The One Secret to Thirty-Five Years of Marriage

Saturday morning, two days before our 35th anniversary, we sat in our rocking chairs, porch partying. I wanted to ask my husband a few questions, but I couldn’t just blurt them out. I had to proceed delicately. With caution.

“Remember our first Christmas?” I said. “We brought home that Griswold Family Christmas tree and had to exchange it.”


“I still think I could’ve made it fit.”

“Maybe so.” Playing it cool, I yawned before asking my next question. “Do you mind if I interview you about marriage? Thirty-five years is a lotta Christmases together.”

“You know you’re going to, so go ahead.”

Yipee! I ran inside for my glasses and girl reporter steno pad.

“First question. What’s important in marriage?”

He rocked. Drank his coffee. Rocked some more.

Maybe he’s not going to answer me.

“It’s not my stuff, your stuff,” he finally said. “Or my money, your money. It’s us. Ours.”

“That’s good. What else?”

“Deception is a big deal. We don’t have any secrets.”

“True. In the past 35 years, what was your most difficult time?”

“Eating gluten-free with you.” He laughed. (I have Celiac.)

“Be serious. What about building this house? That was tough, wasn’t it?”

“That was my hardheadedness–a mechanic, building a log house.”

That’s why I love you.

I chewed my pen. Pretended to think up a new question. “So, would you say we’re best friends?”

“Something like that.”

“Looking back, what were our toughest times?”

His eyes got shiny.

I held my breath. Couldn’t believe he was going to give me a real answer.

“Burying Robbie.” (our newborn son) “Raising teenagers.”

I felt incredibly close to him. “Is there one secret to having a good marriage?”


Ready to jot down his words, I leaned toward him. “What is it?”

He rocked back and forth, back and forth. “Don’t be selfish.”

“That’s it? Three words?”

“That’s it. That covers it all.”

I thanked him for the interview and closed my notebook. “You know, you’re exactly right. Wonder why it takes years to figure this stuff out when the answers are so simple?”

“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” Matthew 7:12.

Thoughts on marriage anyone?
















  1. JULIE! RICKY! Soooo true. Thank you both for being willing to talk about the details, sometimes it’s tempting to just take the attitude that “it’s working , so let’s don’t talk about it”…but we needed to hear what you and Ricky have to share and I can’t scream AMEN loud enough to Ricky’s 3 word secret to having a good marriage…wisest advice I’ve ever heard-truly.
    love you both xo

  2. So simple yet true! We’ve only been married 22 years, but I think “we” just figured this out too. I am celiac too btw…hard times…ha!

    • Ohhh, Caroljean, can’t believe you have Celiac too!!! I would say how cool is that–but, well, you know. 🙂 Thanks so much for letting me know. And huge congratulations on 22 years!! That’s lotsa years.

  3. Brenda Osborne says:

    Great post Julie!
    This advice should be on a business card so married people could carry it in their wallet and
    occasionally take it out and read it, to remind themselves what makes a good marriage!!
    ” Don’t be selfish! ” Great advice!!!
    Thank you for posting~

    Brenda O. (Sparkle Plenty)

    • Ohhh, thank you, Sparkle. At first, I was sorta stunned. That’s it? That’s all you’re giving me. But then it settled down in my heart, and I knew he was right. Love you–wish we had time to sit and rock and catch up on one of our porches!

      • Louise says:

        My husband and I have been married for 35 years, 36 come June 10, 2014. I must say your husband is so on key! “Don’t be selfish” . We share everything, always considering the other before self. We’re both friends and lovers without secrets.

        • I’m sitting here nodding, Louise.

          THAT’S IT! That’s the secret. Rick and I haven’t always lived this way, and some days we still get it wrong, but honestly, there’s no other way.

          Thank you so much for sharing your words. And happy almost 35 years!!

          XOXOXOXO just love that. “Friends and lovers without secrets.”

  4. Sandra Walker says:

    Yep! that’s it! 🙂

  5. Patricia Martin says:

    Congrats on 35 years of a wonderful marriage! I loved the marriage advice you gave and especially the part about no secrets. My parents have been married 32 years this December.(; That is such a cute Christmas picture of you and it looks like Snoopy is in the corner of the tree watching you! Happy Holidays to you and your family!
    P.S. Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?

    • Patricia…I just love that you’re reading my blog and your parents are my age…probably younger!! Yes, I believe we had a Snoopy way back then. I’d forgotten.

      Hmmmm. Favorite Christmas movie. Every time we watch The Griswolds, Rick bleeps out the ugly words, even though our children are grown. Maybe that one. And of course, Charlie Brown Christmas. I still get nervous watching Frosty the Snowman, when he melts. Always gets to me. 🙁 I know. I feel waaaaay too deeply.

  6. By far, the best way to give marriage advice is to portray the relationship every woman’s heart longs for….you and Rick have done a lot to draw people into marital intimacy today with this open and honest blog post. Well done!

  7. So many parts of this to love. The fact that he was willing to talk about this with you- to be interviewed? Knowing it’d be part of a public forum? That is priceless in itself. But then the thoughtful and heartfelt replies? Allowing us a peek into the crux of what you have believed and practiced over 35? Makes me feel deeply honored. Happy Anniversary to you both and here’s to many blessed years more!

    • Vicky, thank you. I was sweating this one. I knew he might shut down. I mean, really. What man wants to be interviewed about his deepest feelings and THEN have his wife write about it?!!!!

      But his answers were so precious. I could’ve pushed for me, but I don’t think I needed to.

      He feels so many things (maybe all men do??) that he never says.


