What is the most powerful secret to a long, happy marriage? Perhaps there are many answers, but one, in particular, has helped me stay married for thirty years.

Many couples would agree it is hard to stay married without it. So, what is the magic ingredient?


Sadly, many of us get lazy in our marriages over time. They become more about “me” and my hurts than servanthood and forgiveness.

For example, my husband and I once had a very frustrating problem. I wanted to yell at him—and I’m not a yeller.

I wanted to have a complete meltdown.

It could have gone wrong if we had not forgiven each other and worked together to fix our “problem.”

No matter what has happened in your marriage, the end goal must be forgiveness. This is the secret to a long, happy marriage.

How to Maintain a Strong Marriage

Maintaining a strong and healthy relationship requires effort, commitment, and understanding from both partners. While these things are good, the number one secret to a long, happy marriage is forgiving your partner, especially when the little things happen.

Over time, it can eat away at your marriage if you don’t address issues, including the small stuff.

In my case, it was a tiny thing that almost blew our marriage apart.

One night, I was out with some girlfriends at prayer group, of all things. My husband was home alone. He locked 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.

The cat ran past him. Before he knew it, it stopped, looked up, and meowed.

When she opened her mouth, the mouse fell onto the floor and hurried away to parts unknown–inside our house.

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

When I came home later that night, I quietly got into bed to avoid disturbing 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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What Keeps a Couple Together?

I can tell you what doesn’t keep a couple together–poor communication and unforgiveness.

The following day, I got up just like usual. There was no mention of a mouse. Later that morning, my husband nonchalantly mentioned that the cat had a mouse the night before.

After much hemming and hawing, I finally realized my cat had brought a live mouse. I thought he would say he or the cat caught it.

But that part never came. I finally realized I had slept in our house all night with a live mouse running around, and it still had not been found!

My husband said it was a tiny mouse to make me feel better.

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

I wanted to yell, scream, run around the house, stand on a chair, or leave–forever. (This is not the secret to a long, happy marriage.)

You get the point.

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

I did not want to forgive!

RELATED: How to Change Your Husband Without Saying a Word

What Makes For a Long-Lasting Marriage?

Couples who forgive often tend to have long-lasting marriages.

With that knowledge, I knew I had a fork in the road. Was I going to choose to forgive or go full throttle?

Since I am an adult, I figured it was inappropriate to have a complete meltdown, although I wanted to.

So, I chose 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.

Rats (pun intended)! I thought we would work together to solve the problem as any loving couple would in such a horrific crisis.

He didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.

He said he would catch the mouse when he got home to make me feel better.

Houston, we have a problem. 

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

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

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RELATED: 30-Day Marriage Challenge to Change Your Spouse For Good

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What Makes the Happiest Marriages?

The happiest marriages include a good dose of forgiveness (and communication).

After the first night, my husband and I talked through the issue. I realized he was doing everything he could to eliminate 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.

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.

I decided to focus on the problem, not my husband. This is the secret to a long, happy marriage.

In the future, we made a deal to look at the cat’s mouth from now on before she came in at night. I’m so glad we 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: 15 Proven Signs of a Healthy Marriage That Lasts

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#1 Secret to a long happy marriage

What Is the Secret to a Long, Happy Marriage?

After thirty years of marriage, I believe that forgiveness is the secret to a long, happy marriage. Fighting about something that can not be controlled is pointless.

Things just happen.

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

How many times do we focus on our spouse instead of the problem?

The enemy is not your spouse; it’s 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.

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

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

Are You Struggling to Have a Healthy Marriage? Do You Want to Change Your Spouse?

Get Marriage Interrupted: How to Deal with Unexpected Conflict as a Couple and Stay in Love on Amazon or any digital platform. This book has humorous and impactful insights for anyone experiencing marriage conflict.

Included is biblical advice to help couples develop new behaviors and strengthen their marriage with healthy boundaries. With over 30 years of marriage experience, there are practical tips to overcome old behavior patterns and rekindle a marriage relationship rooted in God’s love.

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Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!

Are you struggling with family issues that have resulted in a family rift or a family estrangement? Are you feeling a sense of shame, anger, or rejection?  Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store.

In it, I share my own experience of a seven-year estrangement from my Christian family and how we eventually reconciled. Furthermore, I provide practical advice to help you navigate your family issues. Don’t let the pain of estrangement hold you back.

Allow God to assist you in healing, no matter what has happened within your family. Remember, there is always hope to be found, even when things seem to be falling apart.

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

Join the group Christian Family Living on Facebook

Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the Christian Family Living group. 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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Julie is a wife, mom, teacher, author, and blogger. She writes about Christian family living, marriage, parenting with a touch of humor.


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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.

    • 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!!

    • 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. Thank you for being honest and vulnerable hear! I can see myself in this situation and also being angry. Choose to laugh! Great advice.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

    • Haha! Well, it doesn’t seem funny right when it happens, but it definitely can be funny when it’s over. I’ll take a rat over a snake. Eek

  7. I agree a marriage should be filled with laughter. Your post was enjoyable to read. Thanks for the laugh.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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?!

  13. This is a lovely post I read in the entire day. Trust me each word comes as a reminder on how much I need or we need to laugh in our daily life.

  14. 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.

    • 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!

  15. Hilarious! Thanks for the laugh! I can completely understand as I hate the idea of them (dead or alive) in the house 🙂

  16. 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.

    • 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.

    • Oh, now that is just awful. I’d be a crazy mess. You are so brave!!! Glad you’re laughing about it. Thanks for reading!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.


  19. Blair villanueva Reply

    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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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 🙂

  23. What a wonderful way to connect with your spouse — through laughter! We’ve had our ups and downs, but laughter has always brought us together again.

  24. 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 | meeklyloving.wordpress.com

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. I would have freaked out!!! That’s such a funny story. Laughter adds so much energy and happiness into a home. Thanks for sharing!

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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

  32. 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!

  33. 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

  34. 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!

  35. 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!

    • Yeah, the rat got me. It was HUGE. And we live in the city, but near water. My cat brings things from blocks away. She’s crazy.

  36. I am laughing so hard right now! The mouse story is really funny. Thanks for reminding me to chill and laugh it out. Marriage is supposed to be fun!

  37. bahahaha! This is awesome! I totally get it! My hubby and I have had some “mouse adventures”. Some involved laughing and some involved yelling. Laughing is a much better idea!

  38. 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. 🙂

    • Oh, that’s good. It’s kinda funny watching the husband chase and run around the house. You have to decide it’s funny instead of screaming.

  39. 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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