10 Years – What Is The Secret To A Happy Marriage?

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

What is the secret to a happy marriage? a frequently searched question, yet I’m convinced there simply isn’t a right or wrong answer. What works for some relationships doesn’t work for others and so on.

It is exactly ten years today since I said ‘I do’ to my husband James. A whole decade of navigating life as man and wife, parenting, becoming business owners and let’s be honest, the mundanity of the daily grind.

I used to wonder how some couples, my parents, my grandparents, stayed together for so many years. Choosing each other and no one else. How it was possible to live out your days with the exact same person by your side. Forever and always.

Wedding Anniversary Celebrating a happy marriage

The expertly edited depictions of “perfect relationships” and over the top PDA’s that are so prevalent across social media furnish the majority of the population with unrealistic expectations. Or worse, feelings of inadequacy and assumptions that the grass must be glossier on the other side. In my humble opinion? I think it’s mainly bullish*t. If you are having such a wonderful time, then why feel the need, or indeed have so much spare time, to document every living, breathing, loved-up moment.

The unequivocal negative effect of online/social media on mental health is an escalating concern. James and I have very similar views on how we approach the world’s current obsession with over-sharing when it comes to our daughters. Due to the nature of my chosen career path, I’m sure you can appreciate that this particular issue has proved to be both challenging and complex. Ultimately we agree on the big things in life. And that’s important too. Potentially life-changing decisions have to be made by 100% of the team 100% of the time.

The irony of the sunset photographs within this feature is not lost on me. We took full advantage of a ten minute window during my sister’s beautiful wedding a few weeks ago. It’s rare James and I get this dressed up for any other occasion. Behind the scenes we were mostly taking the piss out of each other. Mabel refused to smile at any point. Iris’s teething was at that stage where she requires multiple dribble bib changes.

As the clock struck midnight my sweaty post dancing face closely resembled a pumpkin. And my sequins were mostly covered in drool.

What you “see” is very rarely the full story. Or the true picture.

The hyperbole is real.

I love the way We Are The Clarkes captured us as a family and as a couple. These are our best bits. Single snapshots of a special joy filled day.

Our every day life doesn’t look anything like this. It looks like sleepless nights, never ending laundry and over filled bins. More recently it has looked like the waiting room of Birmingham children’s hospital. A&E at Warwick hospital. The beige four walls of various consulting rooms. It has looked like fear and it has looked like hope. We’ve had so much thrown at us these past 9 months, there were times I thought we might crumble.

When you are starring down the black hole of despair hold on to each other really tight. Make sure you don’t fall down the damn thing.

Secret To A Happy Marriage Flower Girl

James and I respect each other. We respect our differences. And that’s important. We have likes and dislikes that differ from each other. And that’s ok.

Compromise is a prerequisite to any happy marriage, but not one-sided compromise. That just leads to resentment. Been there, done that, worn the ill-fitting T-shirt.

Even though we are both business owners our industries are worlds apart, it makes for interesting and often eye-opening conversations. That’s important too. As much as you might appreciate each others aesthetic attributes, it can’t be enough to maintain a successful partnership. If there’s no conversation then surely there’s no laughter. According to my parents, my grandparents and anyone else’s opinion I value, laughter is the foundation of relationship longevity.

We laugh a lot. Our children make us laugh until we cry.

Happy Marriage Family Portrait

What is the secret to a happy marriage? Not a bloody clue. I just know what works for us.

Banter. Honesty. The ability to forgive. Finding each other’s funny bones. Respect. Compromise. Loving each other despite our differences. Loving each other because of our differences. In sickness and in health. Till death do us part.

Here’s to forever and always.


Photography: We Are The Clarkes
Dress {Gifted}: Needle & Thread

Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
Follow Charlotte on instagram @charlotte.oshea
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20 thoughts on “10 Years – What Is The Secret To A Happy Marriage?

  1. Thanks for bringing a breath of fresh air and reality to those ‘perfect’ relationship posts.
    Teamwork quite literally makes the dream work.

