A Spicy Perspective

Secrets to a Happy Marriage

There are times when I have something to share that doesn’t quite fit into the edible perimeters of a recipe post. Things I’m thinking about pertaining to life, family, struggles… Things you might be thinking about as well.

So today I’m introducing a new segment on A Spicy Perspective, GIRL TALK.

Secrets to a Happy MarriageMay 3, 1999

Men… Wonderful wonderful men, don’t shy away from such posts. (Well, you can if you want to.) If there’s a lady in your life, these little insights into the intricate web of a woman’s mind, might shed some light.

Maybe. No promises.

So we’re starting our first GIRL TALK today by discussing the end-all of girlie topics, relationships.

Dan & Sommer CollierMay 3, 1999

Lt. Dan and I just celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary.

See that ravishing couple above?

That was us a long long time ago, before life, genes, and children beat us down a bit. I’ve been married to my best friend for 15 years, and have known him for 20. More than half my life. (I feel really old when I say that.)

Dan and I have been happy throughout our marriage. We love, and generally like, each other… Except for the rare occasions when an epic verbal brawl breaks out, which happens less than once a year and always under a full moon. No lie.

We call those Dark Days in the Collier House.

Colliers in Hawaii 2007Hawaii 2007

We’ve certainly had our ups and downs, as any couple does. Yet we’ve stood by each other through tough times, and have always come out stronger after each trial.

So humor me today by letting me share a few things I’ve learned about relationships over the years. Maybe what I have to say is nothing new to you… but just maybe, there’s something here that might speak to you.

Dan and Sommer Collier 2014Most recent instagram shot for us.

You don’t fall in love, you choose to love. On the flip side, you don’t fall out of love, you decide not to love someone anymore.

The idea of falling in love or love at first sight is the complete opposite of real love. It’s infatuation and physical attraction. Nothing more.

Real love is a decision you make day after day, after ragged day. It’s choosing to stick by someone when they have shown they’re less than perfect. It’s choosing to see that person for who they really are, and who they will continue to become, not for what they look like now, or what we hope they’ll look like in the future.

Real love loves when a spouse wakes up in the morning with crusty eyes, bed head, and way more wrinkles than you remembered seeing yesterday.

Real love is deciding that even when that person fails you, you will be there. You will forgive.

Real love fights against all our self-protective (and often selfish) tendencies. Real love is a personal sacrifice you make on a daily basis.

Real love is HARD and not often glamorous… Yet there is nothing on earth with a greater reward.


If your family and friends hate your date, get the heck out of that relationship. A little pre-marriage advice here… I’ve yet to meet a person in a lasting relationship, that married someone their family disliked or distrusted.

It VERY rarely happens, friend. The exceptions are so rare, it’s not wise to think your relationship is one of them. (Sorry for the tough love.)

You know that infatuation I mentioned above? It’s blinding. All you see are the eyes, the lips, the muscles (or T and A, guys.) All you hear is the sexy laugh and the tantalizing stories.

You can’t see the true colors of that person, because you are lost in woozy infatuation.

We have watched friend after friend fall into the trap of defending their date against warnings from loved-ones, to the point of creating division in their family, only to suffer serious heart-break and humiliation down the road.

If your family and closest friends have a long record of steering you in the right direction, listen to them. Trust the people that have loved you your entire life… They are greatly invested in your happiness and future.


We often know what we want, but not what we need. Most of us feel we have a certain”type” of person we’re attracted to or belong with. However, I’ve noticed most people in a happy healthy relationship aren’t necessarily paired with the kind of person they once thought they would end up with.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself by casting aside quality individuals that don’t quite match your ideal physical appearance, job description, or personality.

I’m not talking about lowering your standards when it comes to faith or personal values. I’m simply suggesting you try dating out of the box.

We don’t always know ourselves as well as we’d like to believe. Sometimes the quality we think of as a turn-off in a potential partner, is the exact quality that will balance us in a relationship. By being willing to broaden your horizons, you might just end up with an unexpected relationship that is better than what you could have dreamed.


Follow the golden rule. You know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you?

Let’s take that a step further… For a healthy relationship, Dan and I have found the key to happiness is that we both do what we know the other person would prefer, even when it’s not what we personally want.

I’m not talking about putting yourself in a subservient position in an abusive relationship. Let’s be clear there. Yet when both partners are thinking about and doing what they know the other person would like, relationships are unbelievably easy.

