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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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?
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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