Happily Ever After: What Makes a Marriage Happy?

Best friends Mathew Boggs and Jason Miller set out across the United States in an RV to interview 200 couples married for forty or more years.

In Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America’s Greatest Marriages[1], they reveal the secrets to a happy, satisfying marriage. Mathew, having been deeply wounded by his parent’s divorce, was astonished to notice that his grandparents had kept their love alive.   A romantic at heart, Mathew recruited Jason to join him on a journey that would take four years to complete.

I created a list, based upon the wisdom that Mat and Jason gleaned from 200 interviews. Many of the couples had been married 60 years or more!

10 Actions and Attitudes that are Essential for a Happy Marriage:

  1. Select a mate that shares your value system regarding family, faith and money.
  2. Select a mate who is a best friend…who makes you laugh and who loves you when you are at your worst.
  3. Select a mate whom you highly respect. Respect is the foundation of a happy marriage. It’s absolutely essential.
  4. Accept your mate’s quirks and annoying habits. Do not expect to change your mate.
  5. Pick your battles. “You can be right or happy.”
  6. Recognize that love is a decision and an action. Decide, commit deeply and show your love by actions. Your feelings follow your actions.
  7. Make memories that are only for the two of you. Do what it takes to keep the romance alive!
  8. Repair and renew your marriage. “Have the courage to work through failures.” Seek outside help through the rough patches, such as Marriage Encounter.
  9. “Give your spouse the highest esteem.” GIVE more than you get.
  10. Did I mention, commitment? Find a way back to the love.

My favorite message in the book is attributed to a high adventure, high-energy gentleman, Russell, who sucks the marrow out of life. At age 89, Russ was indefatigable, absolutely fearless, and so full of life.

Russ offered this advice to Mat and Jason.

“Life is all about attitude. Someone once told me that his marriage had grown stale. I don’t buy that. Marriages don’t get stale – people get stale. Love, life, age – it’s all a state of mind…You want an everlasting marriage, right? That’s why you’re here. Well, my advice to the young people out there is this: It’s absolutely, one hundred percent possible…but only if you believe it’s possible.”

At the end of four years and of interviews, the take away for 28-year-old Mathew Boggs is this:

“Time and time again I’ve sat with couples whose connection seemed so tangible I could almost see it. They are proof that lifelong love is possible. The Marriage Masters have also demonstrated to me that it’s possible to overcome the most daunting of marital mountains, to traverse the bleakest of valleys, and still return to love. One day when I’m facing my own perilous landscapes, I will think back to these couples who have become living testaments to my childhood belief and remember that love really can conquer all.”


[1] Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America’s Greatest Marriages, Boggs, Mathew and Miller, Justin; 2007.

21 Ways to Stay in Love Forever

I have summarized Brain Tracy’s book, “21 Ways to Stay in Love Forever.” Here you go…

1. Make a total commitment to your relationship.
2. Communicate openly and honestly. Never expect your spouse to read your mind.
3. Ask for what you want.
4. Accept your spouse’s differences.
5. See the best in your spouse and believe in your spouse.
6. Continually encourage your spouse.
7. Be a good listener. Listen attentively.
8. Seek first to understand.
9. Set reasonable standards.
10. Continually build your spouse’s self esteem.
11. Never go to bed angry.
12. Visualize your spouse as an ideal person.
13. Treat your spouse as the most important person in the world.
14. Remember why you fell in love.
15. Forgive early and often.
16. Apologize for your mistakes.
17. Give your spouse acts of service.
18. Learn and talk about his or her interest.
19. Accept complete responsibility for your own behavior.
20. Spend quality time with your spouse.
21. Develop shared goals; a shared vision.

Warren Buffett Agrees with Me

Warren Buffet agrees with me. Your choice of mate is the most important decision you will ever make.  The below article was written by  By Jeff Haden Contributing editor, Inc.

Warren Buffett says one decision separates successful people from everyone else and this decision will make the biggest difference in your life. And science backs him up.

Warren Buffett knows how to make smart decisions. One is to say no to just about everything. Another is to hire the right people.

But there’s one decision Buffett feels is the most important you will ever make:

Deciding who to marry.

You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction. And the most important person by far in that respect is your spouse. I can’t overemphasize how important that is.

Marry the right person. I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life.

Research backs him up. One study found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.

That’s true for men and women. What the researchers call “partner conscientiousness” predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion.

The Power of Partner “Conscientiousness”

According to the researchers, “conscientious” partners perform more household tasks, exhibit more pragmatic behaviors that their spouses are likely to emulate, and promote a more satisfying home life — all of which enables their spouses to focus more on work.

As one researcher said, “These results demonstrate that the dispositional characteristics of the person one marries influence important aspects of one’s professional life.”

In non-research speak, a good partner sets a good example and makes it possible for you to be a better you.

