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secret to a happy marriage

The #1 Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Not What You Think

Do you know what is the #1 secret to a happy marriage? Perhaps there are many answers, but one, in particular, has helped me stay married for twenty-eight years.

In fact, I think many couples would agree it is hard to stay married without it. So what is the magic ingredient?


Sadly, over time, many of us get lazy in our marriage. It becomes more about “me” and my hurts instead of servanthood and forgiveness. For example, not too long ago my husband and I had a very frustrating problem happen to both of us. Believe me, I wanted to yell at him. In fact, I wanted to have a complete meltdown.

It could have easily gone bad if we did not forgive and work together to fix our “problem.” Hopefully, after you read this you will understand why forgiveness is the greatest secret to a happy marriage.

Working Through Marriage Problems

A couple of weeks ago, I was out at night with some girlfriends. My husband was home alone. He was locking up for the night and let the cat in like usual. Unfortunately, the cat snuck in with a mouse in her mouth.

A live mouse.

Usually, my husband can stop the cat at the door. Not this time.

In fact, the cat ran past him. Before he knew it, the cat stopped, looked up, and then meowed. When she opened her mouth, the mouse fell onto the floor and scurried away to parts unknown–inside our house.

My husband tried to find the mouse or get the cat to catch it again. No such luck. After a while, he gave up and went to bed.

I came home later that night and quietly got into bed so I would not disturb him. I was totally oblivious to the mouse situation. Moreover, I slept all night with a mouse in the house.

RELATED: Christian Marriage Advice: 10 Best Tips For a Christ-Centered Marriage

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Get your FREE CONFLICT RESOLUTION (PDF) tips to help you and your spouse work through difficult problems.

What is the #1 Cause of Divorce

There are lots of reasons for divorce, but one that ranks at the top of the list is a lack of communication. Sadly, that is exactly what happened with my husband and me.  There was a lack of communication on many levels.

The next morning, I got up just like normal. My husband and I ate breakfast and visited for a little while. There was no mention of a mouse. Later that morning, he nonchalantly brought up the cat, and that he let her in the night before.

I was thinking, “Okay, that’s nice. He let the cat in.”

Eventually, he got around to the fact that she had a mouse. Nothing unusual about that. My cat loved mice. She brings them to the door regularly–dead.

About 20 minutes later, he said something quietly about how a mouse came in with the cat the night before.

I finally put together that my cat brought in a live mouse. I thought for sure he was going to say he caught it. Or the cat caught it.

That part never came. I finally realized I slept in our house all night with a live mouse running around, and it still had not been found! To make me feel better, my husband said it was a very small mouse.

There is no such thing as a tiny mouse.  A mouse is a mouse.

My first reaction…let’s burn the house down. No, really.

And then I wanted to spontaneously combust.  Yell, scream, run around the house, stand on a chair, or just leave–forever. (This is not the secret to a happy marriage.) 

You get the point.

Frankly, you can’t blame me. I slept all night with a mouse in the house, and I didn’t even know it.

RELATED: How to Change Your Husband With These 5 Powerful Prayers

Marriage Takes Work

I had a fork in the road. Was I going to choose to forgive or else yell at my husband?

Since I am 53, I figured that it wasn’t appropriate to do the full meltdown. I would go for door number two. Try to forgive and work together to fix the problem.

Deep breathe. 1, 2, 3, 4. I can do this.

I had just got my wits about me when my husband informed me he was leaving for work. I thought we were going to work together to solve the problem as any loving couple would do in such a horrific crisis.

Nope. My husband strategically told me about the mouse right before he was leaving for work so he wouldn’t have to hear the meltdown. Furthermore, he planned to leave me all day with a live mouse in the house.

To make me feel better, he said he would bring something home to trap it that night.

Again, I thought about screaming, but it would not have done any good. The mouse would still be running around the house, and I would have to apologize later for my bad behavior.

Reluctantly, I decided to keep my mouth shut and make the best of a bad situation.

Angrily, I tiptoed around the house all day, praying the mouse would not jump out at me.

It was a long day avoiding the mouse and forgiving my husband after every step. 

Later that night, my husband did bring home something to catch it. Only the mouse was too smart and remained on the loose…for three more days.

On the third day, we did catch the mouse only to be sabotaged by my cat again on the fourth day. Because, hey, three days isn’t long enough to see if you have a strong marriage.

RELATED: How to Change Your Husband: 30-Day Marriage Challenge

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Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart is on Amazon or in your favorite digital store. 

What Keeps a Marriage Strong?

The best way to keep a marriage strong is through open communication. After the first night, my husband and I talked through the issue. I realized he was doing everything he could to get rid of the mouse. It wasn’t his fault it happened.

He apologized for not telling me sooner. And I forgave him. This is the secret to a happy marriage.

I wish I could say that was the end of the mouse saga ie. marriage problem.

This time it happened early in the morning on the fourth day. My husband was up getting ready for work. He let the cat out around 5:30 a.m.

She had been roaming around for about an hour and wanted back in to eat. It was probably around 6:15 am. He opened the door only to find a RAT in her mouth this time.

