Have you ever wondered about the keys to a successful marriage? A good marriage is made up of love, trust, fun, and attraction. It also involves growth, debate, struggles, and patience. As society changes, so do the pictures of what marriage looks like. Instead of worrying about how other people define marriage, you must find the relationship that is right for you and your partner.
One thing you’ll hear over and over when looking for marriage advice is that marriage takes work. When you think about “work”, you’re probably thinking about the things you have to do for your job or cleaning your house that you despise and avoid as long as possible because it’s miserable. This isn’t the same kind of work. Working on your marriage is fulfilling and can be fun. If you’ve found true love, you’ll be willing to work to keep it alive.
We are going to cover 12 different pieces of advice that are important no matter what your relationship currently looks like. Prioritizing your marriage and setting aside time to work on the relationship will be necessary. By being here, you are already putting some time and energy into learning and understanding.
Once you reach the end of that newlywed period and your magical love bubble bursts, how do you get through the tough stuff and settle into a good routine for your relationship? All relationships are dynamic and they are constantly changing, growing, and shifting. So, read these tips and apply them in your marriage to help you both roll with those changes.
Prioritize Quality Time With Your Mate
It doesn’t matter if you’re newlyweds or just celebrated your 25th-anniversary—you need to make time for one another! Adventures From Scratch: Date Edition will help you do just that. With over 50 activities, plus tear-out cards and more, you’ll have feelgood moments and lots of laughs each time you embark on a new challenge. Explore each page and use the handy key to decide which activity to scratch off next. Your adventures await!
12 Keys to a Successful and Happy Marriage
Maintain a Level of Independence
It might seem weird that the first marriage tip is to be independent, but married couples are made up of two different people and they do not just become one person at their wedding. Each person in the marriage relationship should hang on to things that they can enjoy and do on their own independently. Having time to recharge your emotional energy is crucial to your own happiness and you want to bring your best self to the marriage. If you have separate hobbies, friends, or places you enjoy, make sure you give each other time to enjoy those things.
It can be as simple as running errands by yourself so you can listen to a podcast you enjoy or having certain parts of your routines that you do alone like early morning reading or heading to the gym on your own. Encourage each other to travel with friends or add a night to a work trip to explore a new city. By having those separate experiences, you’ll have more to share with each other. Conversations can get a little dull if you are together 100% of the time. This is even more important after a year of the pandemic because everyone spent more time at home with their significant other than ever before.
Another piece of maintaining your independence is remaining true to who you are. There have been countless romantic comedies where one person in the relationship is trying to change the other person, but that’s never realistic. Be true to yourself and open about the things that are important to you with your partner and encourage them to do the same. If someone is hiding things or trying to change the other person, it leads to bigger issues within the relationship.
Focus on 2-Way Communication
This may seem extremely simple and obvious, but fewer and fewer people are good at active listening these days. Especially with everyone’s obsession with phones now, many conversations are one-sided. Chances are, you’ve probably grabbed your phone and started mindlessly scrolling while your spouse was talking. Maybe you’ve even picked up it while you were talking. We’ve all had those moments because as a society, we have become obsessed with the tiny little computers in our pockets. Put the phone down and focus on conversations.
Communication is the most important tool in a relationship of any kind. Within a marriage, it’s paramount. You’ve got to navigate through all of life’s obstacles together as a unit, so good communication is imperative. There are huge life-changing decisions made and some really tough times that you will face together. It’s especially important in those times that you have practiced good communication. Make sure that you are avoiding any distractions and asking lots of questions. Listen to the other person instead of just thinking about what you’re going to say next.
If schedules are busy and day-to-day routines are hectic, consider setting aside some dedicated time to chat about the important stuff. Discuss finances together, set future goals, and check in on different goals that you’ve set together. It’s probably not wise to bring up a family planning conversation when you are in the Starbucks drive-thru line or about to walk into a movie theater. Be smart about your timing, consider your location, and be intentional about important, or tough, conversations.
If you are struggling to understand one another on a topic, don’t be afraid to involve a professional, like a counselor. They are trained in knowing how to help people communicate their feelings in a way others can understand. Many times, issues come from past traumas and experiences and it’s healthy to get those out. At the end of the day, you want to understand each other’s points of view and come together to make decisions.
Plan Time for Fun
Date nights and vacations together should be on your calendar. Some couples like to do date nights once a week and others like to plan special outings monthly. By prioritizing time together to do things you enjoy and try new things together, it will allow you to have some fun and make memories. There is no perfect equation for exactly how many dates each month make a successful marriage. The important thing is that you put time aside for one another to have fun together and have each other’s full attention.
