rose and told me that he had loved every minute of our first month together. I thought it was a sweet gesture, but I never expected it to become a habit, so it took me by surprise when he brought me another rose on the second month anniversary of our first date. The roses continued each month as we were dating, but I thought the roses would stop after we married and he might not feel the need to keep pursuing me. Luckily, I was wrong!”
She smiled and squeezed his hand and I noticed there were some tears forming in her eyes when she said, “It has been 648 months since our first date, and Harold has never once forgotten to bring a rose.”
Wow! I honestly felt like a jerk when she told me that, because I admittedly haven’t done anything that consistently thoughtful for Ashley in our fifteen years of marriage. Harold and Louise inspired me and also challenged me to create some new habits. It’s our habits, after all, that create our relationships. Big, one-time romantic gestures can be nice, but it’s what we do with consistency that really makes a lasting impact in a marriage.
As I’ve interacted with couples from all over the world, I’ve noticed some common trends among the happiest, healthiest couples and I believe we can all learn from their examples. They consistently implement the following habits and we can grow in our own marriages if we’ll do the same.
Happy (and healthy) couples consistently…
1. Make uninterrupted time together a priority.
Maybe you’re like me and you’re in a season of life with you kids and bills to pay and a ton of stuff on your schedule. In those busy seasons, it’s tempting to put the marriage on autopilot until things calm down, but it’s during these busy seasons that you and your spouse need uninterrupted time together more than ever. Each day, find time to unplug your devices and turn off your phones and just talk. It will do wonders for your marriage.
2. Touch each other every chance they get.
This isn’t just about sex (although sex is another consistent habit of happy couples). Physical touch includes cuddling, kissing, hugging, foot rubs, shoulder rubs, holding hands and putting your arm around each other. The simple act of touch binds a husband’s and wife’s hearts together like nothing else. If you are one of the many in a “touch-starved” marriage, make it a priority to bring more affection and physical touch to the marriage.
3. Share a passion or mission beyond the children.
If you have kids, then your children are an obvious place of shared passion and focus, but for many couples, that’s where it ends. When the kids grow up and move out, you have an empty nest AND an empty marriage because all of the attention was focused on the children. Happy couples find places of shared passion. Their hobbies and interests aren’t just “his” and “hers” but they are intentional about having some that are “ours.” For Ashley and me, serving together in our church and now in marriage ministry has helped others, but it’s also done wonders to help us grow together as a couple. If you don’t have some shared passions, make it your mission to find or create one.
4. Disagree but never fight.
This one sounds impossible, but it’s not only possible; it’s vital to the health of your marriage. Every couple has moments of disagreement, but the healthiest couples have discovered that there’s not reason to “fight” because a fight has a winner and a loser. You and your spouse are unified, so you’ll always share the same fate. You’ll either win tougher or lose together, so look at every disagreement as an opportunity to work together with mutual respect to find a solution where you BOTH win.
5. Flirt with each other but never with anyone else!
Happy couples never stop flirting with each other and never start flirting with anyone else. Like Harold and Louise, they find ways to keep the spark alive through all the seasons of life together and they protect that spark by making sure it’s always exclusive. Don’t open the door to infidelity by guarding their hearts, minds, eyes and bodies. They don’t look for outside fantasy that doesn’t exclusively involve their spouse. They only have eyes for each other.
6. Tell each other the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
Honesty paves the way to intimacy. In marriage transparency is vital and secrecy is toxic. The happiest couples don’t hide anything from each other. There are no hidden passwords, hidden financial purchases, hidden text messages or hidden motives. Strong couples are willing to make a “secret-free guarantee” with each other.
7. They don’t take themselves too seriously or their commitment too lightly.
Happy couples know how to be silly. Laugher fills the soundtrack of their life together. There’s lot’s of fun and lightheartedness even in the challenging seasons of life, but though they don’t take themselves too seriously, they never take their commitment to each lightly. They have a rock-solid commitment to each other and they’ve removed all exit strategies and the word “divorce” from their vocabularies. The security that comes from that kind of commitment gives them the freedom to enjoy marriage the way marriage should be enjoyed for a lifetime.
For more tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage download our “MarriageApp” on iTunes by clicking here and check out my new book “The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships.”
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