The Key to a Successful Marriage Is…


The key to a successful marriage.

Is there really such a thing as a totally successful marriage? In my opinion, an extraordinary and outstanding marriage does not exist for most couples; however, a somewhat happy marriage does.  

With my 35th wedding anniversary fast approaching, I thought it was an ideal time to analyze the complexities of marriage. And after nearly four decades spent together, including the raising of four kids, my husband and I have unknowingly written our own code for, at the very least, a very gratifying marriage. But it’s certainly far from perfect.

We have learned that love and respect for one another (despite adversities) ALWAYS go together. They have the same meaning as they did on our wedding day. The only difference being that these feelings multiply tenfold as the years go by. They almost become immeasurable, and that’s the foundation for a healthy marriage.

We have realized our code in achieving contentment as husband and wife for so many years has been following the 5 “Cs”:


This is the first step you take as husband and wife. I’ve always been partial to the old version of the wedding vows. At the start of this incredible journey, the promises we make are declaring to commit to each other in as many ways as possible. It’s a never-ending struggle to get past the health, the money, and the trust issues. But if you keep re-committing to those promises first made, it’s possible to at least partially resolve some problems and forge ahead as a stronger couple.


Simply put, you need to be considerate of each other’s insecurities, talents, fears, goals, jobs, physical and emotional needs, only to name a few. I’ll admit food and mealtimes are pretty big at my house (probably stemming from my Italian heritage).

Preparing a 3-course dinner in my kitchen is the bare minimum for even a Wednesday night! But the point is, I’m not always the designated short-order cook! The summer nights belong to the master grill man, which is my husband and the winter meals are more my thing. But if I know my husband has skipped lunch and is ravenous after a 10 hour day working outside, or I’ve had a long day at work or babysitting my grandchildren, we each take turns picking up the slack. Or if one of us can’t emotionally or physically handle a phone conversation with our respective family members, then the non-related one steps in. We talk out loud about the uncertainty of the next day’s work schedules and reassure each other it will all work out.


Communication is more difficult than it sounds. Sometimes voicing what you are thinking to your spouse creates more problems in the long run. I think talking things out is overrated, especially after many years of living with the same person. Some things, especially minor issues, are best left unsaid.

And certainly, there are other modes of communication besides talking, and those approaches might be more effective in getting your point across. An apology for a nasty comment can be made by pouring your spouse a cup of coffee, filling their car with gas, or watching their fave TV show, even though you don’t care for it. Eventually, tempers cool off, and even the grudge-keepers get worn down, and the usual friendly exchange of words at the kitchen table replaces the dreaded silent treatment.


This is a big one in the grand scheme of things. Let’s face it, there are certain things that you could never imagine putting up within your younger single status days, but somehow when faced with pleasing your spouse, all those self-imposed rigid rules you set suddenly dissipate. But the trick in compromising is keeping the scales balanced. One spouse can’t always compromise because resentment will rear its ugly head, and that truly can destroy any relationship.

My husband could never fathom sleeping with a nightlight, but it has been for nearly 35 years because I’m not comfortable with total darkness. I grew up not only without a single pet but would jump if a cat brushed my leg, and my heart started racing if a dog approached me. Now I live with a dog, who sleeps at my feet, 3 cats, one of which cuddles with me each night on the sofa, and a fish. Who would’ve thought that I would be married to an avid animal lover? But it works because, despite the extra work the pets create, which I, unfortunately, mostly take care of, my husband’s gentle-loving nature with our kids in their baby years and with our grandchildren is sheer joy to see! Hopefully, a compromise comes with at least one perk!


Commonalities between couples are important to an extent too. Many situations support the familiar saying, “opposites attract.” I have a mental Rolodex with everyone’s social security numbers, phone numbers, birthdays, and anniversaries. Still, I can’t figure out the driving directions to get to my daughter’s friend’s birthday party two towns over! That’s hubby’s domain. We nicely complement each other, and many other happy couples do, too, in some way. But I’m a firm believer in marrying a partner who shares a similar background, shares basic beliefs and values, especially if children are in your future.

Basic commonality regarding child-rearing has to exist; otherwise, potentially weighty disagreements can occur. We all know having and raising children is probably the most satisfying but equally most difficult job around. Remember, the transition to parenthood for both spouses is hard enough.

And when you thought you had the institution of marriage sort of figured out, one of your kids announces their engagement to their significant other. My husband and I have been there, done that. About 5 years ago, the planning of our daughter’s wedding was quite a wild ride. It all worked out perfectly on the big day, despite so many disagreements over little nothings. In the end, we had a big, fancy family party which most people thoroughly enjoyed.

I can see now, even in only 5 years, my daughter and her husband have been following our marriage code. It’s impressive to see, although their parameters on compromise are a bit tighter than ours, and their communication skills can be a little rougher and brutally honest at times. But it works for them. After all, they were married in 2014, not in 1984. Their commitment to helping each other raise healthy, happy kids is quite amazing to watch. It’s very satisfying to think we played a small part in setting a good example for this next generation.

Also, my husband and I have a future ACT III to prepare for…my oldest son recently announced his engagement to his girlfriend with a wedding date of next September. They are a newer but older couple with direction and composure. They’ve been committed to each other for a while, and their communication and consideration are blossoming.

So, an extraordinary marriage can exist. The key is the ability to pass on your wisdom and set an example for your children when their time comes, and they grow up, fall in love, and get married. Hopefully, they strive to be a strong, happy, long-lasting married couple, just like their parents have been.

Remember all young, middle-aged, and older married couples: if your spouse is your world, and your world ends when they are gone, then your marriage worked, and that profound love you were so privileged to have will never leave you!

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Fran was born, raised, married, and still lives in Mount Kisco, NY. She has four kids, including a teenage daughter and two precious grandsons, whom she babysits a couple of days a week. She also works part-time as an accounting clerk, helps run her husband’s excavation business, and lastly aspires to finish writing her book one day. Despite her crazy, busy schedule, she cooks almost every night for her big family and tries her best to keep up with the dishes! She truly believes spontaneity is the spice of life, and sometimes the very unexpected happens, but it’s usually all for the best. Enjoy her many tales of raising kids over 20 years; what an amazing journey!