Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The old married couple in the kitchen.

I was thinking that I would celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, which is today, (thank you, thank you very much), by sharing the wisdom I've accumulated over the years on what makes a happy marriage.

First, I should mention to those of you who do not know Jeff and me personally, we do indeed have a very happy marriage. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it is the happiest, strongest, healthiest marriage I know of (feel free to argue with me if you know of a better marriage--not you Michelle and Barack). So I think I am somewhat of an expert on the topic.

I was going to come up with a list of things that make a happy marriage and I've been kicking around a few ideas--most of them are the usual--such as forgiving small trespasses and never keeping score and relishing your history together and having lots of sex. Some of my ideas fly in the face of conventional wisdom because if you're going to stick to the old "Don't go to bed angry" you're going to lose a lot of sleep. (Which reminds me of my mother's reaction to the old saying "Never spank a child in anger" to which she says "That's sick, who would hit a kid when they're not even mad?") Exactly. And if you live with someone long enough you're bound to be angry at him at bedtime so unless you plan on losing a lot of sleep you should go right ahead and go to bed angry. Besides, sometimes you can go to bed angry and wake up wondering what the hell you were mad about.

Anyhoo, I digress. After coming up with this long list in my head I threw it all out. I decided none of it really matters. Because a happy marriage depends on one thing and one thing only. Here's the secret. Lean in, ready? If you want to have a happy marriage then you (wait for it) have to marry the right person.

Yes, this is the same advice I once gave a cousin at a wedding shower when they asked each of us to write down our thoughts on how to have a good marriage. Everyone laughed when they read it out loud but I'm not really sure why. By the way, that cousin was divorced within 5 years. That was over 20 years ago and I still think it is good advice and it is that simple.

How do you know if you are going to marry (or have married) the right person?

Oh, you know.

I like to ask my divorced friends if they knew on the day they got married they were marrying the right person. Every single one of them (with the exception of you TJ) said they knew (deep in their hearts) they were not marrying the right person but they hoped he would change or they thought it was just time or they didn't know how to back out of it or they thought they couldn't do better. Yikes. Marriage, even with the right person, can be very tough sometimes. With the wrong person it is hell on earth.

So that's my advice. If you want to have a great marriage you have to marry the right person. The person who makes your heart skip a beat long after the initial lust has worn off. The person who lifts you up and makes you best person you can be. The person who always takes your side in the battles against the world (unless you're dead wrong and then he points it out gently). The person you are always proud of in public and in private. The person who you look forward to seeing every morning when you wake up and every day when he comes home.

That's who I married and that's my secret to a happy marriage.


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  2. Congrats, Judy, on 25 years! Excellent advice and, as always, amusingly told. :)

  3. Oh Judy, you make me want to cry. Congratulations on such an accomplishment. You both should be very proud. I unfortunately did not find that love in my fist, but after 13 years together with my Tommy, I love him more and more each and every day. I have to erase the first sentence though of my comment...I still love my ex-husband dearly for the three most beautiful children that he and I together brought into this world....Jenny

  4. Jenny, Thanks for the nice words. I'm so happy you found the right one.

  5. Congratulations, and of course you are right.

    It is also the reason why there should be much less marriages than there actually are because it really isn't easy to find the right person.
    One out of three marriages ends in divorce, and my guess is that of the other two thirds approximately half isn't happy either but have some strong (and sometimes valid) reason (children, money) for not splitting up.
    Of the remaining third I think that again one half isn't exactly exstatic about their marriage either, but have become good friends with their spouse.

    So all the more congratulations to you, because in my estimate you belong to the happy few!!

  6. Judy, maybe you're marriage is so healthy because we have such wonderful examples in our family! My parents (Steve & Carol) celebrate 53 years in June; Uncle Dick & Aunt Dora just celebrated 61 years this past Friday! I think they are pretty awesome examples for us. John and I will be celebrating 29 years in July - how time flies when you're having fun! Love ya, Cindy

  7. Congratulations to both of you. You sort of make me want to throw up, but I know you're right and I just love you both (and you have great kids) so it's hard to argue with (or throw up on) sex, oops, I really meant to write SUCCESS! I just have to add one thing: since I'm not T.J., I have to point out that what I said about my divorce was slightly different than any of the things you listed. I actually said that I didn't know there was such a thing as a "right" person. Also, I'm not sorry I married and had kids with the person I'm divorced from. Anyway, Congrats and Happy Happy Happy, Happily Ever After from your friend Mary in Holly.