And this one was a biggie.

I heard my husband saying loudly, “No Patches! You can’t come in! No! No! She’s got a rat! It’s a rat! She’s in! The cat came in with a rat!”

Meanwhile, I’m still in bed. Asleep. It’s 6:15 am. Guess where she went? Patches went straight for our bedroom WITH THE RAT.

I have never flown out of bed so fast. I am not a morning person. All of a sudden, there was a CAT and a RAT under my bed. The secret to a happy marriage is clearly not this…

How Do You Know If Your Marriage Is In Trouble?

There are many clues your marriage is in trouble. For instance, you can’t laugh at difficult situations. Or you withdraw, nitpick, or scream. Fortunately, I did none of these things.

Clearly, I decided to focus on the problem, not my husband. And practice the secret to a happy marriage–forgiveness.

Instead of having a meltdown, I got up and looked for the cat under my bed. I didn’t know if the rat was dead or alive. I had to find out.

Both of them were right in front of my face. The cat looked quite pleased with herself. The cat and the rat were laying right next to each other.

Thank goodness the rat was dead.  Can you hear what I am saying? “Thank goodness there was a dead rat under my bed at 6:15 a.m.”

I could have put my head under the bed and come face to face with a live rat.  Hmm.  I’ll take dead!

After I got the dead rat out, we both started laughing.

We made a deal to look at the cat’s mouth from now on before she comes in. I’m so glad we both chose not to scream and yell at each other. It took a lot of self-control, but I knew it really wasn’t his fault.

RELATED: Bad Parenting Fails: 11 Hilarious Confessions From a Tired Mom

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secret to a happy marriage

What Is the  Secret to a Happy Marriage?

After twenty-eight years together, I have decided the secret to a happy marriage is forgiveness. There is no use fighting about something that can not be controlled.

Things just happen.

I had a choice. Yelling at my husband would have only delayed the mouse/rat problem. The cat was the issue, not him.

Most of the time, you will find the enemy is not your spouse, it’s our sinful nature or even Satan.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Keep reminding yourself that you and your husband are on the same team.

Next time you want to yell and scream at your spouse, pause and think about the situation. Control your initial reaction and then go into problem-solving mode.

Immediately start thinking, “What can I do to work together to fix the problem?” And forgive. That’s the secret to a happy marriage.

It will save you a lot of time and hurt feelings. And you will get rid of your “rat ” problem much faster.

What is your secret to a happy marriage? Does it include forgiveness?

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Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!

Are you experiencing family problems or have a family estrangement? Do you feel shame, anger, or rejection? Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store. 

This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement (and reconciliation) from my Christian family but also gives solid tips to help you with your family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.

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Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids.  It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite bookstore.

Join the group Christian Family Living on Facebook

Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Family Living. This is a place for Christian women to freely talk about parenting, marriage, faith, family, and culture. Being a Christian is hard! Let’s do it together. Most of all, a sense of humor is required. Got memes? Bring it on!

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There are tips on building a Christian home, parenting, marriage, family issues, and faith. Learn how to get back to the things that matter most in your life and the life of your family. It’s time for a revival!

109 thoughts on “The #1 Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Not What You Think”

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  2. Tolerance and a sense of humor!! You need both for a happy marriage. The story of the mouse in the house is funny and I really like how that these characteristics shone through in your decisions on managing the situation.

    1. Rachel, it has definitely taken years to get there. I would not have been so gracious in the earlier years. Having a happy marriage takes work, that’s for sure! Thanks for your comment.

  3. This post is so relatable!! There are so many times when I find myself drifting away from the “we” and instead, finding fault. It’s so much better to remember that marriage is a team and that our spouse typically has our best interests at heart. Thank you so much for this great reminder of how to approach trials in a more effective way!!

    1. Amanda, I hope this is a good reminder to married couples that to have a happy marriage you have to play as a team and laugh! Who knew such a horrible trial would be so funny. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Laughter is a great medicine & laughter in married life is like a tonic to being married life sweeter than sweetest. To be living married life with laughing at every movement should be loving in heaven & a successful life that doesn’t need anything in this frustrated world.

  5. My husband is always making me laugh. We have a story similar involving a snake. Then there was the time I left the sunroof open over night and bird flew in. He still gets a kick out of that….lol

  6. Laughter is such an important part of marriage. There are way too many stresses already in life but that should be a relationship you can have to make you feel all those positive vibes.

  7. I enjoyed reading about the loose mouse in your house! I have to also agree here – laughter in marriage is very important. We can easily get carried away with our daily activities without having moments to sit and laugh about something. We have made it a point to talk share interesting and funny events after dinner time.

  8. This was so funny to read! My husband and myself have been married for almost 5 years and together for almost 9. It’s been a long road but we are now realizing that laughing is the best way to get through things. We’ve been through really hard times and it has made us fight but now we see the best thing we can do it be a team and be there for one another!

  9. I think laughing is contagious. It’s fun to spend time with someone who makes you laugh, even better if that someone is your life partner!

  10. Love this – how funny! I couldn’t agree more about laughter in marriage. We’ve been married for 26 years and if we didn’t laugh so much, I don’t know what we would do?!

