Yesterday, Mr. Donovan and I celebrated an anniversary. Like any couple who’s been together for a very long time, we’ve been through some challenges. We are happier together than ever, and I thought I’d write about why, the way some other bloggers have done.

I do know that in a lot of ways, I’m just plain lucky to have married the right person. I’m not one of those people who looks at divorced people and goes, Oh, I guess I tried and you didn’t. That’s ridiculous. And if you are divorced, I really believe that what you learned already can lead to an amazingly happy marriage in the future, if that’s what you want for yourself.

Anyway, here’s what’s working for us!

1. We don’t tell each other what to do.

This is the huge one. Both of us happen to really hate being bossed around, so we try not to do it to each other.

I’ve always been mystified by people who drag their unwilling spouse to a party or a church service, or try to get them to load the dishwasher or do the laundry their way. Sure, once in a while there will be some issue we’ll discuss, but for the most part, I let him do his thing, and he lets me do mine.

When I donated a kidney last year, Mr. Donovan was pretty against it, because he worried about whether I’d be okay. He knew that we both get to decide things for ourselves, though, so he gave me nothing but support.

I think trying to change another person is just a huge, draining effort. I’m not sure it’s ever worth it to try. It’s hard enough to change yourself — and changing yourself is a lot more rewarding.

2. We’re in the habit of kindness.

I think in any long-term relationship, you establish patterns that are hard to break. If you’re frequently sarcastic or negative, for instance, sarcasm or negativity will come out of your mouth almost automatically. Mr. Donovan and I have gotten into a habit of saying nice things to each other. We say “I love you” more than once a day. We compliment each other. We’re nice about each other’s interests, even when we don’t share them.

He is, to be honest, much better at it than I am. When I’m sitting on the couch in sweat pants, wearing my glasses, with unwashed hair, he’ll tell me I look beautiful. He tells other people with a straight face, “She’s the best writer at our company.” But I’ve learned a lot from him over the years, so I’m okay at being kind, too. It’s become our default setting.

3. We’re each other’s best, best friend.

Mr. Donovan and I don’t confide in anyone else even 10% as much as we confide with each other. I have exactly zero secrets from him. Friends are wonderful to have, and necessary, but I’ve seen other people’s relationships suffer when both spouses start to tell other people their deepest feelings instead of talking them out with each other.

To a large extent, Mr. Donovan and I are in our own little world…but I kind of love it that way.

And here’s something we’re working on… postponing arguments.

Geez, it took us forever to figure this one out. We rarely fight, but when we do, it’s miserable and we hate it. So when we’re both really upset about something, we’re trying to wait a while and talk about it later. By then, we usually have a handle on what exactly was bothering us in the first place.

I’d love to hear about other people’s tips for keeping a relationship happy and positive. Thanks for reading!