  8. Very nice. Good dialog. Even though it’s nonfiction, do you realize you really do have a flair for fiction?

  9. Janette says:

    I love this blog so much…how beautiful to see you and your husband together, yet willing to share and inspire us, your readers. Blessings to you this Christmas time. May the next 35 years be even more full of His mercies and grace!

    • Ohhhh, Janette. It blesses me so much to read your comment, b/c it’s hard to believe when I’m just being me (housecoat, no make-up, just sitting on the porch talking to my husband) that it’s enough. But you’re telling me it is. With God’s help–it is.

      Love you, sweet friend.

  10. Anna Haney says:

    Love this. I think another key to making it work is marrying your best friend. Even though we have only been married three (going on 4) years, Don and I first met (WOW) 23 years ago this Christmas Eve. And remember the word I chose for this year, patience? It also takes a tremendous amount of patience to learn to live with someone after living alone for 25 or more years and learning to “pick your battles.: But despite the clutter he has, his hobbies I don’t quite “get,” I would much rather spend my life with him than without him.
    I am blessed and so are you and Rick

    • Right, Anna. We were so dang young, we had no clue what we were doing. I mean, really. 18 and 19??????

      How romantic that you two met on Christmas Eve!

      I’m sure–about your patience word comes into play as far as learning to bend and flex in marriage. Sorta like Gumby and Pokey had to do. 🙂

      Ummmmn, hate to tell you, but the hobbies… you may never understand.

      Love you, my friend. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading. And letting me know it makes a difference to you.

  11. Leigh Anne says:

    Perfect! I love this!…so true and i can just hear his voice with those answers.

    • Ha!! I wrote from his direct quotes, Leigh Ann. Which shows, doesn’t it. I didn’t doctor it up at all. 🙂

      And you could probably also see I was my usual self. Asking more questions. The nerd with the notebook.


  12. Oh goodness, Julie, this made me cry! Just lovely.

  13. Kathy says:

    My husband and I celebrated our 34th anny in October. We are best friends. Can talk about anything. I met him when I was 13. He’s talked about in my high school diary, he just never knew it. He was interested in my sister, not the “little” sister. We keep God in the center of our marriage and lives, with Him we can make it through anything. Has it always been easy? NO. Love your hubby’s simple advise not to be selfish. It’s so true. P. S. Wish I had a front porch like yours to do some “porch partying” on.

    • Wow–you’re right behind us, Kathy. Y’all sound so much like us. We met when we were around that age too.

      Don’t wait to have an actual porch to porch party. As long as you spend a few minutes a day together, it doesn’t matter where you sit. I promise!!

      Thanks for writing me. Party on!

  14. Wanda Rosseland says:

    Go Rick!

    Thanks, Jewels.

  15. Wowee…profound. Intelligent. Giving. Compassionate. I love that man! And I know you do as well. Thirty-five years and counting. Incredibly woweeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

  16. Love this post…just like a man to say in so few words what it’d take a book for us to say!

  17. candis says:

    Love this post So touching .Like you, we were married in December and needed our first tree.. Fire had destroyed the home we had furnished and planned to move in after the wedding. So we started over before ever getting started. Money was at an all time low so Dale went to a little country store and asked the man if he would sell the tree in the display window and he did for a quarter lol After 39 years I think that was the most loved tree we ever had. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

    • Ohhhh, Candis—–this story is beautiful!! Wouldn’t it be pretty in a movie? I bet you loved that tree almost like it (she?) was a person!

      Thank you for sharing this with us. And you have us beat–39 years! xoxoxox

  18. Gail Thomas says:

    Wonderful story Julie, as usual. And I learned something….don’t be selfish. You would of thought that after 43 years I would have learned that! The best advice I got about marriage was from my grandma….she told me before I got married that “the first 5 years are the hardest & if you can get through that, you can get through anything.” She was so right….we grew up together (fast I might add). My husband was 20 & I was 18 when we married. And still going strong. I pass on Gramma’s advice to all my family & friends when they take that step into our club. I guess it’s worked, I haven’t heard any complaints yet. Love reading your blog Julie, & I love you! God bless!

    • Awww, Gail. Your comment blessed me so. Aren’t we always learning? It never ends. At least I hope not.

      Love the advice from your grandmother–and so true. You married young, just like we did–18 and 19. And with God’s help, we all beat the odds, didn’t we. 🙂

      Much love to you and yours, and thank you, thank you for writing to me. To us!

  19. Jan says:

    I look forward to your blog each week. Have never married so was a little surprised that after 35 years of marriage you would be so careful and caution asking your Rick your interview questions. But I GUESS you know him well. And it looks like he TRUSTS you with his heart. Congratulations and Happy Anniversary, and MANY happy returns of the day. 🙂

    • And Jan, you can’t imagine how much I look forward to comments. For a writer, this means, “Hey, someone actually reads my thoughts.” 🙂

      Yeah, I love talking more than my husband. Sometimes I have to almost sew my lips together. Maybe that’s why I write. 🙂 🙂

      Thank you, my friend. XOXOXO

  20. What a precious man! I do believe he’s a keeper, Julie!
    Happy Anniversary!

    • Yep. Any man who’ll let his wife interview him on the front porch for her blog, that’s mighty special.


  21. I love this post Julie. Don’t you just love to “interview” your own “people?” I think your husband did a great job answering the questions. After a while you just figure out it is so much more fulfilling to give than it is to receive. Thanks for sharing.

    • I do, Felicia! I talked about as much as he wanted to…… 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading and writing to me!

  22. It takes decades to learn Julie. Some couples never learn. This little interview is pure gold. Thank you children for sharing your lives openly. I am still learning from yall. Ricky doesn’t waste words or circumvent answers. I love yall.

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