True Stories: Inspiring Words from Real Couples

The 1,001 men and women who participated in the Reader’s Digest Marriage in America Survey didn’t get paid to participate;

The 1,001 men and women who participated in the Reader’s Digest Marriage in America Survey didn’t get paid to participate; in fact, all that sparked their participation was an e-mail. But they willingly gave their opinions and words because — we assume — the topic of marriage meant a lot to them. That became obvious the moment we started to read what they had to say.

We asked them to share the most cherished moments — and deepest regrets — from their marriages. And so they did. They talked about moments of connection at an out-of-town diner, over eggs and coffee at 3 a.m. Of a wife waking from a coma and a husband proposing marriage from a hospital bed. Of affairs they regretted and companionship beyond anything they feel they deserve. Of children and kisses, elementary school sweethearts, and second marriages that feel just right.

As you’ve seen through this book, their collected wisdom is poetry, filled with hard-won joy and wisdom that speaks eloquently of the true state of marriage in the United States. Not every comment is heartwarming, mind you, and not every sentiment is universal (such as the one from a guy speaking of the joys of open marriage), but all are honest and true. We hope these moments from everyday marriages touch you as much as they moved us.

  • My husband is my best friend, my soul mate. We have both promised each other that when the other goes, the one left behind will not date or remarry, as we both believe that we were lucky to have found the perfect mate and will be married for eternity.
  • I asked the universe for my perfect match, thinking that no such thing could happen, and the universe provided. I am thankful and blessed to have my husband.
  • After being married two other times, I finally got it right. I have a wonderful husband who I can talk with all the time.
  • We have had an open relationship and open marriage since 1995. We both date other people, and everything is out in the open. I have two girlfriends and my wife has one boyfriend.
  • Wouldn’t give a nickel to do it again, but wouldn’t take a million to lose her.
  • I love my wife with all my heart and forever will. She is my guiding star. My everything.
  • Can’t live with her, can’t live without her.
  • Being married to my spouse has provided me with an insight to myself that I would never have achieved otherwise.
  • She can’t see well; I can’t hear well.
  • We liked each other in the fourth grade, again in the eighth grade, and still again as seniors in high school. After we both graduated from college, we got married and have been happily married for 43 years.