When you prefer the other and they prefer you… life is good. On the flip side, when you have to be right. When you have to be first. When having to be justified is your mode of operation, relationships are nearly impossible.

We all want to be right. However, I learned the hard way that swallowing my know-it-all attitude and smart comments is key to a happy marriage.

Personally, I’d rather stay married than be right all the time.


Children are a gift, but they are not a solution. When you’re young and your relationship is rocky, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you have a baby, life will be happy again and all your relational issues will go away in the glow of baby euphoria.

Wrong. Answer.

Raising kids is hard work. My children are one of the greatest blessings of my life. They are my passion and my legacy.

But… they come with daily challenges and responsibilities that would only elevate marital struggles. Not to mention the serious life-long emotional scars we inflict on children growing up in a rocky home.

Please, I beg you, work on fixing your relationship before making babies.


Get your priorities in line. Life is so often out of control, it’s easy to let your priorities fall to the wayside.

Dan and I have found that we have to set aside time to reevaluate our priorities, and get them back on track.

Are we making time for each other?  Do we have ample time to spend with our kids? Are we focused on our faith and passions? Are we making memories? …Or are we just getting swept away with being busy?

Self evaluation is a good thing for relationships. If we let the craziness of life take over, we neglect the people we love. Scheduling date nights, or one-on-one quality time, is necessary in a growing relationship.


Sex? Yes. Ok, I’m totally going there… Married people need to have sex to have a healthy relationship. It keeps the fire-a-burnin’.

The thing we were once so excited about, is often the very same thing that gets lost in the shuffle later in life. Yes, we’re tired. Yes, we sometimes have a headache by the end of the day. Yes, we don’t always feel like having sex.

Yet if there’s always an excuse not to have sex, you’ve got a problem.

Sex in marriage is not about sex itself… rather, it’s about creating intimacy. And intimacy is essential in a healthy relationship. When couples go long periods of time without having sex, their level of intimacy (and often trust) declines, meaning trouble is usually on the way.

Even if you have to schedule sex until you get back into the habit, having scheduled sex is better than no sex. And as far as how often? More is better than less. *wink*

Talk to your spouse. Be honest about your likes and dislikes… things you are comfortable with or uncomfortable with. Do the things you used to do when you were younger, less busy, and very infatuated with each other.

Rekindle that fire. You won’t be sorry.


Ok, that’s my two cents. What are your tips for a healthy marriage?

We’d love to hear your insights in the comments below!


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51 comments on “Secrets to a Happy Marriage”

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  7. Jealous over this. It’s really really nice.Thanks for sharing.

  8. Beautiful and original ideas perfectly amazing and wonderful. I am a great fan of yours because you provide something very attractive and mind blowing. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article.

  9. Awww I love this girl talk post! Wise words indeed! Xoxox

  10. Happy anniversary, Sommer!

  11. so glad to hear someone else suffers from the once a year full moon fight! My friends often look at me strangely when I say that. Great post!

  12. Some great advice. I’d love to show this to my boys.

  13. I absolutely love this post Sommer. As a newlywed, about 9 months in, I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and opinions on marriage. Also…congratulations on 15 years – that’s truly wonderful!

    I would say my current advice is to put the iphone away and as you said, make time for eachother. My husband and I are both entering our late twenties which means we grew up in the social media/cell phone/tv show generation which then means we simply don’t talk as much. We both realized our lack of talking recently – after we get home from work, he’s looking at espn, golt stuff, or youtube and I’m on Pinterest, Instagram, or email. We have recently decided to put our phones away after dinner so we can focus on us, talking, playing with our new puppy, etc. etc. It seems odd and sad to say that social media has gotten between our relationship, but it’s the world we live in. It goes to show that no matter what comes along, marriage is work and you have to pay attention to it. On a positive note – I’ve never been happier. Marrying your best buddy is a ton of fun!

  14. Hmmm, I recognize those little kids in the 1999 pic, and remember when those flames of love were being kindled.

  15. I couldn’t agree more Sommer. These were such wise words. I love most of all the idea of making a daily choice to love and sacrifice for the other. When you put the other person first it’s better for both of you! I love how that works. :)

  16. Great post, Sommer. Looking forward to more “girl talk”. Happy Anniversary!

  17. Such a fantastic post and thank you so much for sharing! We just celebrated our 10th in December. I wish there were a way to prepare for all the learning that goes on in building and keeping a relationship growing strong – it’s an amazing journey and well worth the road bumps. Communication is a key in our house – not just listening, but sharing too.

