What is the secret to our happy marriage?

What is the secret to our happy marriage?

While riding an airport shuttle recently, Karen and I sat next to a lady who represents Microsoft.  After we had chatted with her for a while, the lady asked us suddenly: “What is the secret to your marriage?”

We gave her a good answer, but since then I have been thinking more about the question:

“What is the secret to our years and years of marriage?”

An outline has emerged from my reflections and I have already developed it for a couple of speaking engagements! Here it is, for your own reflection:

1. Sanctifying Christ as Lord in our Hearts
From 1 Peter 3:15 “…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Karen and I seek to exalt and “set apart” Jesus Christ as Lord of our hearts and our home. Here’s a poem that often comes to mind:

“Happy the home where Jesus’ Name is sweet to every ear;
Where children early speak His fame, and parents hold Him dear.

Lord, let us in our homes agree this blessèd peace to gain;
Unite our hearts in love to Thee, and love to all will reign.” 1

2. Seeing the Funny Side of Ourselves
Proverbs 17:22 tells us that: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Karen and I always enjoy having a good laugh at ourselves!

3. Sharing the Love of Christ with Others
Philippians 1:3-5 says: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.” Teaming together day-by-day in seeking to fulfill the Matthew 28:18-20 “Great Commission” keeps Karen and me close and accountable through days of joy and days of tough challenge. 

4. Singing Together!
Ephesians 5:19 calls us to be: “…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord…” Ever since our 1966 summer of courtship while commercial fishing in Alaska, we have sung together. One of Karen’s former boyfriends had given her a guitar that hung in a gear room. Happily, I ended up using that same guitar to accompany Karen’s and my first duet: “The Mercies of God.”  We don’t know who wrote that hymn, but whoever did sure’ provided us with some great lines for the benefits of singing together! Here are the words:

“The Mercies of God”:
The mercies of God! What a theme for my song!
Oh! I never could number them o’er.
They’re more than the stars in the heavenly dome,
Or the sands of the wave-beaten shore.

For mercies so great,
What return can I make,
For mercies so constant and sure?
I’ll love Him, I’ll serve Him, with all that I have
As long as my life shall endure.

They greet me at morn when I waken from sleep,
And they gladden my heart at the noon.
They follow me on into shades of the night
When the day with its labor is done.

His goodness and mercy will follow me still,
Even on to the end of my way.
I have His sure promise and that cannot fail:
That His mercy endureth for aye.

5. Scheduling Times for Fun Together
Proverbs 5:18: “… 2 rejoice with the wife of your youth.” Regularly going out on dates together continues to be our practice, and the Lord has always enriched our relationship through those special times of just-you-and-me togetherness.

6. Showing Grace to Each Other
Ephesians 4:32 instructs us to: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Karen and I both wish we could say that we always express to each other the healing, forgiving, tender-hearted, kindness and compassion of Christ, but when we do draw near to Him, recognize His Calvary Love, and ask Him to fill us with His own character for the benefit of our mate, what joy fills our marriage!

7. Serving Each Other
Galatians 5:13 says: “…by love serve one another.”
Try making a private list of what you know your partner needs and wants from you, and regularly calling on the power of the Holy Spirit, do all those things. From our own experience, we often give this piece of advice to newlyweds: Figure out what the other person wants and needs, and just do it, it won’t kill you!

Here’s a favorite hymn of ours that contains a wonderful set of marriage-healing, marriage-building lines:

“Will You Let Me Be Your Servant?”: 3
Will you let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I might have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are trav’lers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear.

I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping,
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony,
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony.
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you?

Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.

What about you? What secrets have you learned about your relationship with your loved one? Please share them with us in the comments.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. By Henry Ware, 1794-1843
  2. The Hebrew word for “rejoice” is “samach,” which in English translates to “be glad with.”
  3. Lyric by Richard Gillard, 1977, alt. Text and Music © 1977— “Scripture in Song”: CCLI #1735873)


An ex-patriate Australian living full-throttle in Big Sky Country until he “lays rubber all the way into Heaven!”

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7 Responses to 7 Secrets to a Happy Marriage

  1. Great food for thought. Thank you for sharing. I for one am glad that you and Mama got married!

  2. Great article. Thank you for sharing, and for showing each other so much love!

  3. Man Da says:

    Grahame, Dave and I (Sarah) are so thankful for the 46 years together that God has given us and that we’ll be celebrating this weekend. I amened every one of the things you said. Each is so true and because of them we love each other more now than last year and every year before that. Maybe someday we’ll be able to come to Montana and see you all! Blessing on you both.

    • Grahame Nicolson says:

      Aah…there’s that message! Yes, 46 years is a great number, and thanks be to God we’ve clocked the same record. It would be great to see you in Montana.
      Have a wonderful celebration, you two! -G for G&K

  4. Bubette says:

    Sometimes it’s easy to get side-tracked by life and caught up with “self” and then this beautiful list of truths gets trampled and forgotten. It’s painful to admit, but yes, I am speaking from personal experience. In the “not-quite-six-years” we’ve been married, my hubby and I have had some very difficult times–heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching, soul-wrenching times. But God is gracious and merciful, so we’ve also enjoyed some very good, blessed times as well–I’ve every confidence there are plenty more good times to come. Thank you for your godly example over the years and for your love, support and encouragement. I love you both so very much!

    • Dear, dear, dear Bubette! I just checked the back of THE BOOK, and…guess what…we win! Yes, Karen & I and you & Joseph have had and will still have our battles, but by the grace and mercy of God we can and will win! Eventually, like Karen & me these many recent years, you won’t even remember the bumps of those early years and you’ll be friends and lovers and parents and God-blessed children of the kingdom, smiling and laying rubber all the way into heaven! Hugs to you and JW and those precious kids. –Bub

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