21 Tips for a Happy Marriage (without Marriage Counselling)

 In Categories, How to Live the Good Life, Inspiration

Yes! It’s a Yes!

On the evening of the day Australians voted Yes to same sex marriage (Yay Australia!) I mulled over the reasons so many of us, straight or gay, want to get married in the first place, and then started thinking about how to keep marriage happy (without resorting to marriage counselling.)

Is there truly such a thing as a totally happy marriage?

Pullman Bunker Bay Resort

We’ve just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary (above) at the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort in South Western Australia, but I’m not writing this because I think I have all (or any) of the answers. No Way! As yet we haven’t had to seek marriage counselling, although I’m sure we would if we ever felt we needed to.

OHMIGOSH we looked so young in this photo (below) on our wedding day in Durban, South Africa. Babes in the woods! We didn’t have a clue, and we’ve muddled along like so many others have before us and will after us, but despite ups and downs we are still happy and we are still best friends, and I’m so very grateful.

How to have a happy marriage without marriage counselling?

Nobody’s given a rule book at the altar as far as I know!

Well-meaning guests and family might offer a few broad stroked nuggets of advice, guests might write pithy one-liners on wedding cards, but in all seriousness unless the priest or vicar has done an exemplary job in marriage counselling classes beforehand I think we’re very much on our own.

Holey Moley, there are not any hard and fast rules for a happy marriage, in fact finding good advice for how to have a happy marriage without marriage counselling is all a bit hit and miss.

Are there any secrets written in hidden tomes? Not that I know about.

I think a happy marriage like any other relationship in life, one that has to be nurtured, cherished and worked at? And sometimes we get it right, other times we get it so wrong. But we can’t just ignore it and let it go to the dogs.

Of course many marriages do go to the dogs – and for good reasons, or perhaps no good reasons. Life and marriage is a bit of a lottery all round, but if you’re dealt a good set of cards then you have to learn to play them well.

The secret of a happy marriage

I remember when we married, 30 years ago last week, the Vicar asked us: “What do you think the secret of a happy marriage is?” and we looked at each other and replied in rather congratulatory unison (like we had it sussed!), “Give and Take.”

But the vicar looked back at us and said quietly, “Nearly, but not quite. The secret is to give and give and give and give,” implying (we hoped I suppose) that the ‘take’ bit would take care of itself.

And we have both given and given and given over the years, in many different ways, and so far we are still really lucky to be really happy, and still married without needing marriage counselling.

So maybe that is our secret?

But I think not.

Every relationship is different and over the years I’ve come to realise that there are quite a few other things at play which help us stay married.

I bet if you’ve been married for any number of years, you have your own recipe for a happy marriage too?

So this post is hopefully not a preachy preachy preamble, it’s not saying that marriage counselling isn’t necessary in some case, but it is hopefully a bit of a reminder to all of us who are married to keep on keeping on, and most of all to keep paying attention.

Doesn’t matter whether you’re in a same sex or heterosexual marriage. Same Same. Love is love. I think a good marriage needs a bit of magic, but it also needs us to put in the hard yards.

Anyway I’d love to hear your take on all this, or your tips in the comments below.

21 easy Tips for a Happy Marriage – in 21 not so easy steps!

  1. Love each other … to bits.
  2. When you can’t love each other, don’t be nasty to each other.
  3. Never go to bed angry with each other. Say sorry, even if you don’t truly feel it at the time.
  4. Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy.
  5. Do things together. Be best friends. (We love walking, bicycling and then dining out together! Below is the view from one of our favourite restaurants and wineries, Hackersley. I wrote about it here.)Hackersley Winery view
  6. Do things apart from each other – your own hobbies and interests are still important.
  7. Chat about the meaning of life, or sports or politics or something that means a lot to you – don’t always talk about the kids or the groceries.
  8. Exercise together (ahem, horizontally and vertically.)
  9. Ask about what the day holds for your spouse, and if there’s a big meeting or an important event, later on ask how it went.
  10. Always treat your spouse with admiration and respect – especially in public.
  11. Keep the romance coming – try and think of small romantic gestures and things to do to surprise each other.
  12. Remember you’re never too old to hold hands, or look lovingly at each other in public.
  13. If you do fight, then fight fairly. Air your grievances in as calm a manner as possible, but don’t spout vitriol.
  14. Know when not to sweat the small stuff. Is it really worth getting in a stew about dirty socks on the floor?
  15. If there are chores that need doing, ask nicely.
  16. Put your marriage first. Your children will leave home one day, but hopefully your spouse will stay.
  17. Do things together. Have a weekly date night, or go and do something nice together. Enjoy each other’s company in fun situations.
  18. Try not to set huge expectations of each other.
  19. Acknowledge what’s great about each other, and tell each other frequently.
  20. Escape for a weekend away even if it’s just down the road, or go on a cruise or travel somewhere exotic. We recently escaped to Margaret River, in South West Australia and had a wonderful 3 days away in a resort including a celebratory lunch at  Amelia Park Restaurant (I’ve written about the restaurant Here – Review.)Amelia Park Restaurant
  21. If you don’t like where you live – move! Life’s too short not to grab it by both hands together. So have an adventure and go live and work somewhere else for a while.  We did. But after 21 moves (okay they were mostly job related) we’ve finally settled! We’ve lived in Western Australia for nearly 9 years now and love it – you can listen to why I love this part of the world in this podcast (online radio show) hosted by Amanda Kendle.


And here, because I found them tucked away in a dusty old photo album, are some photos from our big day, 30 years ago.

Yikes, have you put on weight since the fitting?  I can’t look – “Will it do up?”

“Let me help you with your make-up Mum.”

So happy. But heck! Check those powder puff sleeves!

Ha! The look of love!

He’s so handsome 🙂 and he still is 🙂 Ahhhhh xx

Thanks to the Lovin’ Life Linky team who inspired me to write this post. I’m lovin’ life and doing my best to keep my marriage happy one day at a time. If you’d like to read the start of my memoir (cough!), you can check out two related posts here: Memoir on ZigaZag.

If you’ve enjoyed this post – please PIN this image. Happy Pinning!

how to have a happy marriage without marriage counselling

What tips do you have for matrimonial happiness?

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Showing 20 comments
  • Jo Tracey
    Reply

    Happy anniversary! We’ve been together for 28 years and married for 23, and one of your points stood out the most for me – the one about not expecting your spouse to make you happy.

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Thank you Jo 🙂 Yes, sometimes it’s easy to look elsewhere and to our spouse to sort out our happiness. We need to make a plan ourselves!

  • Anne Turvey
    Reply

    Hi Johanna, congratulations thats a wonderful achievement:) I enjoyed reading your article and reflected on my first marriage which sadly lacked most of those points, hard to have a relationship when only one of the parties wants to participate! Happily my new husband and I love sharing time together and encourage each other to do our best:) Love your photos:)

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Hello Anne, thank you. I’m so glad that you and your new husband have such a supportive relationship.

  • Denyse
    Reply

    That was so lovely to read and I did quite a bit of nodding in agreement. We will have been married 47 years this coming January and whilst we married young and had our first child early, we have generally put our relationship at the top of the list. Kids do come of course if that is your choice and you can but i think I see too many marriages in trouble when Mum mothers the kids but does not pay enough attention to the husband. We always took time for ourselves because we had my parents as very willing helpers. My tests have come with dealing with a very unwell husband in my 30s when he has to take early retirement and I had to step up into my full-time teaching promotional roles. Later of course, now he is the one supporting me through cancer in my older years. We have always loved and liked each other. We still have fights but they are fewer as we age. We have settled into the retirement era away from our families and for the first time since we got married, it is just us and we like it! Great post Jo, Denyse x

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Thanks for your lovely words Denyse 🙂 I’m glad you liked this post, and nodded along. I also read your story with great interest and it led me to think that although nearly everyone has trials and tribulations, a strong supportive relationship can soften the blows along the way. I’m so glad you are liking being just you and he – together on your own, but not alone and having only a few tiffs these days 😉 I’m following your cancer story and wishing you all the very best.