  18. Great post, Sommer. I agree with Cheryl – respect, space, and laughter are important keys to a marriage. The best advice I heard is that marriage is not 50/50 it’s 100/100. Both partners have to be committed to making it work. Thanks for sharing your secrets to success. Love this!

  19. Happy 15 years!!!!! Love this post! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and for taking the sugar coating off ;) Refreshing! Xxoo

  20. Happy 15 years, Sommer. We’ll be celebrating our 15 years in July. We too have a great thing going on. Marriage is work, but it’s such a blessing too. I so agree with your words here. Thanks for being so open.

  21. Great post Sommer.

    My husband and I have a rare story……we met when I was 20, he was 22. One of the first times he saw me he told his best friend “I’m going to marry that girl”
    We had our first date in Sept, engaged in December, married in June (with out my parents, because they didn’t like him), planned pregnancy in Feb, and first baby in Nov!……..next month we will celebrate 28 years of marriage!

    After some REALLY tough years with my family, my parents finally accepted my husband and grew to love him, once they put down their guard and got to really know him. There are times now that I think my mom actually likes him more that ME! lol

    Marriage is hard work, and not always a fairy tale, but respect, space and laughter are 3 of the most important keys, for us!……..there are days we don’t like each other so much lol, but my husband still looks at me like I’m the most beautiful woman in the world most of the time. ;)

  22. good post, sommer! happy 15 years (it’s 15 for us this summer, too!!!). the golden rule – it’s amazing how the people you love most are the ones it’s hardest to practice that with sometimes. anyway, great highlights! :)

  23. You know I love this. :)

    Cheers to you and Dan, and the ways you so thoughtfully and awesomely live out marriage, and for sharing about it with all of us!

  24. Great post! Thanks for sharing! Marriage is never easy, but so worth it! I am lucky to have a great husband who is also a wonderful father. We are learning as we go, but it is an incredible journey! I wouldn’t want to live my life without Josh. He makes every day better…no matter what we are going through. I know he is always on my side!

  25. Thanks for sharing your heart, Sommer. You hit every point right on the head.
    Hubby and I will be married 20 years in July. I truly love him more each day; and I make sure to tell him often. It’s the little things, like doing the yard work together or preparing a meal together. As our 12 year old son looks at us interacting, I know he sees what a true relationship is supposed to be (how God wants it be). Our children know that their Dad is the head of the family and final say always comes from him; yet, they also know that if Mom is not shown utmost respect, they will get corrected by Dad.
    I am proud to say that we do not have a “child centered” home. God comes first, then our marriage, then the children. You can have your priorities in this order and still have children that know they are loved and cherished.
    Again, thanks Sommer, for this Girl Talk.

  26. Basically good advice and sensible thoughts, however, disagree w/this point:
    ‘You don’t fall in love, you choose to love. On the flip side, you don’t fall out of love, you decide not to love someone anymore.’

    ‘The idea of falling in love or love at first sight is the complete opposite of real love. It’s infatuation and physical attraction. Nothing more.’

    Have been w/my husband since the 9th grade – together 33 years – married at 19 yrs old – celebrating 28th anniversary this September and I have to tell you…it WAS ‘love at first sight’, ‘falling in love’ and has remained ‘real love’ for all of these years. Physical attraction and infatuation bring you together in the first place and if you’re lucky enough to have both, that ‘fire’ which TRANSFORMS into true love will sustain you in those instances when you feel like you can’t stand that person for one more second w/out vomiting! That FIRE is essential if you are going to be truly happy and fulfilled in your marriage. I can’t imagine having to ‘choose to love’ like it’s something you’d rather not do. That seems like a LOT of work and feels more like a job rather than a state of being. Love should be easy and come naturally if it’s real. I realize we are probably the minority and I feel SO LUCKY to have had that ‘love at first sight’ experience because it IS truly the stuff of fairytales, but everybody is different and I thought I’d share my experience from the perspective of a woman who loves her husband desperately BECAUSE she gets butterflies in her stomach every time she sees him! The key to a happy marriage, in my opinion…is thinking back and remembering those early years and that first twinge of attraction that never leaves you once you’ve experience it!

    • Thanks Lisa! I love hearing your personal experience.

      You’re right, it’s best to STAY infatuated with the person you choose to love, yet we know a lot of people that have tried to build a marriage on that butterfly feeling alone, only to watch it fall apart later.

