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What’s the secret of a happy relationship?

I receive many letters from people who are concerned about current relationships. In my new book, ‘Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice from a Top Divorce Lawyer’, I have included some of these letters and my replies, which I hope are helpful.

Dear Marilyn,

What’s the secret of a happy relationship? I would really like to know, because my own marriage is filled with ups and downs. It isn’t good for us, and it isn’t fair on our children. I have considered divorce a number of times and have even consulted a divorce lawyer before now, although I have never been able to go through with it. But I’m not sure we can go on like this.

Dear Penny,

I am married myself and like most of us, I am a romantic at heart. I think the best relationships, the ones that last for life, are created when both partners want and do more for one another than they want and do for themselves. A shared sense of humour also plays an important role. Even when I am in the crossest of moods, my husband can always make me laugh. If you still have that spark, you can make it.

This doesn’t mean that your relationship will be perfect. But continuing to give and to put one another first will help to keep your relationship in good health. It isn’t always easy. Most of us are quite selfish but, if we consciously force ourselves to put the other person first, there is a really good chance of success. If a couple stops doing these things for one another – or even if just one of them stops – the relationship will falter and grind to a halt.

When I apply this test to people I know, some of them married for many years and others who are clients, either getting divorced or thinking about it, it rings true every time.


The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. DT says:

    I like this!
    It’s all so true, especially the bit about laughter – it’s the only thing that’s managed to get me out of the dog-house on occasion!
    I like your thought for the day, does that apply to civil partnerships too?!

  2. Marilyn Stowe says:

    Hi DT
    This is a favourite saying of my mother. In fact she bought me a little trinket box with it written on the top…not sure why…!!!!

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