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What Are the Secrets to a Happier Marriage?

Using their 'Go-Giver' model, the authors share strategies of generosity and growth that can help couples thrive

By Margie Zable Fisher

At the beginning of your marriage, wouldn't it have been nice to have had a roadmap to creating a happy and healthy partnership? 

That might have made it easier for those of us who have been married (over 90% of Americans over the age of 60), and maybe even prevented some divorces (43% of men and women from 55 to 64), according to U.S. Census surveys.

Two married couples smiling. Next Avenue, Long term marriage tips advice
From left, Bill Ellis and Tara Rogers-Ellis and Harjeet Rathour and Satwinder Rodh  |  Credit: Courtesy of the couples

One couple aims to help through their recently published book, "The Go-Giver Marriage." This book is the fifth in the series of "Go-Giver" books, which are all written in the same format: each book starts with a parable and weaves in five secrets or important takeaways.

"I immediately realized that its message about the power of giving in business could apply to giving in marriage."

However, this is the first book that focuses on personal relationships — the other books are business-focused. "Go-Giver" co-author John David Mann partnered with his wife Ana Gabriel Mann, a longtime therapist, to write "The Go-Giver Marriage."

"I read John's draft of the first 'Go-Giver book' in 2005," said Ana. "I immediately realized that its message about the power of giving in business could apply to giving in marriage." 

She shared that thought with her husband, and the couple kept the idea in mind for years. They decided that the pandemic was a good time to write the book.

"People were stuck at home with each other and spending a lot of time together," said Ana. "It was difficult for many couples."

Helping Couples Improve Their Marriage

"The Go-Giver Marriage" begins with a parable, or a story, about a couple, Tom and Tess. Throughout the story, we learn about the challenges they face. With a little help from their friends, both old and new, they learn about the five secrets to practice for a happy and healthy marriage: appreciate, attend, allow, believe and grow.

Next Avenue talked to two couples who have already benefited from the book's ideas.

Harjeet Rathour and Satwinder Rodh of Suffolk County, New York, were 18 and 20 years old, respectively, when they got together through an arranged marriage in India. Nineteen years and three children later, the couple continues to work on improving their marriage.

The Value of Appreciating Your Spouse

Rathour read "The Go-Giver" in 2019 and recommended the book to her husband. The ideas resonated so much with her that she joined the Go-Giver online community and was excited to learn that the Manns were writing a book about marriage.

A couple smiling. Next Avenue, Long term marriage tips advice
Co-authors John David Mann and Ana Gabriel Mann  |  Credit: Courtesy of the couple

"I read 'The Go-Giver Marriage' first, then suggested that my husband pick up the audiobook. As soon as he read it, he put one of the secrets, 'appreciate,' into practice," said Rathour. "Instead of his typical 'I love you' texts — which are still nice, of course — he texted me how much he appreciated me and why. It blew me away!"

Another couple who has used the secrets from the book face a major challenge: they are in a long-distance marriage. Bill Ellis, 68, is in St. Louis, Missouri, and Tara Rogers-Ellis, 60, is in Dubai. They see each other every six to eight weeks and have been in a relationship for 10 years, married for more than six years.

Both are certified Go-Giver coaches and use the principles in their businesses. Ellis is a branding consultant and Rogers-Ellis owns a communications and PR company.


"'The 'Go-Giver Marriage' takes the same [business] principles and applies them in a more direct way in your personal life," says Rogers-Ellis.

As in all the "Go-Giver" books, the fifth secret is very different than the other four. In "The Go-Giver Marriage," the first four secrets are about being generous with the other person. The fifth — "Grow" — is about being generous with yourself. It's about taking care of yourself. And it's Ellis' favorite secret.

As the Manns say in the book, "You owe it to your partner to grow. Building a healthy, long-lasting marriage means bringing your best self to that marriage. The Fifth Secret is all about the practice of finding and creating that best self."

"When people spend twenty or thirty years together, the relationship can be weighed down by the fact that one or both aren't growing."

Ellis agrees and adds that your partner can play an active role in that growth. "Tara has helped me grow by helping me push past my comfort zone," he says. "She supports me and suggests activities, such as a blog, book, and podcast, that were way beyond what I thought I could do."

Ultimately, he says, "She holds the mirror up so I can see the things in myself that others see, and I can't."

The Fifth Secret is especially powerful in long-term marriages, says Ana Gabriel Mann. "When people spend twenty or thirty years together, the relationship can be weighed down by the fact that one or both aren't growing. If you have nothing new to bring to the relationship, you are stagnating. Remaining curious, learning, and discussing and sharing new experiences helps relationships stay healthy."

Putting the Secrets into Practice

"Our readers tell us that one of the most powerful things they take away from this book is that love is a practice," says Ana. "The emotional feeling you have when you first fall in love is exciting, but it's not based in reality. The reality is that love is a series of actions that you take every day to keep that love kindled and alive."

As you put the five secrets into daily practice, John Mann cautions against a common challenge.

"Sometimes we slip into a transactional mode where the dynamic of our marriage is you versus me, and we keep score," he says. "There's no such thing as a fifty-fifty marriage. That's a formula for failure. Sometimes one person will be doing the dishes more than the other or attending to the other's needs more. The key is to nourish the 'Us' instead of the individual, by supporting whoever needs it most at the time."

Finally, the Manns suggest that your marriage will be improved even if only one member of the couple starts using the secrets.

Starting a Relationship on Solid Footing

"If you're appreciating your spouse four or five times a day and it literally takes one minute to appreciate somebody, that's five minutes of your day spent appreciating your spouse," says Ana. "When it's done authentically and powerfully, the spouse almost melts, and soon starts giving you the same type of appreciation."

Both couples are sharing the secrets from the book with their children, to help them start their relationships on solid footing. 

"My daughter is getting married soon," says Rogers-Ellis. "I'm doing a reading, and I'm thinking of using the principles from 'The Go-Giver Marriage.'"

Photograph of Margie Zable Fisher
Margie Zable Fisher is a freelance writer and the founder of The 50-Year-Old Mermaid, where she and other 50+ women share their learnings and experiences on living their best lives after 50. Her website is Read More
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