10 simple tips to a successful marriage

I do.

Two simple words.

And with those two words our life begins anew.

While I understand that marriages don’t always work out, I believe in the “till death do us part.”

We’ve all heard the statistics, 50% of marriages end in divorce.

And international marriages, like mine, have even worse odds of success.

Marriage isn’t just two people living in the same house. It’s about years of upbringing and various beliefs and habits, getting smashed together.

But like all things in life, the harder you have to work for something, the more you appreciate it.

I wish I had all the answers to a successful marriage but I don’t.

No one does.

What I do know is that my wife and I have been married for going on 9 years and we’ve lived together for 11, and we’re still going strong.

Have we had our fights? Sure…some ticky-tack stuff, but as for big ones, if you can believe it, I can count them on one hand.

So today I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on what it takes to make a marriage work.

I once asked my father once what he thought the key to a successful marriage was and he gave me the first item on my list.

  1. Laugh
  2. Be together
  3. Be alone
  4. Be considerate
  5. Don’t go to bed angry
  6. Have common ground
  7. Listen
  8. Learn
  9. Help
  10. Surprise

Let’s go through them one by one. I never really understood the power of laughter as a child, maybe because I took it for granted as my parents and I were always laughing.

My father always had the best stories and he knew how to tell them. He would have us in stitches. Living in the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar where things didn’t always go as planned definitely kept life interesting, to say the least.

The truth is that life can be frustrating living in a foreign country. But as my mentor, Jim Rohn said, “Learn how to turn frustration into fascination. You will learn more being fascinated by life than you will be being frustrated by it.”

He was right. And I’m glad that my father could always spin even the toughest situations.

And in true Shepherd tradition, I’m doing my best to make my son grows up with laughter each and every day.

If you need any more convincing of the power of laughter, consider this, laughter is the first thing to leave a marriage when people aren’t getting along.

As for the next two things on my list. Every successful married couple I know understands the importance of spending time together, but also apart. Kit Kat got it right, “Have a break…” which is why I encourage my wife to go out with her friends once or twice a month while I stay home and guard the house.

Having our own support system is important in being able to talk about the things we may not be able to talk about with our spouse.

Being considerate is, as we say here in Japan, “Atarimae” which means “naturally.”

Not going to bed angry is something my wife taught me, and while she has broken the rule once, it helped us vent our emotions rather than letting them fester as so many people do.

Common ground just means that you need to be able to share something with your partner.

A sport, perhaps. Your love of movies. Music. Something. Anything.

Those couples that share very little with each other I find are more prone to divorce for a somewhat obvious reason – different thinking.

Listen, learn, help and surprise are 4 verbs every couple should remember because there is power in each of them. Listening shows caring. Learning reflects growth and change. Helping means being there for your partner when you need them. And surprise, who doesn’t love a little surprise every now and then.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered these 10 concepts, but the truth is I’m a still learning.

I’ve found that success in marriage is like success in anything.

We can always learn more. We will make mistakes. But it’s all worth it.

Adrian Shepherd


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