Skip to main content

How to Have a Successful Marriage (Lessons From My Parents)

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

8 Tips for a Healthy Marriage

I always love to hear the story of how my parents met. The short version of the story is: A boy with great abs (my dad likes to repeatedly point this out) gets good grades in class; a pretty girl was impressed, and mutual friends introduced this boy and girl and soon a relationship started. My parents met when my dad was 17 and my mom was 15, and they have been together since and are now married for over 40 years (and counting)!

So how did they do it? How can two human beings stay committed to one relationship (or some might say tolerate each other) for so long?

Below are some tips from my parents on how to have a successful marriage of your own.

1. Quality Time Can Be Overrated

Ever since we (the kids) moved out and there is more space in the house, my parents created their own areas in the house where they like to spend time alone doing their own things. Initially, I thought it was strange (because you would have expect a couple who love each other to want to spend as much time together as possible). However, my dad thinks that the concept of spending quality time together is a little overrated, especially when couples have been together for so many years.

This is not to say quality time is not important, but having time away from our spouse and being allowed to freely do our own things and collect our thoughts is equally important.

2. It's Ok to Have Little Secrets & Privacy

I'm not talking about big secrets like affairs or lying about money issues.

Secrets that do not have significant impact on the relationship or cause considerable distress to your spouse are not all that bad. Although open communication is important in a relationship, there is no need to tell your spouse every single details of your life. You are after all an individual and everyone is entitled to have their little secrets and indulgences.

You should give each other space and privacy when needed. I've heard of individuals who secretly check on their partners' phones for no legitimate reasons or are obsessed about everything his/her partner is doing or where they are at. This type of behavior is very unhealthy in the long run.

3. Don't Loosely Use the 'D' Word

My parents always warn me that no matter how angry or upset you are at your spouse, never ever loosely use the word 'divorce' (unless you really really REALLY mean it).

If you are in a serious relationship, the idea of divorce is not something to be taken lightly.

Constantly using it can create distrust and insecurity in the marriage. Being angry or upset (during a typical argument) is NOT a good enough excuse to say it. Don't always have the habit to jump straight into the idea of divorce and don't threaten divorce just with the intent to hurt the feelings of your partner.

4. Don't Disrespect Each Other (Especially in Public)

Knowing how to have a successful marriage involves knowing how to respect each other in the relationship.

Everyone has pride and my dad told me that it is never acceptable to publicly shame and disrespect your other half (unless of course he/she cheated on you - hah).

I have seen and heard many occasions when wives talk down their husbands and call them useless or complain about them to others with the husband sitting right there. There are also husbands who scold their wives in public or show their displeasure by throwing things at them (this of course is unacceptable in any setting).

No matter how angry or frustrated you are, don't lash out or show your displeasure in public. These negative experiences will create cracks in your relationship and one day it may become too broken to be mended.

How to have a successful marriage - Be quick to forgive and forget!

How to have a successful marriage - Be quick to forgive and forget!

5. Be Quick to Voice Out Your Unhappiness, but Be Quicker to Forgive and Forget

I have witnessed serious arguments between my parents - sometimes it became so bad that they were literally screaming at each other. However, by the next day, they were talking to each other as if they weren't on the verge of killing each other the day before.

In a marriage, there will always be disagreements, but at the end of the day if you both make the choice to resolve arguments quickly, and learn to give and take, it will make your life and marriage much happier. Remember that couples do not always have to see eye to eye - each discussion or arguement do not need to have a clear winner or loser. If disagreements make both parties unhappy, then nobody wins.

6. It's Ok to Have Different Interests

When my parents were dating, they would sometimes go their separate ways for short periods of time during the date. My mom would shop and my dad - I'm guessing the arcade. They would meet back in the late afternoon to have dinner and movies afters. Forty years on, they are still doing the same thing.

Being in a relationship together does not mean that a couple has to have many shared interests. Respecting each other's interests and giving the other party space to pursue their passion can keep a marriage healthy and happy. If your partner does not share the same love for something, don't force it upon your partner. Pursue it on your own or find friends who enjoy it as much as you.

7. Don't Always Fuss About the Kids

Your kids are important. But you and your partner are also important. If you take care of yourselves, you will be able to take better care of the people around you. If you are obsessed with your kids (and believe me, some people are), then you will be blind to the needs of your partner and that can really break a marriage.

So do what you need to do, but remember to give some love to yourself and your other half as well.

It is also important to train your kids to be independent from since young so that they can take better care of themselves and you can start to let go as your kids get older. My parents used to make us do chores when we were very little and taught us how to manage our allowances. We were encouraged to go out with friends, go dating (under some remote supervision from my dad though), travel, get part time jobs and make our own decisions (the good and the bad). We were taught that we were responsible for ourselves so I guess when it came to the time when my parents had to let go (and start doing more for themselves), it was easier.

8. Have a United Mindset

Being in a marriage is not all about romance and adventure. A successful marriage requires a couple to have an open communication and problem solve as a team. It takes practice for a couple to function as a unit. There will be many major decisions that you will need to make in a marriage (e.g. whether to have kids, finances).

If you and your partner are not very good at making decisions together, you can start practicing by learning to agree on small compromises first (e.g. what to cook for dinner or what to do during the weekend). If the topic of big decisions feels a little awkward, approach it in a light hearted manner and set some time to regularly discuss about it. Give yourself time to also think about what you want before talking to your partner. Eventually, you will both feel more comfortable to talk things through together and find solutions that are right for both of you.

More Secrets to a Happy Marriage

  • 3 Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married
    Divorce rates are getting higher and people are struggling to stay in a marriage. So what should we do? Read more to understand the 'Things I wish I'd known before we got married' by Dr Gary Chapman

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Kawai