Norman and Norma Burmah, at 102 and 99, have the longest marriage—82 years—on record in the United States. Imagine if they were unhappily married. What a long and dismal sentence that would be. While I don\’t know how happily married they are, I do know what they and others do when they are in a happy relationship. Certain behavioral patterns are shared by happy couples, whether recently united or going for the longevity record.


For one thing, they like each other. They genuinely get along without having to strain, suppress or otherwise fake it. They can be themselves in each other\’s company without having to put on any pretense whatsoever. They can act naturally and their partners like them just as they are. They\’re friends.

Really good friends enjoy each other\’s company, and would rather be with their partner than anyone else in the world. They share confidences, intimacies and daily stories that genuinely interest their partner. There\’s that word “genuine” again.


Being able to laugh together is like glue—it binds you to the person you share the laugh with, whether hilarious or whimsical. It\’s especially great if at least one partner has the capability to find humor or irony or something amusing when couples are in the midst of a disagreement. I have a friend whose husband “jollies” her out of being mad at him. She says he finds a way of turning their argument on its end so she sees it in a different light. And she has the capability of appreciating it. A good laugh is good medicine, in good times and bad.


Couples who are happy are attentive to one another. Yes, it\’s true, after a few years you can be talking to your partner and he will interrupt you to ask the dog if he wants to go out. But, for the most part, you pay attention when it\’s important. I have friends who seem very happy and loving. I watched them at a party recently, and they did not stick to each other\’s side. They mingled and talked to others separately. But every once and awhile, one would look up, catch the other one\’s eye, give a little knowing smile. Barely perceptible, even, but a look, as if to say, Hi. How you doing? Still okay? Just checking in.

Next week I\’ll talk about more traits that happy, loving couples share.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: