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  • Kristan Higgins

Observations from a happy marriage

Updated: May 3, 2022

The flowers McIrish brought me today!

The flowers McIrish brought me today!

I don’t know much about how to make a happy marriage. All I know is how to make my marriage happy, you know what I mean? But today is my 23rd wedding anniversary to McIrish, and we are very happy, so I thought I’d share a few things we do to stay that way. It wasn’t just Cupid shooting arrows. We’ve worked hard at this, and we still do. We’re not kids anymore, after all. One of us will turn 50 next year (me. I’m a cougar).

Appreciate. I remember a day when McIrish asked me to move a pile of gravel from one place to another (there was an actual reason for this, not just a feat of strength). It was a long, hard job, and when I was done, he said, “You moved about a ton of gravel today. Not everyone could do that.” Another time, when I was wicked sick, he said later, “I’ve taken people to the hospital for less pain than you were in.” Those comments made me feel like a superhero. And who doesn’t like that? For my part, I love to brag about McIrish online, telling you guys when he saved a dog or did something special. (He loves your comments, you know.) My mom was widowed young. Two of my friends lost their husbands this past year. We can’t just assume that we’ll always have each other, so making every day count…it’s really important.

The laddie's favorite: apple pie.

The laddie’s favorite: apple pie.

Compliment. After a couple of decades together, it’s easy to forget this, because you’re so accustomed to each other. “You smell nice” or “your hair looks cute today” reminds your spouse that you still notice.

The two of us in Sydney, climbing the bridge.

The two of us in Sydney, climbing the bridge.

Be spontaneous. Doing things spur of the moment is always fun. Get in the car and go to a town you’ve never been to and have lunch. Open the door naked (but not to the UPS man…an important difference).

Prioritize. Yes, your kids are the most important people in the world to you. Nothing is more important than raising them right. It is our sacred duty to do our best on that front. But don’t forget that someday, those little fledglings will leave the nest. Make sure your marriage is given the time and importance it deserves, so it will last a lifetime—not just until the kids go to college. I recently had dinner with a couple who’d been together for more than 40 years, and their life is so full, and their love so obvious that it made me excited to get older and be married longer. (Hi, R&B! Yes, I’m talking about you!)

McIrish consoling me at Derek Jeter's last home game.

McIrish consoling me at Derek Jeter’s last home game.

Show kindness. The other night, one of us (not telling you who) woke up feeling crummy. It was three o’clock in the morning. Suddenly, it seemed quite reasonable that the cause was Ebola. (Damn that 3 a.m. Everything seems so much worse at that hour.) The other spouse reassured and soothed and got an extra blanket and promised all was well. There was no, “Not this again, you crazy hypochondriac.” No. Because we love each other.

Take action, and not just the nooky kind. There was a study recently that said being hugged for 20 seconds causes oxytocin to be released. Oxytocin is the happy drug, the same that floods a woman’s system when she gives birth. Little touches, like stroking your honey’s hair or neck, or holding hands, reinforce your bond in actions. And you know what else does that? Filling up the gas tank without being asked, or baking cookies for no reason.

23 years ago!

23 years ago!

Profess. Not a day of our 23 years of marriage has passed without us telling each other “I love you.” Most days, those words are said three or five times. Because it’s true, and it’s a gift, and we know better than to take it for granted.

Happy anniversary to my honey! Thanks for 23 wonderful years!


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