  • Reply

    Congratulations – 30 years is a huge achievement. We are at 28 years – and I had puff sleeves too! I love this post it’s a reminder of what’s important – love, respect and kindness – especially as we are beginning to tire and creak! x #Lovin’LifeLinky

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Hi Maria, Congratulations to you too! Oh those puff sleeves – weren’t they so 80’s! Thanks for your lovely comments today.

  • Kathy Marris
    Reply

    Happy 30th anniversary Jo. We’re up to 32 next week. I don’t know where the time has gone. I had a a puffy sleeve wedding dress too! You did look so young and gorgeous (but didn’t we all?) I agree with all of your “staying married” tips. My husband and I, although drive one another around the bend frequently, do try to keep our marriage alive. We are pretty good friends, but he rarely ever does anything romantic and I wish he would! #TeamLovinLife

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Hi Kathy, Congratulations! 32, that’s great! I know, the time just slips by like quicksand. Haha, did you really have a puffy sleeve wedding dress too? Now all the confessions are coming out in the comments. Oh, and here’s to something romantic coming from MR M soon 😉

  • Reply

    Congratulations Jo and you looked so lovely on your wedding day. In fact, you haven’t changed at all – still lovely. It is all about communication isn’t it? No one gives us a rule book but respect and love for each other certainly makes for a solid foundation. My husband and I have both been married before but next year we will have been together 25 years and having just spent over a month 24/7 together in Europe without annoying each other tells me we aren’t doing too badly. Have a great weekend.

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Hello Sue, ohhh thank you 🙂 Congratulations on your 25 years, and yes, if you can travel together and be together 24/7 without falling out, that’s definitely winning! I hope you have a great weekend too 🙂

  • Reply

    Happy Anniversary and I think all your points are really valid – no marriage is perfect and there is a degree of give and take that we all need to remember if we want to be happy (and have a happy spouse). I completely agree about being supportive of each other – publicly and privately – we need to be each other’s biggest cheerleader don’t we? And BTW you haven’t changed a bit – except your dressing has toned down a little 🙂 (got to love the 80’s and 90’s!)

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Thank you Leanne 🙂 I love the way you have ‘supportive’ as being each other’s biggest cheerleader. Yes, I do so agree 🙂 I’m a little glad my dressing has toned down since the 80’s – goodness me, looking at old photos I can see I got myself up in some strange outfits!

  • Vanessa
    Reply

    Happy anniversary!! I think one of the things I like the most about my relationship is that we genuinely like spending time together.

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Hi Vanessa, I think wanting to spend time together is the basis of all great partnerships. Go you two!

  • Suger
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your wedding day! The photos are so great. It really is something to have and maintain a marriage over a number of years {I’m barely halfway to 30}. At this stage, as always, we appreciate the advice. Haha.

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Hello Sugar, thank you 🙂 And, ahhh I remember our early years and watching anyone celebrating 30 years together seemed like a dinosaur. I hope you enjoy the years leading up to your 30th, enjoy each one 🙂

  • Deborah
    Reply

    Ha, I’m afraid I’ve got nothing to offer on this one though think a lot of your points are valid for friendships and other relationships as well.

    Sadly I’ve not been married. Or in a long-term relationship…. I keep hoping it will happen, however! #teamlovinlife

    • Johanna
      Reply

      Hello Deborah, I think marriage is a sort of glorified friendship and familyship in many ways, so yes I agree many of those points are valid for many relationships. At its base a happy relationship is all about treasuring the other person. I hope you find your long term happyness-partner one of these days 🙂

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