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.

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.

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.