My Secrets To Building A 30 Year-long Happy Marriage

My Secrets to Building a 30 Year Long Happy Marriage.

Okay, I started dating my (now) wife in 1991.  January.  In Edmonton.  30 years ago.

I remember the squeak of our boots on the snow walking to Rundle Park for outdoor skating.  And seeing the beauty of the ice-cold river valley as I went to visit her at her downtown apartment.  And all the memories associated with snow and prairie and the 90’s music of the time.

I remember the 800 volts of electricity that went through my arm the first time we held hands after umpteen dates (I’m not a huge playa 😊).  And the long talks on the (corded) phone until late at night.

Quick aside:  One time I rode my motorbike to her place in the fall.  We watched a movie, and when I went to go home, I discovered it had snowed.

So, I rode my sport bike home (30 minutes, much of it highway) in the snow, which is both interesting and educational if you’re a student of defensive motorcycling skills.  I made it btw!

We married after dating for 2 ish years.  And because we never lived together prior to dating, actually setting up house together was something of a shock.  Because we have different DISC scores.  She is a microbe hunter, and I have an unusually high tolerance for bacteria of all kinds.  Live and let live I say.  She doesn’t roll that way!

BTW, if you don’t know each other’s DISC personality scores, do yourselves a favour and find them out here for free:

https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/disc-personalities-assessment/

If you already know your DISC results, I’ve designed a new one page cheat sheet that sums up the entire DISC Personalities system on a single page.  Download it for free here:

https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/templates/disc-cheat-sheet/

We’ve had incredible joy and sorrow and hard times too.  But we’re happy together, and that’s what I hope for you too.  A happy relationship that endures over time.  So here are a few random pieces of advice.

Cluck twice with your tongue if the other person is snoring

Discuss it beforehand.  Then when snoring happens, give two loud clucks and your partner will turn over without really waking up, and without you having to say something or nudge them.  It works.  You read it here first.

Never go to bed with unresolved anger

It’s fine to be mad at each other.  But when anger stretches from one day into the next, it’s a problem.  Because that anger can extend to a third day and beyond.  And when you get to the stage where you’re saying, ‘forget it, just move on,’ you’re in an unhealthy place.  My advice is to stay up, however late and work it out.  Get past it!  A happy marriage is more important than a good night’s sleep.

Develop hand signals to communicate in public

We have hand signals that we use in public places.  That way we don’t have to discuss how to handle things in front of other people. These signals include messages like:

  • I love you
  • Time to leave, I’m ready to go anytime now
  • Marriage related messages I’m not prepared to reveal in print. Make up your own!  No G rating required!  You’re married!

We both live public lives and have a protocol for how to handle introductions to people whose names we can’t remember (Say, “This is my wife, Jenn” and stop.  She then knows to say, “And you are?”  BAM!  Suck it Dale Carnegie!)

Establish your happy marriage conflict rules

We’re both natural born pugilists, so neither of us has ever really shied away from a fight in our lives.  But there are things that are okay to do in a fight/conflict, and things that are definitely not okay.  Here are some of our rules:

NEVER DO:

  • Nothing physical (obviously). No shoving, pushing, or God forbid, hitting.  Not on the menu, ever once in 30 years.
  • No name calling or belittling. Doesn’t help.  It’s silly and simply entrenches each person in their initial positions.  And it’s just stupid and dumb and wrong besides.
  • No yelling or throwing things.  Why break our own stuff?  What world does this make sense in?  Heated emotions are ok.
  • Can’t go to bed mad

ALWAYS DO:

  • Take a cooling off period. This might be an hour or more.  Get to a place where you can discuss things without emotions taking over.  Understand that it’s okay to say, ‘I’m not ready to talk about this yet.  Give me an hour or two.”
  • No sacred cows. Anything can be discussed.  If there are issues in your marriage that can’t be talked about, I think of it as a part of your body that’s not working.  If you can’t discuss money, you have a withered hand.  Why not have a whole, healthy body?  Why not have a happy marriage?
  • Make every effort to fully understand things from your spouse’s point of view.

Look to where your partner is strong

It’s easy to find each other’s weaknesses.  They’re obvious, and the longer you live together, the more apparent they become.  So, you have a choice:  will you focus on those weaknesses, and become impatient and upset, or will you choose to focus on their amazing strengths and encourage them to become the best person they can possibly be?

The more you focus on how you can be a great spouse, the happier your marriage will be.

 Put your moods on the shelf

Don’t feel in the mood to talk after a long day at work?  Who cares if you’re in the mood.  Talk.  Do what’s going to make your marriage better because it matters to your spouse.

Don’t feel in the mood for sex?  Do it anyway.  It will enhance your marriage, and everyone will be happier.

Don’t feel in the mood to do yard work on Saturday?  Go out to dinner on a Friday night?  Do you want a happy marriage, or do you want to zone out in front of Netflix?  You get the idea.  Do what you need to do to get in the mood!  Act your way into the feeling.

Make the decision that your marriage IS GOING TO WORK

We’ve never ever discussed divorce, although both of us have fantasized about murder a few times over.  We just decided from the start that we were going to make it and have a happy marriage.

The battle is won before the battle has begun.  If your view of marriage is that you’ll see how the other person does meeting your needs and then re-evaluate based on performance, you may not do well.

But if you decide beforehand that it’s going to work and you’re going to deal with the inevitable storms that come your way, and you’re going to get good at forgiving and asking forgiveness, and you’re just going to see it through, you’ll make it.

That’s assuming of course that you picked a good partner from the beginning.