Life’s routines can easily suck you in and you can feel a little like you’re on a hamster wheel. Marriages fall into those same patterns, so it’s good to shake it up a little bit. Date nights can be simple, easy things like dinners out at a restaurant or a movie night in with snacks and no distractions. Switch them up from time to time and surprise each other with different ideas. Go mini-golfing, rent paddleboards, take a drive somewhere new. Intentionally set aside time for the two of you to do something enjoyable to have a healthy marriage.
Planning vacations together is another way to connect and have some fun. You can take a weekend road trip or plan a longer romantic vacation somewhere tropical or on your bucket list. Experiencing new things together and having fun away from your normal day-to-day will bring you closer together. Plus, it’s scientifically proven that just the act of planning a vacation and the anticipation can lift spirits, so enjoy the whole process.
Maybe neither of you have been to New York City and you want to plan a weekend there. Pour a glass of wine and spend an evening together making a list of the things you’d like to see in the city and the restaurants you want to try. Maybe you want to plan a longer trip like a European adventure via train or a Caribbean cruise. There are endless options available for spending time away together and romantic trips can lead to a healthier marriage.
Respect Each Other’s Privacy
It can be tempting to let off a little steam when your spouse is driving you crazy, but it’s important to be careful with the things you share with others. If you are having a bad day and you call your friend and tell her everything your husband did wrong, they are going to have a negative view of him in their mind. She may start to hold grudges against your husband. You might leave out all the things that he did in the last week that made you insanely happy, but if she doesn’t have the entire picture, she might have a hard time letting it go even once you’re long past it. You’ll accomplish more by talking directly to your partner about it instead.
It’s best to just keep some things private and between you two marriage partners. No one else understands your dynamic and your marriage outside of the two people in it, so it’s best to work things out privately. The last thing your spouse wants to see is you complaining about them on social media. The same goes with poking fun at them or pointing out their insecurities. You will learn more intimate things about each other as time goes on, so make sure you are always being incredibly respectful of each other’s feelings in those moments.
For serious and deeper issues, consider talking to a counselor or therapist together or separately. A professional can help give you the tools to work through the bumps in the road, but if you turn to a family member or friend, just remember that their opinion will be swayed by anything you say and it won’t be unbiased advice. Counselors are great tools to help with relationship work and marriage work.
Choose Your Battles
There’s an old saying to never go to bed angry, but not every argument is worth battling over into the wee hours of the morning. Arguing in the heat of the moment isn’t always as productive because that two-way communication isn’t happening when there are heightened emotions. Everyone handles conflict differently. Some people need some time to walk away and collect their thoughts and process their feelings, so it’s not always the best idea to fight it out at the moment.
If you go to sleep angry, or walk away for a bit, and you’re still upset after taking that time to process it, then have a conversation about it and work on a compromise. Burying anger will lead to resentment and you want to be open with each other. Work through those disagreements together, especially if the outcome is extremely important for you. Compromise can be difficult, but it’s a necessary part of a marriage because there are times when there isn’t ever going to be a winner in a disagreement. Always try and be open to compromise.
There will be some arguments that you will realize do not matter at all and you can just let it go. It is okay to agree to disagree on certain things and not fight every battle until the end. Thinking about some of the silly things you have argued about in the past will help you see that it’s not always worth getting worked up about. Choose your battles by assessing what is important to you and then make sure that you are clearly and calmly communicating as much as possible with each other.
Understand Each Other’s Love Languages
What are we talking about when we say “love languages”? Well, 5 Love Languages is a popular book by Gary Chapman from 1992. He breaks down the five different ways that two people in a couple express and experience love and he calls them the different love languages.
The five languages are words of affirmation, giving gifts, acts of service, physical touch, and quality time. The success of his book has led to all kinds of different websites, tests, and available information on how to best use this information to improve your relationship.
Many counselors use these different languages to help people best understand how to help couples become closer and better understand one another. If your partner has a different love language than yours, it’s important that you acknowledge that and work to show them love in the way that they receive it. For example, your partner’s love language might be physical touch while yours is acts of service. You’ll need to express love physically while they will need to show you their love by going out of their way to perform different acts for you.
By learning what your love language is, and your partner’s, you’ll be able to change up some of your techniques when it comes to building your relationship. There are many different online quizzes available now that will help you figure it out. You can also read the book, or one of his many follow-up books, to learn more about the languages. It will help you identify the best ways you can show your partner how much you love them and make them feel appreciated and vice versa.
Trust takes time to build. It provides the foundation for a successful and strong marriage. Partners should always be honest with one another. Small fibs can turn into larger lies and break down the trust that has been built over time. Rebuilding trust is an even slower process because there is an initial period of forgiveness that needs to happen first.
Infidelity is one of the most common causes of divorce. Part of the honesty that comes with a good marriage is being faithful to your partner. Affairs involve all kinds of small lies, but most importantly, you’re breaking up the basic structure of the marriage. The vows in a wedding ceremony are a promise to one another and dishonesty leads to breaking that sacred promise.