    I hope the scary times have passed xx

  2. I hope all ok with the girls. References to hospitals scare me as we’ve been through it with our youngest. Fighting fighting fighting to get through the red tape because you feel it’s what you were designed to do. All ok here now (at the minute) but it’s freaking scary as hell. So whatever has driven you to stare at those four walls, I hope it has resolved itself.

    I couldn’t agree more about social media. I like it but accept it’s a falsehood. I follow Mums who tell it like it is. You know when you’ve been there it’s not all perfection.

    1. Thanks Rebecca, I hope you are all ok now. We still have some way to go but we have received the best care – the NHS have been amazing.

      I use Social for what I want at the time – normally home decorating tips! but I can see how it’s so easy for folks to drown in a sea of make believe. I have friends that almost have – it’s so sad. x

  3. This is all so true Charlotte, the mundane makes up the vast majority but keeping respect and laughter in a relationship is key, it certainly is for us. Congratulations to you and James on 10 years, what an achievement. I hope the scary hospital times are behind you. xx

    1. Thanks Sophie, yes absolutely key! We’ve laughed through some really shitty times lately, you have to in order to keep sane.

      We have a way to go but we are receiving the best care, I mentioned in the comment above – the NHS have been amazing x

  4. Lovely to hear from you again Charlotte, happy anniversary

    That all rings so true.

    I hope the girls are doing well and isn’t the NHS incredible

  5. Lovely post Charlotte, so real and so true. Sorry to hear about the hospital visits, they really do strip you down to your bare bones and leave little left for anything else, sending lots of love as you continue to navigate that path. Honesty is so important, marriage is not about the highs all the time, nothing in life is sustainable at 100 mph. Being happy together, sharing moments, the laughs, all those highs and lows is what marriage is to me. Happy 10 years together! You look so happy in those photos, sounds like an epic family wedding xx

    1. That is so true Annie – nothing is sustainable at 100mph, and it’s felt like that for us for such a long time. We are definitely slowing down, assessing our current situation (manic) and making changes x

  6. Thank you for such an honest post, it resonated a lot with me as our eldest daughter (age 4) is a year into treatment for Leukaemia. Thankfully my husband and I are mostly pulling together, but there are times when it is so difficult, I can see how it might rip you apart. We’ve learnt so much this year, but mostly that life is short, it’s there for living and don’t sweat the small stuff! So many cliches but all so very true in times of need. Sending you love and strength for whatever you might be facing xx

    1. Stephie, thanks so much for taking the time to leave this comment. You are so brave, as is your daughter. I am so glad to hear you are pulling together even though it must be the most difficult time for you all. Life is short – I am currently in the midst of making some potentially big decisions and based on what’s happened these past months, I’m taking things slowly and really weighing up the pros and cons. Nothing is more important than family. Lots of love and hope to you and yours x

  7. Mega late to this party but congratulations again, Charlotte! These pictures are gorgeous, what a lovely setting for it.
    Ben’s brother wrote us a poem for our wedding, it was called Flying Through A Wedding and was from the perspective of two people we wanted desperately to be there but weren’t – my dad and Ben’s granny – it finished with a line that I think is perfect marriage advice; Fly slow, love high and don’t close your eyes x

  8. When you are starring down the black hole of despair hold on to each other really tight. Make sure you don’t fall down the damn thing – thank you for this. Life is overwhelming for us at the moment and this is just what I needed to read today

    1. Emma, I hope you are ok. And I have great faith that you will come out the other side just fine. It can seem completely all consuming at the time but it does get better. Promise. x

  9. Hi Charlotte,
    Just got round to reading this but what a beautiful post. I love how you write; so honest and with genuine emotion and humour. Actually brought tears to my eyes on the way to work! Agree that the NHS are amazing – they’re exactly what we need when times are hard.
    Thinking about you and the decisions ahead. Adult life and parenting is one of constant small shifts, changes and decisions, but it’s definitely the love that keeps you focused and makes it all worthwhile.

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Danni, I have only just seen it.

      “Adult life and parenting is one of constant small shifts, changes and decisions, but it’s definitely the love that keeps you focused and makes it all worthwhile”

      Love this so much x

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