That’s definitely true for me. My wife is incredibly organized, juggling family, working multiple jobs, pursuing another advanced degree. She sets goals and achieves those goals.

Her conscientiousness sometimes bugged me until I realized the only reason it got on my nerves was because her level of focus implicitly challenged my inherent laziness. Her example helped me realize the best way to get more done is to actually get more done.

She not only shows me that, she also helps me do that. And while she’s still much more conscientious and organized than I am, she’s definitely rubbed off on me in a very positive way.

Of course, this makes sense: As Jim Rohn says, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with — and that’s particularly true where our significant others are concerned.

Bad habits rub off. Poor tendencies rub off. We all know that.

But good habits and good tendencies rub off too.

Plus, if one person is extremely organized and keeps your household train running on time, that frees the other up to focus more on work. (Of course, in a perfect world, both people would more or less equally share train-engineer duties so that both can better focus on their careers, whether those careers are in the home or outside.)

Keep in mind, I’m not recommending you choose your significant other based solely on conscientiousness. As the researchers say, “Marrying a conscientious partner could at first sound like a recipe for a rigid and lackluster lifestyle.”

Nor am I suggesting you end a relationship if you feel your partner is lacking in those areas.

But it does appear that having a conscientious and prudent partner is part of the recipe for a better and more rewarding career.

So instead of expecting your partner to change, think about what you can do to be more supportive of your significant other.

Maybe you can take on managing your finances, or take care of more household chores, or repairs, maintenance, or schedules.

After all, the best way to lead is by example, and in time you may find that you and your significant other make an outstanding — and mutually supportive — team.

This will help you both achieve more of your goals.

And live a more satisfying and fulfilling life.


Published on February 18, 2019 in Inc. magazine




Begin with the End in Mind

My Master’s degree in Child & Family Studies from Syracuse University and my undergraduate degree in Family Relations & Human Development from The Ohio State University forever cemented in my mind the importance of the early years of life, and their profound impact upon the remainder of life. My concentration in my Master’s degree program was in early development – the first three years of life – when the foundation for the remainder of a child’s life is laid. The first three to five years set the stage for a lifetime. Development must be maximized during that brief time in childhood.

As I raised my two sons, I did so with the “end in mind.” By this I mean that I made decisions based upon the kind of men that I wanted my sons to become, not by the immediate circumstances of their childhoods. I painted a detailed picture in my mind of my sons as grown men. I held a vision. I created a mental list of desired character traits and qualities, and then I trained for them.

I consciously trained my boys in these traits, which are listed in no particular order:

  • Faithful (faith in God)
  • Spiritual
  • Integrous (having integrity)
  • Respectful of all people, especially women
  • Appreciative of cultural, religious, racial, ethnic and other diversity
  • Intelligent, and possessing a long attention span
  • Healthy, both physically and mentally
  • Free from addiction
  • Brave, “upstanders,” as opposed to bystanders when witnessing wrong-doing such as bullying
  • Well rounded
  • Honest
  • Generous
  • Kind
  • Empathic
  • Grateful
  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Family Oriented
  • Best friends as brothers
  • Wonderful husbands, if they choose to marry
  • Wonderful fathers, if they choose to bring a child into the world
  • Self-sacrificial, when needed; Capable of Agape love (Agape love is that which holds a marriage—and a family—together through life’s challenges. It’s the selfless, unconditional type of love that helps people to forgive one another, to respect one another, and to serve one another, day in and day out.)
  • Upstanding citizens
  • Reliable
  • Possessing a strong work ethic
  • Curious
  • Creative
  • Imaginative
  • Physically fit
  • Well read
  • Well traveled
  • Adventurous
  • Appreciative of the arts
  • Friendly
  • Courteous
  • Joyful, Fun, Silly
  • Clean
  • Organized

I looked at their lives from an aerial view, from 30,000 feet, if you will. Even at age two, I took a lifespan perspective. I imagined that they would live to be 90-years-old. I reminded myself that life is long. Childhood is short. I looked at each decision and experience from the vantage point of my sons’ lifespans, and asked, “What kind of men do I want them to become?” I selected toys, books, clothing, experiences, schools, churches (We moved often), extra-curricular activities, adventures, travel destinations – you name it – based upon the lessons that I wanted to instill…and the character that I wanted to develop.

I made a lot of mistakes in raising my sons, God knows. But, anyone who knows Patrick and Tom would say that they are men of outstanding character. The list above, while not 100%, describes them well. I could not be more proud of their character. My sons are among the finest people that I know.

My point?  Setting an intention to create character traits and skills in a child is essential.  So, here we go.  I want to create in you a consciousness that will allow you to model for your children and develop skills in your children to increase their chance of success in marriage and family relationships.