I could go on for a long time.

But I’d love to hear your relationship advice on how to have a happy marriage in the comments below,

Your personal life and your professional life are the same life!  Make both work!

Jenn, my amazing partner through life of 3o years!

Complete your free DISC profile, download your results, and discuss your similarities and differences over dinner out.  Find it here:

https://www.professionalleadershipinstitute.com/disc-personalities-assessment/

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20 thoughts on “My Secrets To Building A 30 Year-long Happy Marriage”

  1. I tell all my engaged friends that they should learn to fight well, hopefully before they’re married. Learn to not agree but move forward in the best way possible and not hold resentment just because you didn’t get your exact way.

  2. Good advice. We don’t use hand signals we text, if shes sees me putting my phone in my pocket and her’s buzz’s she gives it a few minutes so as not to be obvious.

  3. One of your best posts yet, my friend! We’re 13 months going on 30 years and I appreciate this window into your joy-filled, God-glorifying marriage!

    The most significant impact that has changed our lives is setting a weekly communication/connection cadence of 45 minutes every Sunday evening to do what we call our “SundayStart”, we go over Brights/Dims of the week, Calendar plans for the upcoming week, meal plans, Financial Update from the family CFO :), and most importantly, “What’s 1 thing I can help you with this week” and “How can I pray for you?”. It’s amazing!

    TT, what about the “reading to your spouse” tip, is that a hidden secret that will be revealed later? My wife loves reading out loud so prioritizing time for this has been awesome!

    1. Thanks for your comment Jerry! And I totally forgot the reading tip! I read to Jenn every night for about 10 or 15 minutes. We read faith-based books, history, biographies, fiction, or whatever. Right now we’re about half way through “Brave New World.” And we pray a Psalm together (almost) daily too, forgot that as well!

      What great ideas Jerry, love your Sunday Start! Intentionality like that sets you up for having a happy and enduring and impactful marriage. Once you’ve been married for a while, you look around, a bit amazed at what has happened through your union, from kids and assets and impact on yourself and others around you. It’s pretty cool.

  4. Trevor what wise words for all of us. It can be easy to harbour anger and allow it to grow. And sometimes I’m not the one who’s mad – learning to discern the cues and act on solving it with Heather is a top priority for me. Never go to bed mad! What great advice…
    And by the way, I just might try a ride in the snow this winter on my motorcycle, just to see if you actually could do that! What could go wrong!?

    1. Brother! Thanks for your comment. I remember sharing a room with you growing up and saying, “Forgive me?” “Yup.” “Forgive me?” “Yup.” Mom taught us an important life skill at a young age. Every night too! It was a scary ride, but not as scary as going back to my new girlfriend’s apartment and telling her I couldn’t make it home!

  5. Great advice!
    Going on four years this week and it’s so beautiful to see people still committed and working on relationships 30 years in.

    I have no wisdom to give yet, but I think knowing that your partner can’t fix everything for you, and that you have to be responsible for the happiness in your own life is key! Partners should support and encourage. ❤️

  6. Beverley Epp Rosin

    I am divorced after 25 years of marriage and read this post and the comments with a tinge of sadness. What I see here is a real intentionality to have good marriages! Don’t let things erode to the point of no return. If you’re hurt, say so! If your partner says you’ve hurt them, sincerely find out what you can do to make things better! Don’t be too proud to get outside help. Be thankful for each other and be a safe place in this world for your spouse. Great post, Trevor!

  7. Great post Trevor! Lots of valuable and wise points that are easy to read but sometimes harder to put into practice consistently. Being intentional is key!
    BTW: we’ve been married 51 years and last night I tried that tongue clucking thing and ended up sleeping in the guest room. I’ve scratched that one off the list. :o)

    1. Ben, thanks so much for your comment! And I guess you can’t believe everything you read! Although apparently you didn’t have to listen to any snoring 🙂

      Appreciate you chiming in. No doubt you could give us all lots more tips!

  8. God gave us just over 58 years together. I’m so grateful. During my political years a lot of people knew me but I didn’t know their names. So if Betty came up when I was talking with someone and if I didn’t introduce them to each other immediately that was her cue that I didn’t know his/her name. Betty would then say, “Hi. I’m Betty, Ken’s wife.” At that point the person would identify himself and the problem was solved. It was a very useful and frequently used scheme. Great post, Trevor. Keep up the good work!

    1. Mr. Epp, great wives think alike! Your wife was/is an amazing, gracious, hospitable, cheerful, wise, and devout lady. I was lucky to know her, and to eat so much of her excellent cooking as a teenager:) Thanks for your comment!

  9. Very much appreciated your post! Thanks for sharing personally from your own life! I chuckled, visualizing that motorbike ride home! Glad you got home safely. (And good choice to not go back to your girlfriend’s place. There’s a tip right there.)
    Marc and I have been married 29 years and gone through both the wonderful and the tough.
    One thing I read from Dr.Dobson has stuck with me through the years and that is to not expect Marc to be my girlfriend. Putting the expectation on him to always “understand me” is unfair and unrealistic. Ultimately, God is the filler of my bucket.
    The other thing I read somewhere, is when you’re discussing something hurtful or hard, do not use the words “you always” or “you never”. Instead, use the words “I feel like ——-“. I’ve found this helpful, because it’s not accusatory, helps express where I’m at while keeping the walls down, which is essential if it’s going to be constructive.
    And lastly, like was mentioned, TALK! Cry if you must, be passionate, but be fair, no name calling, no low blows, TALK! It’s always worth it.

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