What It Takes to Stay Married for Forty Years

Recently my parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. And I was in awe of that accomplishment. My husband and I have been married for ten years and there have been times where I felt like even staying together that long took a super human effort. So the idea of staying married to someone for forty years seems almost incomprehensible to me. True, my parents are from a different generation where marriage meant forever and divorce wasn’t something that people rushed into. But I remember several times over the years when it seemed like even my stoic parents would split up. So as we celebrated their achievement of staying married for forty mostly happy years I asked them both separately what they thought the secrets to staying together for that long were. My mother said that the secrets of staying in a marriage for forty years are:


According to my mother, the single most important thing that you can do to keep your marriage strong is to forgive your spouse. She told me that your spouse will fail you, disappoint you, and let you down over and over again. Because they are human. And you will let your spouse down over and over again because you are human. Understanding that people make mistakes and forgiving your spouse’s mistakes is essential to having a happy marriage.


My mother told me that whenever you have the choice of being right or being kind choose to be kind, especially when it comes to your spouse. She said to always remember that you chose to go through life with that person so there must be something special about them. Try to remember what you saw in them that was special and hang onto that feeling. Whenever you are having a disagreement and you can be right or you can be kind choose to be kind. Let your spouse be right instead. It’s not worth winning an argument if it’s going to cause bitterness because bitterness will eat away at you and that’s what will end the marriage.

And my father said that the secret to a long and happy marriage is:

Show Up

Show up for your spouse. Be there when they need you, even when you’re tired of going through your own problems. My dad talked about how he would come home from working a long day at one of the mines near where they lived and he would take my older brother from my mom and give him a bottle before he even cleaned up because my mom needed a break. By that time they had five kids with another one on the way. My dad would show up for my mom by taking over for her when she was struggling and she did the same for him in little ways, like staying up until midnight some nights to make sure his lunch was packed and his work clothes were clean. Show up for your spouse and you can survive anything together.

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