You Have Profound Power as a Parent

“There is only one happiness to life, to love and be loved.” –George Sand

babies 444950_960_720

You have profound power as a parent. In the pages that follow, you will learn ways to give your child the best chance of lifelong happiness. An additional bonus is that your future grandchildren and great-grandchildren will benefit enormously.

You have the profound power to create a consciousness in your child, and to develop skills, which will greatly increase the probability of your child’s future success in marriage and family relationships. Marital success will result in lifelong happiness. After faith in a Higher Power, this is the greatest gift that you could ever give your child.

Success in marriage and family relationships is the true source of happiness in life.

How many times have you heard it said, that on your deathbed, no one ever wishes that they had spent more time at the office? We all wish that we had devoted more time to what really matters…our closest family relationships.

Research backs my claim. Scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression. The longitudinal study, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, revealed clues to leading healthy and happy lives.

Robert Waldinger, the fourth director of the Harvard Study, recorded his TED talk, titled “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness,” in 2015. There is one major finding: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

I am a firm believer in beginning with the end in mind, a notion made famous by the late author, educator, businessman and motivational speaker, Stephen Covey. If you apply the “begin with the end in mind” philosophy to parenting, the question must be asked, “What kind of human being do you want your child to become?” and “What really matters at the end of your child’s life?”

We train our children to succeed in school, athletics, sometimes in the arts. Some of us train our children in manners and health and wellness practices. Other than the unavoidable modeling that we do in our own relationships, few of us consciously train children for success in their most intimate relationship with their spouse or partner.

My intention is to present you with practical techniques that you can employ that will maximize your child’s chance of lifelong happiness. My aim is to create in you a consciousness about your child’s future success in marriage and family relationships, so that you can create that consciousness in your child. I encourage you to begin with the end in mind…your grown child’s truly happy, satisfying life, that is built upon conscious coupling and conscious family relationships. This training will make a profound difference. The strategies include:

  1. Create a True Sense of Worthiness
  2. Label and Speak about Feelings
  3. Teach The Five Love Languages
  4. Model Gratitude
  5. Teach the Purpose and Beauty of Sexuality
  6. Raise a Good Money Manager
  7. Create a Consciousness about Successful Mate Selection
  8. Create a Family Agreement
  9. Eliminate the Divorce Mindset
  10. Teach the Happy Marriage Formula

We will take a deep dive into each of these strategies. Stay tuned.

The Absolute Greatest Gift is Faith

galaxy-2357504_960_720The absolute greatest gift that you can give your child is faith. Faith in God, Jesus Christ, your Higher Power, Universal Intelligence, the Power that Breathes You, the Divine, the Lord, the Almighty, the Creator, Spirit, Source, Allah, Jehovah; whatever words you use for your Higher Power.

Personally, I am a Christian. I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe in the triune God: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit.

Regardless of your religious or faith tradition, the greatest gift that you can give your child is faith in a Higher Power. It is God, Universal Intelligence, Spirit, who breathes us, and it is God who gives each of us our unique purpose in life; our God-given, God-sized dream. It is the radical Jesus who teaches us how to treat one another. It is God who is our strength and comfort in times of trouble. It is connection to Universal Intelligence that gives us the ability to create a life that we love living while we are living it.

While the gift of faith is far beyond the scope of this book, I hope that you will give enormous thought to how you model faith in your Higher Power and how you instruct your child in faith in something larger than self.

The second greatest gift that you can give your child is the consciousness of how to select a mate and the skills that make success in marriage and family relationships a high probability. For it is our intimate relationships that give us the greatest joy!



My God-Sized Dream

“The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency. –Jim Carrey


Many people find their life’s purpose in their pain. Countless nonprofit organizations, books, songs and businesses have been created in the wake of pain and loss.

The pain that my sons and I suffered as a result of my choice of (now former) husband has given me a profound purpose. It is my fondest desire, my dream, to use the wisdom that I gleaned through pain to prosper others.

I seek to help parents to raise children who will succeed in marriage and family relationships. My purpose is to strengthen future marriages and families, and thus, bring lifelong happiness to countless people.

God placed this dream in my heart. I feel called to this purpose. Of course, it is a purpose and a dream far beyond my ability to achieve. It is a God-sized dream. “Nothing honors God more than a big dream that is way beyond our ability to accomplish. Why? Because there’s no way we can take credit for it.”[1] The publication of this blog is the first public step that I am taking toward my dream of becoming a thought leader for equipping future adults to succeed in marriage and family relationships.  At the end of the day, lifelong happiness is built upon intimate relationships.

With God all things are possible. It is my desire to honor God with my work; to be a channel for change; to make a difference in life; and to serve the world.

I have asked God to deliver His message through me. For all of the good that results from this blog, my future book and its related projects, I give the glory to God.



[1] Praying Circles Around Your Future; Batterson, Mark.