What I Love …

  • When I wake up to my husband gently kissing my arm.
  • Whenever he says or does something to show love without being prompted.
  • Whenever there are deer, bunnies, or snow in our yard, and my husband sees them before I do, he always comes and gets me to see them too.
  • Watching our marriage increase in quality over the last 20 years. We have learned that it’s necessary to have good communication.
  • Every night after work, getting a simple hug and a kiss and saying “I love you” to each other.
  • Seeing him as my father walked me to him; his face was perfect.
  • Having our children from our previous marriages in the wedding. We became a family together.
  • That he flew 2,000 miles to marry me.
  • The look he gave me when he saw me in my wedding dress. His face and his eyes were so full of love, as if I were the most beautiful person in the entire world.
  • The day my husband asked my son (from my previous marriage) if he could have permission to marry me. Also the day my son walked me down the aisle.
  • When my husband gave me the engagement and wedding rings I currently wear — both handcrafted for me — one from his family’s birthplace in Ireland and one made by a designer. The love in his eyes and heart when he gave them to me were more than words could ever describe.
  • Everything was so beautiful, especially my wife and two daughters who were our flower girls. Even now, two years later, I ask my wife on our anniversary if she’ll marry me again!
  • The day of our marriage, we went to the movies, to a Brad Paisley concert, and then we went back to our hotel. The best thing about it was that it was just like any other day, not anything fancy, just another day of Kelli and I being together.
  • The moment she said, “I do.” From that time on, my world’s never been the same. I have her and she has me — we’re the most inseparable couple.
  • How absolutely beautiful she looked on our wedding day.
  • Traveling 7,000 miles to Japan to marry my wife.
  • Finding out we were pregnant with our daughter. We found out on Christmas Eve. We’d been praying for a child for almost six years.
  • My husband being with me the whole time I was giving birth to our son. He held my hand and described what he was seeing.
  • The day our daughters were born. He had tears in his eyes — it showed me how much love he had for our daughters. He might look like a strong, hard man on the outside, but inside he’s a very sweet, loving man.
  • When my husband told me he wanted to adopt my children.
  • Bringing our baby son to our company’s Christmas/family day. That’s when I really felt like everything had come together for us.
  • The doctor letting me deliver our son.
  • The day we brought our daughter home from the adoption agency.
  • The birth of our first child. She was to be induced labor in the late afternoon, so I went to work and was planning to get off early, but then they had to induce her much earlier. I was across town making a delivery and had five minutes to get to the hospital. I didn’t make it, but we kinda laugh about it. When our second child was born,I took the whole week off, just to make sure I wouldn’t miss it!
  • Watching our children become successful in their careers.
  • Time spent fighting about things that were really not important.
  • Years of harsh words that cannot be erased and all the mistakes that were made that hardened our hearts and brought us to the level that we are at right now.
  • That I allowed my husband early in our relationship to yell and verbally abuse me for a number of years before insisting that he go to anger management.
  • My own job that took so many years away from “our” lives — it was a total worthless drain. Little money and no recognition for 18-hour days.
  • Old age. There is not much golden about it. Illness and surgeries have interfered with growing old and enjoying our golden years.
  • Writing a very pointed and mean e-mail to my wife during the second year of our marriage. We were on the verge of divorce.
  • I most deeply regret the resentment that has built up through the years and our lack of passion.
  • That my wife and my first daughter (from my previous marriage) don’t get along all that well.
  • Not taking my wife to a professional after she had a tubal pregnancy at the age of 35 and was never pregnant again. Had the doctor known what to do, we could have saved our only child.
  • Not starting to save for retirement and children right away.
  • Not getting married in my wife’s country with her family around us.
  • I regret my total lack of understanding of a bride’s expectations for the first night of marriage.
  • I love being married, but it can be challenging. If you try to maintain an attitude of fairness and an ability to admit when you’re wrong, you can get through most things.
  • We decided before marriage that divorce was NOT an option. Our problems would be worked out no matter what. Of course, it helped that we were at least 10 hours from the nearest in-law, so running home to Mama wasn’t an option.
  • Divorce is too easy these days. In a marriage, you have to keep working at it and not just focus on the bad qualities. You’ve got to remember the good qualities of your partner, why you loved them when you first married them.
  • Keep an open mind, openly communicate, and don’t let things get out of hand. Handle small slights and problems immediately. It’s been positive in our marriage and has helped us to survive.
  • My wife and I don’t make very many decisions by ourselves, especially when it concerns family needs. We are very good about bouncing ideas off each other. We don’t argue. We just state our opinion to each other and go on loving.
  • We both willingly give up our wants and our needs for the other’s benefit. We have always bolstered each other and tried to keep our criticisms gentle, never bringing each other down intentionally. We are always willing to forgive and forget quickly, and go forward.
  • Communication is the most important thing — without it on both sides, there is no marriage. The point is not trying to change the other to fit our desires; it’s taking them as they are.
  • The day that we walked through our brand-new home and took a second to relish the feeling that it was truly about to become ours.
  • Watching the sun come up on the top of the Haleakala volcano in Hawaii.
  • Recently, after an argument, instead of verbally apologizing, I came home to find that he had cooked dinner for me.
  • When I came home from a business trip and the house was completely cleaned, and all over were little notes that said “I love you.” I found those notes for weeks.
  • How gentle, kind, and helpful my husband was when my father was dying of cancer.
  • The day I banged into the garage door, and his response was, “Guess it’s my turn to do something dumb now.”
  • My husband’s “best man” speech at his friend’s wedding. He told the couple that he wished them the happiness in their marriage that he has in his.
  • We had been married about six months, and I had a major toothache so bad I could not stand it. He was so concerned. He called all the dentists in the area, begging each one until he found a dentist that would see me that morning. He took the entire day off work and spent the whole day taking care of me and only me.
  • Reading the Hans Christian Andersen story “Great Claus and Little Claus” at a picnic for two by a river, and laughing and laughing.
  • My wife surprised me with a chance to DJ at our favorite club for my birthday. She’d done all the legwork as far as setting it up and only told me when I had to start picking out music to take.
  • The day he told me I was his best friend.
  • Waking up on a weekend morning with a whole day of lazing around together ahead of us (important contextual note: pre- children!).
  • One rainy afternoon, sitting on the couch — him on one end, me on the other with our feet in the middle — each reading a book.
  • Realizing that she deserves better than me and could have found a better life, but instead she picked and stayed with me.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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