Marriage advice on Valentine’s Day


I’ve been privileged to be married for nearly 35 years to the most wonderful man in the world. On this Valentine’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on what makes a happy marriage. This is what I’ve learned.

Marry someone who is kind: There is no way to know what life will bring, but I always knew, no matter what happened that my husband would be good to me.

Marry someone who is smart … but don’t let him know exactly how smart you think he is: I like to say that I taught my husband everything he knows, but that’s not true. He’s one of the smartest, most engaged, most interesting people I have ever met. I improved him, of course, but that’s what a wife does.

Marry someone who will be a good parent: Parenting is a big part of marriage for most people and it helps to share it with someone who is a fabulous parent; my husband is an outstanding father. Whatever kind of parent I have been, I have been far better because of his advice, wisdom and patience, both with our children … and with me.

Marry your best friend: Ann Landers, an advice columnist who didn’t live to see the digital age, and is therefore someone you may have never heard of, used to say: “Love is friendship that has caught fire.” My husband was my friend long before we dated and he has remained by best friend ever since.

Don’t get married unless you can’t live without him. Our friends and family know the story of when I first declared that I could marry my husband … before I ever dated him. That shows you how sure I was that I could live with him, but I was equally sure that I could not live without him.

All the best things in my life come from my husband — our marriage, our children, our home, amazing experiences like family reunions and vacations to wonderful places … not to mention some really nice jewelry. He has made my life better in every possible way and I love him and need him more than mere words can say.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone is spending the day with those you love.

19 Responses to “Marriage advice on Valentine’s Day”

  1. DelphiniumFalcon
    February 16, 2016 at 11:42 am #

    Such a nice post. 🙂

    My parents have a lovely embroidery piece done by one of our relatives for their wedding with the phrase, “Happiness is being married to your best friend.” I’m happy to say I’m lucky enough to have just that.

    We talked every day for years just as friends who happened to be playing the same games and then when someone was trying to set me up on dates we had to face what would happen if one of us did start dating. We’d probably have to stop talking. We decided we didn’t want that to happen and there was an easy solution to this problem.

    Four years of friendship and three and a half years of marriage and we’re still best friends.

  2. February 15, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

    I married my husband because of an elderly man in a rural bar. Nico and I had been dating for a while and were at an Irish music concert in a packed-to-the-fire-marshall-limit bar. We were seated across from an elderly man who seemed a bit lonely. Nico struck up a conversation with him and the elderly man was thrilled to hear that Nico was a farmer and wanted to discuss all sorts of memories about tractors with him. Nico happily chatted with this man about tractors between sets. The elderly man, whose name I cannot remember, had recently moved from a rural area to the city to live with his daughter. He was grateful that he could live with his daughter, but he missed having someone to talk about country stuff with.

    Seeing how thoughtful and kind my Nico was to an elderly man he’d never met before and would likely never meet again….well, I knew if he could be that gentle to a stranger, I could trust my heart to him.

    Added good sign: When I related this anecdote to Nico a few month later, he looked confused and said “Well, yeah. Isn’t that what everyone does?” No, honey, not everyone is as thoughtful….and that’s why he’s a keeper.

  3. Box of Salt
    February 15, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

    Thank you.

    we and I are better, as people and as parents, together than we are individually. We can shore up each others’ weaknesses. And that has a lot of value.

    Happy (late) Valentine’s Day to all.

  4. Megan
    February 15, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    My husband’s grandparents always used to say that marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100. I always thought that was great advice. A good marriage takes tending to, and both parties have to be committed to that. It helps when you’re also great friends and truly like and respect each other as well.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      February 15, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

      “I don’t want to be your better half, I believe that one and one make two”
      Alanis Morissette

      And I’m not the doctor…

  5. yentavegan
    February 15, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    My husband is the the best husband in the world. He sacrifices for the sake of our marriage and also gives me beautiful jewelry. He challenges me to keep growing intellectually and calls me out on the bullsh&t. I tell the kids that I love him more than I love them, and that his word is the law. He is our protector and our anchor. I shower him with affection and home cooked meals.

  6. MaineJen
    February 15, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Congratulations…happiness in marriage is worth everything. 🙂

  7. Anne Catherine
    February 15, 2016 at 8:50 am #

    What a lovely Valentines post. I’m all tear-eyed.

  8. Who?
    February 15, 2016 at 1:51 am #

    Kindness is seriously underrated. Very happy to see it right at the top of the list.

    I’d second Sue’s shared valued comment below-so much apparent stuff is actually small stuff when it is shared by people with aligned values.

  9. RMY
    February 14, 2016 at 10:35 pm #

    Marry someone you respect who has respect for you – that’s my first rule. If there’s thoughtful mutual respect, the relationship will be healthy.

  10. Sue
    February 14, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

    Great post.

    I’m coming up to thirty years next week, with a kind, smart man who is a great parent. We decided to get married because we couldn’t see life in any other way.

    I would add one more condition for success – shared values. If you work out life’s basic stuff in a similar way, there’s much less chance for conflict.

  11. CSN0116
    February 14, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    Loving your last point. I met my husband at 1:00 am at a Denny’s diner. He chatted me up inside the restaurant and then tried again in the parking lot. I gave him my number, he said he’d call, and we parted ways. I was with my best friend and called her later that night (earlier that morning lol) and told her point blank: “That guy is going to call and I’m going to end up marrying him.”

    He called. We went out once and became inseparable. We were married in Vegas, by “Elvis,” exactly one year after the night that we met.

    We had TWO babies before our first wedding anniversary and have added three more, a home, a PhD, and so many memories. I come from a long line of divorce – my mother has had three and my father two – so my marriage is my most serious and devout investment; it means the world to me. We don’t have everything, but we have everything that matters. The part about marrying a good father is so important too. I wish I was half the parent my husband is.

    And we don’t always have good days – and the bad days are *really* bad – but we’re here eight years later and owning it 😉

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  12. Felicitasz
    February 14, 2016 at 7:46 pm #

    To respond to the most important part of the piece 😉 : I DID hear of Ann Landers, I also wrote about her – hers was the famous poll “if you had to do it again, would you have children?” in 1975, a totally shocking question at the time.

    I love your post, Happy Valentine’s day to us all.

  13. BeatriceC
    February 14, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    I’m going to have to disagree on one point: MrC is the most wonderful man in the world. Everything else is spot on!

  14. Bombshellrisa
    February 14, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    I just read this aloud to my husband. He wants this printed and posted on our fridge. This is such a beautiful piece, thank you Dr Amy!
    (We agree especially about being friends first, my husband and I were friends and that friendship blossomed into love. We have been married for 14 years now. Our joke is that our life is like a slumber party with our best friend every single day).

  15. sdsures
    February 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm #


  16. Adrienne
    February 14, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

    Great advice. The only thing I would add is as follows: the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, it’s greener where you fertilize it.

    And, for when the bickering (about little unimportant things) gets out of control, ask yourself this question: do you want to be right or do you want to be married?

    • The Bofa on the Sofa
      February 15, 2016 at 11:40 am #

      The only thing I would add is as follows: the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, it’s greener where you fertilize it.

      I like it.

      “The grass is always greener over the septic tank” – Erma Bombeck

      I would add: The key to marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.

      That is the motto of our marriage, and we have a needlepoint (given to us by my niece, our flower girl, for a wedding present) still hanging in our bedroom 23 years later. We actually got our niece a wallhanging with that on it for her wedding a couple years back.

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