“You and your wife always look so happy. You’re always getting along. Other couples aren’t like that. They get along until they get married and then they start fighting right away,” a co-worker tells my husband.

“Well, you can sure tell life agrees with you. You look even younger than the last time I saw you. You look genuinely happy,” a business associate and friend tells us after not having seen us for a year.

tips-for-happy-marriage“Sitting side by side, smiling. So happy! How romantic! You must be newlyweds,” says the waitress. (We’ve been married almost 20 years.)

“You guys are just plain and simply happy, aren’t you?” says someone we met only moments ago at a campground.

Yes, I’m happy. We’re happy.

Sometimes I get the idea that that is wrong. That it doesn’t fit with our society. That I should feel guilty. I certainly feel odd about it – that we, a happy couple, leading a happy life, are an oddity. What does it say, not only about us, but also about our culture, that both friends and strangers see our happiness and comment on it?

Perhaps it is that many people don’t know how to be happy. With that premise in mind, here’s my “Twelve Hints for Happiness.”

1. Make time for each other. Time to listen. Time to talk. Time to just be together. Play and work as a couple. Instead of rushing, slow down.

2. Appreciate something good about your partner. Tell him/her. Tell others, in front of him/her.

3. Share common goals and values. Work as a team to achieve them. Push and pull for the same basic things in your lives.

4. Say, “I love you.” Often. To yourself, your spouse, your kids, your parents, your friends, your dog and cat – anyone who is special in your life. (And, yes, family pets should be treated as people. Interaction with them has numerous mental and physical health benefits.)

5. Smile. At yourself, your friends, your family, and strangers (especially those that seem to be having a hard day). Warning – smiles are contagious and those you smile at are likely to smile back at you.

6. Take time for yourself. Do something special for yourself each day…enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee, take a bubble bath, or relax with a hobby.

7. Use the best things you have. Don’t save them for special occasions. Wear new clothes while they fit, eat produce at its peak, use your good dishes for everyday meals. Enjoy every one of your possessions.

8. Take time for your partner. Do a good deed. Give sincere compliments.

9. Enjoy the common miracles of life. Watch the sunrise. Smell wild flowers. Listen to the birds flying overhead.

10. Laugh. Share a joke, read the comics…or tickle and be tickled back.

11. Celebrate each day. Find good in it.

12. Decide to be happy. Think positively. Remember that you bring about what you think about. Remember that you have control over how you feel.