The Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Not What I Thought it Was

In July, John and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary. I have sworn that the secret to a happy marriage is separate bathrooms. Really and truly, that’s the only advice I’ve ever shared with newlyweds.

But to be frank, for all but our first three years as a married couple, we maintained separate bathrooms. (Why did we share during those first three years? Was it wedded bliss? No, it was that our first two apartments had only one bathroom.)

As soon as we moved into a place with two bathrooms, I took over one of them. And thus it has stayed — through moves, through pregnancies, through children, through two houses with tiny master bathrooms, the kind we could only share if one person stood at the sink and one sat on the toilet. There is such a thing as too much togetherness.

And then we bought a new house. Built in 1999, this one is the newest we’ve owned. This master bathroom is, in a word, vast. There are two sinks (please applaud). Not only could one person stand and the other sit, but one person could do a cartwheel while the other shaves. Have I tested this theory? Has my husband done a cartwheel while I shaved my legs?

What happens in the bathroom stays in the bathroom.

One month into this new level of cohabitation we’re doing well. We’ve lived together long enough and endured sufficient crises to rise to meet this new challenge. Okay, it might be that after 25 years we’re set in our ways. We shower at different times — him, before work; me, after exercising. The only time we get ready simultaneously occurs before church.

Although, to be fair, I have discovered a privacy option: a walk-in closet.

This is another luxury we have not had previously, except during our first year of marriage, when the only apartment available was a unit built for wheelchair accessibility. But this closet dwarfs that one. It’s so big we moved in our dresser. Because we could, that’s why.

One of the dogs claimed the corner under the built-ins as her den. Heck, both dogs could co-camp in our closet. They’re only terriers, after all. But I bet we could get two Labs in this closet. But then there would be no room for our shoes. However, if we had Labs, they’d eat all our shoes, so there you have it. No Labs, safe shoes, happy terriers.

I have seen bathrooms and closets bigger than ours in the pages of the WACOAN magazine. I have interviewed homeowners for those pages with grander porcelain palaces. Some have not only two sinks, a shower, a toilet, and space for cartwheeling, but also a tub.

Our master bathroom lacks this amenity. If I want to take a bath, I have to walk to the other side of the house, to the guest bathroom. In which I have already taken over a drawer and most of a cabinet. Because some days, even in the midst of halcyon marital harmony, you need your own bathroom.


  1. I’m embarrassed to say how much of a necessity this luxury has become to me, and when I think of my parents and the five of us kids mostly using one bathroom through most of my growing up years, I almost shudder. My husband and I are now talking about retirement and moving again in the next year or so. And honestly, while just about everything is negotiable, the need for separate bathrooms is not. I’m truly embarrassed to admit that.

  2. For the first time in FIFTY years, I have my own bathroom. BLISS. For a brief season, he insisted on using MY shower. I was beyond miffed. Then he tried our guest shower, and hallelujah – marital crisis averted!

  3. Clif W DRUMMOND says

    MDW – Perhaps one of the most delicate topics in a marriage; explained with utmost delicacy + and more than a modest dash of humor. Bingo!
    Your ever-loving’ Dad (who had the dual benefit of 44 years of marriage, and never less than 3 BRs! (My oh my!)

  4. Oh what I wouldn’t give for two sinks in a shared bathroom. Totally cartwheel-worthy.

  5. My husband used the basement bathroom all those 25+ years we lived in the farmhouse. Now we have a “vast” master bathroom with double sinks, a private toilet area, a Roman tub that I have only used once and can barely stretch far enough to clean it. And a glass walk-in shower. I use that shower–but I’ve considered using the guest bath because even after almost 46 years of marriage, because modesty. Who’s idea was it to do away with privacy curtains?

  6. When I was a fairly new wife (<10 years) I read a book by Ruth Graham and she, too, claimed the secret to a happy marriage was separate bathrooms. I remember thinking,….wow, Billy Graham and his wife are THAT rich? ????

    Also, I liked that she surprised me. I was expecting something super spiritual. It made her seem human to me.

  7. This is hysterical.

    Love 🙂