Top Ten Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Marriage is not a piece of cake. A pastor from my youth, displaying his keen wit, once noted, “I didn’t know what happiness was until I got married. Then I rmembered.” Each of us marries a fantasy and as the work of marriage begins the fantasies begin to crumble until at some point we are met with the reality of who we are and who we are married to. That is the point at which many marriages dissolve, one or both parties decided to go back to the supermarket shelf and pick out another model.

Here is a favorite poem of mine about marriage, written by Wendell Berry, and describing the “work” of marriage::

How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them
in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.

A few weeks an Indian friend of mine produced a facetious Top Ten Signs of a Happy Marriage an challenged me to produce one of my own. My wife and I have produced one and it includes a degree of facetiousness. Here are our TOP TEN:

1. Let not the sun go down on your wrath…too often!
2. Have happily married friends; osmosis is relevant.
3. Get a life! Both of you!
4. When she talks, “listen”, don’t merely “wait.”
5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
6. Remember, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.”
7. Experience new things together.
8. If you have kids, remember they don’t belong to you alone. Remember, you still have a life also. And your kids need to see that.
9. Talk to each other. Share your thoughts.
10. Must have two lovely dachshunds

Ludwig is our 12-year old dachshund who recently had laser surgery to correct a back injury. Thus the short hair on the side.

Elsa is Ludwig’s 4 year old sister. She too is a critical key to the marriage success.


16 thoughts on “Top Ten Secrets to a Happy Marriage

  1. Sandeep Bhalla

    The first paragraph sums it all. The moment we get rid of images, it is all fine, in marriage as well as in life. A marriage which continues is a success. There is no fixed flight plan. In one word, marriage is companionship. When marriage becomes a journey to achieve or chase, companionship takes a back seat.
    The rest of Rules are really ‘facetious.’ I believed you hired some silly lawyer to draft all those rules.
    All the best for flying without flight plans.


    1. literary lew Post author

      Your observation about images is very astute. In my recent Krishnamurti adventure, he eloquently develops this notion. And it is so personally relevant as you probably can tell. No, there was no “silly lawyer” that helped Claire and I put ’em together. Come to think of it, is there any other kind of lawyer though? Tell me more about “flying without flight plans”? That is an intriguing notion…


  2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    Lewis, you described a normal pattern in your first paragraph. The ‘fantasies’ part is the honeymoon period when we are seduced by our own neurochemicals. Our brain dupes us in order to stay with a mate long enough to ensure mating and the survival of the offspring. The honeymoon period averages between 1 to 4 years. It’s been said that love is blind. Now, neuroscience has shown just how true that can be. I’ll quote from Psychology Today:

    “To heighten those incredible emotions, nature got into the act. And that’s because love, bonding, attraction is essential for procreation. And so for survival of the species nature ensures that love is blind and other love-inducing mechanisms.

    Specifically, when we fall in love, our mirror neurons not only connect us to our partners, but they trigger some amazing brain chemicals─ dopamine, testosterone, vasopressin, oxytocin, serotonin, GABA ─ that enhance attraction, love, lust, and loyalty.

    But there is another intriguing feature of our remarkable brains. When we fall in love, our brains go to work and parts of it go dormant ─ the parts responsible for wariness, suspicion, discrimination. These are the very characteristics that our prehistoric ancestors needed to anticipate a predator.

    In other words, the brain activates the good mood chemicals and deactivates the areas devoted to judgment. That’s when we are madly in love. Over time if the relationship is fraught with hurts, disappointments, neglect, anger, indifference, blame, abuse, or infidelity, the magic-making brain chemicals are on hold. The amazing blinders fall off and we are no longer blind. The erosion of the relationship hits home and it feels like the end of love.

    But it is not the end.

    It is really the beginning: the beginning of work on the real relationship, creating change in yourself and the relationship dynamics. When you bring these new positive interactions into the relationship, you will rewire the brains as well.”


    I see a type of ‘flight plan’ represented in the last quoted paragraph of the article.


  3. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    I liked the term ‘flight plan’ that Sandeep used, and went with my own interpretation. Were you looking for the term ‘flight plan’? I meant ‘flight plan’ as in education about evolutionary biology, how it affects couples, and how to get from point A to point B. My point was If couples have a better understanding about the soup of neurochemicals that affect them during the honeymoon stage, they won’t over analyze when they are no longer getting the same ‘high’. They know to expend their energies on creating ways (flight plan) to increase oxytocin (bonding), and enhance their relationship.


  4. InnerDialect

    :))))))))))))))))))) FABULOUS READ, both Posts and comment. Should all be on a talk show. Blogs must turn into open Chats, Live ! Thanks for great moments here… love Beethoven too. Uh Ludwig ?



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