      You’ve got to decide you’re going to stick it out and rekindle the fire to make it last. Constantly remembering why you wanted to be with that person to begin with, is a brilliant way to live.

  27. Mostly I agree with these. But I can’t entirely agree with get the heck out or run if your family & friends don’t like the other person. Granted in MOST situations that is true & it causes massive amounts of strain on the relationship. My husbands family & friends did not like me at all & a lot of them still don’t. It caused him much heartache, & myself as well as I suffered with him through the things they would do. We have been married now for 33 years & his friends & what’s left of his family still try to point out our differences & highlight why we still shouldn’t be together. I love him, don’t always like him but oh how I love him! He is the father of our 2 children & he still makes me smile when he walks in a room, scans the room to see where I am & then doesn’t look at anything or anyone else & says “hello my baby”. Cheesy yep I know but oh how he makes my heart sing.

  28. My husband and I are celebrating our 19th anniversary next week and have been together 21 years-more than 1/2 my life as well. A wise older woman told us early in our marriage that we were going to argue, have a spat, and fight. The thing we need to remember in those times is to fight fair. Do not use the words: you always, I always, you never or I never. That causes the spouse to go directly to the defensive and there will be no solution. I can honestly say, we try very hard not to use those words. So, my advice…. You’re gonna fight- just fight fair! AND I have learned when no resolution in the argument can be found… Get naked. It’s hard to fight with your husband when you’re naked!
    Great article Sommer. Looking forward to more Girl Talk!

  29. My wonderful husband and I have a wonderful marriage of 37 years. We have pastored many churches here and in foreign nations all our married life.. We have worked with many cultures.

    We have learned that if BOTH partners are willing and want to work with their partner, there is no marriage that cannot be fixed and made joyful. So often we have seen that one or the other partner is not willing to change and many times it is a sad ending, especially if there are children involved.

    Sometimes life is hard, but with faith and maintaining our hope, we can indeed make a wonderful life. It will just take a lot more determination. Life can be wonderful with or without a partner to share it. That is where good “friends” can make all the difference.

    • Yes Joyce, sadly we’ve watched friends go through divorce as well, because one wanted to work on the relationship and one wanted to run. That’s always so hard on the person who is willing to give it their all. Being best friends to being with, definitely makes it easier!

  30. LOVE LOVE LOVE this!! We both admire the two of you so much. I am so glad we have other married people in our lives that truly love one another. Tom is the best second chance I’ve ever received and I will never take him or that for granted. I’m thankful we have you both as marital role models. (PS, I think you look even more incredible now, than you did 15 years ago!)

    • Love you too, girl!! Your perspective on Tom is priceless and I’m sure part of why you’re so happy. XOXO

  31. Ohh my, Sommer…I simply love this post. The tips and pictures are amazing, I’m 26 and been married for 2 years and I must admit that our relationship changed from when we were enganged to being married. The struggles are bigger but they brought us closer and made us stronger. I believe that communication is the key to a healthy relationship…along with feeding your hubby tasty food and adding spices into the bedroom :) Love your blog and it’s additions x x x

  32. Great words of wisdom! My husband and I have been together for 25 years, married for 21 this year. Talk about feeling old! It is an incredible blessing to be married to your best friend. We talk about everything and do our best to adhere to the old adage of never going to bed angry.

  33. Great tips, Sommer! The hubs and I will be celebrating 6 years in November. Marriage is work, but worth every minute of it. Congrats to you and Dan on 15 years. Hugs!

  34. Love your “girl talk!” I admire your and Dan’s relationship and love these tips. We can all learn something from them. My tips would be to try to never fight mean… even when you are very mad. And forgive. Great post :-)

  35. Very, very wise words. I’ve been with my husband since I was 17 (coming up on 10 years together). There were two points of yours that I would do a standing ovation for if I could! The first is: “Children are a gift, but they are not a solution. ” I cannot agree more. I’ve known two women in the last year who have had babies in a desperate attempt to save their terrible relationships. It hasn’t worked, at all. Nothing will test your relationship like having a child. Yes, they bring you closer together but they can also drive you apart if the bonds of your relationship aren’t strong enough.

    The other point I loved was: “You don’t fall in love, you choose to love.” YES! It took me awhile to realise this. I remember being so worried about was I really “in love” or had I fallen out of love. Loving your spouse is much deeper than that. It’s hard work, it’s a real commitment, but the important thing is: is the hard work worth it? Do all the good times you have together make the bad times trivial by comparison.