  11. I think my reaction would be the same as yours. Really there is no such thing as a small mouse. I get chills just thinking about it. You’re right about not getting angry about little stuff, laugh it off.

    1. Oh, it’s hard sometimes. I almost have trained myself to laugh at things that are probably inappropriate to laugh at out loud. I have to watch my responses and n front of people!

  12. Oh my goodness! This is hilarious and reminds me of a similar situation with our first house. We lived in a pretty low income area. There were renters on either side of us. We had a major mouse problem… this was partly due to the fact that our neighbors stopped paying for garbage services and had a “mouse playland” next door and partly because our house was 100 years old and had a stone foundation. One night my husband felt something crawling up his leg… it was a mouse! Thank goodness I wasn’t in bed yet! When he finally told me about the incident I desperately tried to fill every hole I could find. I couldn’t sleep for weeks without thinking every tickle was another mouse.

    Laughter in a marriage is good medicine! Now when we look back at our first house with its many problems and laugh. It has helped us build some character into our marriage for sure.

    1. I love this, thanks for sharing something funny to start my day!! Laughter in marriage should never stop, no matter what! 🙂 I’m blessed to be married to a silly soul.

  13. LOVE this perspective! I found out the hard way that I very much over-react to mice…so you are a small hero in my eyes for not burning your house down.

  14. This is such a funny story! I could only imagine your reaction if you husband would have left a note ??? We had a mouse on time but luckily I was out of town that weekend and my hubby caught it before I returned.


  15. I agree laughter is very important. Me and my partner have no time to argue on things so we make it a point to laugh some issues instead of giving energy on arguing. When both of us take it lightly, we easily come up with solution!

  16. This post sure made me smile. I totally agree w/ your first thought to burn the hose down, if something like that happened to me I might have slept in the car until the mouse was gone! This was a great story, thanks for sharing.

  17. Grace is often something that is hard to deal with. A lot of times, when things trigger us, it’s easy to blow up and get stuck in the now. By looking at the big picture like you did, more progress resolves. Very informative post.

  18. Your post kept me glued to it till the end, I like how you explained the whole cat and rat situation, made me laugh out loud. Such an amazing message, laughter is indeed so important in marriage as well as any other relation 🙂

  19. What a funny story. Laughter can be such a great tool in tough situations. It is definitely way easier to laugh later than in the moment, but a great reminder to laugh at and love ourselves.

    Sydney Meek |

  20. Laughter in marriage is definitely so sweet. This is a great anecdote!

    Also, we have been dealing with a mouse issue lately as well and my husband gets a nice kick out of everytime I jump up on the nearest piece of furniture whatever it may be. Our cat is a big mouser and usually catches them but he’s been loungin on the heating vents all cozy lately not doing much mouse catchin. Haha.

  21. Oh my gosh this story had me cracking up! Laughter is so important in our marriage. We definitely have our blowout fights but we always end up laughing together anyway.

  22. This was a hilarious story. Look now you and your hubby can continue to add this to your list of things to forever laugh at.

  23. This story was so funny. I had my husband read it and we laughed hard together. The part about the Rat under the bed…hilarious! I have always wanted a cat but not after this story.

  24. We didn’t laugh that much in the beginning. We would see/so funny things and say, “that’s so funny.” But we didn’t really laugh much. When our son was born we started fake laughing to try to get him to laugh. It turned into us actually laughing and now we laugh all the time.

  25. Laughter is just better regardless. It can change the mood, the level of stress, the anxiety. Fun post! Thanks for the read.

  26. I agree 100% with you! My husband and I agreed early on that we would never yell or curse at each other, and we’ve kept up that agreement our entire relationship and marriage. And we laugh a lot. It’s key to a happy marriage!

  27. LOL great post! Laughter is how my husband & I have stayed together for 20+ years. We laugh all the time people think we are NUTS but hey that’s ok. Keep LAUGHING

  28. I agree laughter is the best! Your story was too funny and we live in a cold climate the mice areally always trying to get in ugh! My husband and I always try to laugh more then we argue!

  29. Laughter is such a great tool in stressful situations. My husband is admittedly, much better at handling bumps in the road than I am. He knows that I don’t handle stress well and over the years we have learned how to handle these moments with humor and a sense of “this too shall pass”. Oh and growing up in the country I could have handled a mouse in the house, but when you said RAT it was over!

  30. My husband makes me laugh every day and I am so thankful for him!
    We have a funny mouse story. One evening I saw a little mouse scurry across the floor. My three children were in bed and my husband was in the shower. I stood on the sofa until he got out and came downstairs. As I was telling him that there was a mouse in the house, it scurried into the dining room. He grabbed the kitchen broom with the intent of hitting and stunning it. What happened was that he chased it around the dining room table a few times! We were laughing so hard because it was so ridiculous. I finally thought to open the french door in the dining room and the mouse finally ran out!
    Laughing together is always the better choice!
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  31. This was so funny, I can totally relate to he in the moment you can frustrated or angry — including at the cat — but how really it is pretty funny a well.

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