It's a fact of life: Grandmas know everything. Whether it's the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe, wedding invite etiquette, or how to sew that button back on — grandmas continually prove that experience begets wisdom. For many, their expertise also extends to the topic of marriage — and more specifically, how to have a happy, fulfilling relationship that spans decades. To offer some sage advice as you enter into newlywed bliss — and beyond — we asked a handful of grandmas to share their secrets for a happy marriage.
1. Fan the Flame
First things first, grandmas know it's necessary to keep that spark alive throughout the years. "You have to really have a lot of lust going — otherwise it's not a good marriage," Peggy Colvin, wife of 59 years, says. For most, that means finding and creating romance regularly.
"The second of every month is our anniversary so we celebrate monthly. We get up in the morning and say 'Happy Anniversary!' and we kiss," Sandra Martindale, married 39 years, says.
"I'm 66 years old next week, and whether I have my hair fixed, or whether I put makeup on, or whether I'm out in the yard digging and putting flowers in, he always makes me feel beautiful. I think I could be 85 years old in a rocking chair and he could still make me feel beautiful," Judy Lauer, married 34 years, says.
2. Have Empathy
Another key takeaway from all of our interviews: check any ounce of selfishness at the door — err, altar. "A really good marriage lasts when the two people care more for the other one than they do themselves," Lauer says.
"It's important that you have extreme respect for each other, that you find yourself thinking about what he would like, not necessarily what you would like," Marge Hagy, married 65 years, echoes.
3. Respect Common Goals
Another key tip? Make sure you're aligned on future goals — financial and otherwise. "We mutually discuss most things that we want to accomplish. You have to always be thinking about the other person as an appendage of yours. You are always thinking not just about yourself, it's always about we, and what we want to do," Hagy advises.
"We respect each other. I wouldn't go out and make a large purchase without his consent, and he wouldn't do that without my consent," Martindale says.
4. Bite Your Tongue
You know how grandma always taught you to keep that pretty mouth shut when you don't have something nice to say? Her rule also applies to marriage.
"The number one thing — it's a cliché but it's so true — is slow to anger and never say anything that you wish you could take back. It's better to say nothing at all than to react with emotion and then wish you hadn't said that. Because even with an apology, once words are heard they aren't un-heard," Lauer says.
Restraint is also the key to dealing with your groom's less desirable habits that unveil themselves over the years. "Don't be a nag, don't always find fault. Ignore some petty things that don't matter that much. Nobody's perfect," Nancy Hampton, married 60 years, says.
5. Be Grateful
The final ingredient in the recipe for a successful marriage? Remaining present and grateful for small, everyday joys, Lauer says. "What I like is what's happening to me right at this moment. And that's that my husband just walked in and I see him, and he lights up with a smile, and I light up with a smile."
So, if you're nervous for the honeymoon to end and reality to set in, fret not. Grandma Martindale concludes, "There are hills and valleys, but the longer you're married the better it gets."