Other topics that married people are dishonest about include finances and substance abuse. Any of these areas can have major impacts on someone’s life. It’s better to be open and honest, especially when there is a problem that needs to be solved. Work together to overcome instead of hiding the problems and hoping you can resolve them alone without the other person finding out.
Show Gratitude for Things Both Big and Small
A simple thank you can go a long way in a relationship. If your husband or wife goes out of their way to take care of something, show them that you appreciate them. Notice those moments and call them out.
Showing a little gratitude can be as easy as just saying something, but you can also write notes to each other, let your partner overhear you gushing to someone else about them, or do something extra special like bringing home their favorite snacks or a little gift.
Acknowledging the good moments and things you love about your partner can help balance out those times that are a little trickier to navigate. Marriages have ups and downs, so you should equally acknowledge both.
Not only will this make your spouse feel more loved and encourage them to continue to do good things, but it will increase the amount of love you feel. You’ll find yourself noticing more and more of the special moments. It seems weird to think of gratitude as something you need to practice, but by focusing on being aware, it will start to come more naturally.
Practice Patience and Forgiveness
So we’ve covered the topic of choosing your battles, but it’s also important to remember that not every argument is going to happen in a perfect bubble of calm conversation. You won’t always have time to take deep breaths and walk away for a nice calming stroll around the block.
When those times happen, it will be necessary to practice forgiveness with one another. Humans will never be perfect, so there are always things that each of us will struggle with. With someone you love, one of the best ways to show your love is to support them in moments of weakness.
Forgiveness is a skill to be practiced. It will help each of you work through any negative emotions and acknowledge how you feel so you can move on. Obviously, forgiveness doesn’t start until there is a real apology that is from the heart. Everyone needs to learn from these moments to create a stronger bond. Holding on to anger impacts your own happiness, so figuring out how to work together to process those feelings can help you be a more content person overall.
Keep the Intimacy Alive
Sex is an important part of a marriage. Most relationships don’t follow any strict schedule and the frequency you have sex is different for each relationship, but it’s important that both partners feel fulfilled. Keep an open line of communication about your sexual activity and acknowledge the wants and desires you have. Understand your partner’s needs as well. Therapists recommend changing things up to keep it interesting. Put effort into keeping things exciting for yourself and your spouse.
Chemistry and attraction will change over the years, but it doesn’t go away, so work to find those sparks you had initially. Remember that intimacy isn’t just about sex, but about continuing to be close to one another in all different ways. Share intimate things with each other and continue to grow together and build your bond.
Sometimes the simplest actions can be the most meaningful. Hug each other, exchange “I love you”s often, hold hands, dance with each other. Don’t let those little things go as time goes on.
Find the Ways You Inspire Each Other and Grow Together
Many marriages struggle if two people got married really young and then grew into different people. We all change throughout our lives, so find ways to grow together as a couple and be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Healthy relationships involve two people who want the best for each other and support the goals and dreams as much as possible.
How do you grow together? Try new things and get out of your comfort zone together. Travel and see new places, cook new recipes in the kitchen together, embark on different journeys as a team. Not only will this help you each grow individually, but having those shared experiences can build a stronger bond between you both as well.
If your partner discovers new things that they love, remain open to trying things with them. If it isn’t your thing, that’s ok. It’s healthy for each person to have their own hobbies, but keep an open line of communication and don’t let it eat into your time with each other. Instead, spend time together sharing your wins and being inspired by one another as you grow and achieve new things.
One example is a fitness journey. If your spouse has recently decided to sign up for a gym and really starts to dedicate time, it’s okay if you aren’t on that journey with them. But, celebrate the milestones with them. Are they planning to run a 5k? Cheer them on from the sidelines. Is the goal to gain some muscle? Watch their progress and point out changes you see. Let them inspire you in the decisions that they make and be in awe of their achievements.
Have Realistic Expectations
Anyone who has seen a fairytale princess movie growing up has been part of the efforts to socialize us all to believe that our fairytale happy ending is out there in the world. That is setting yourself up for failure when it comes to a real-life marriage. Go into the relationship with realistic expectations.
You’re entering a lifelong relationship, so you obviously love and enjoy the person you are marrying. This advice isn’t to scare you and make you think that it will all be negative. It’s just important to remember that there will be good times and tough times. Both are important as you grow together. Family life isn’t always simple and easygoing, so by building a successful relationship with good communication and trust, you’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way.
This is good advice for life in general. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised more. If you correctly manage your expectations with things out of your control, it will feel like the universe is underpromising and overdelivering. It’s a recipe for contentment.
Frequently Asked Questions
The keys to a successful marriage include good communication, quality time spent together, honesty, trust in each other, and being willing to constantly work on the relationship.
There are many different keys to a successful marriage, but the top qualities are love, trust, and respect. If you start to lose one of those, you’ll need to understand why and work to gain it back.