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.