When we were growing up, no one told us that marriage was going to take work. I think most people assumed that you would:
(A) Find someone you are compatible with
(B) Have fun with them
(C) Fall in love
(D) Get married
(E) Live happily ever after…
As we got older, we realized that the path to a happy marriage isn’t always easy. It takes time, attention, and sometimes… a lot of work. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a healthy relationship.
The number one most important thing is that you BOTH have a commitment to each other and prioritize making the marriage the best it can be.
Many of us grew up with parents who didn’t model a good marriage. Some parents fight loudly, while others just avoid conflict and then silence ensues in the household; neither of these extremes is healthy.
If we didn’t see “how” to have a good marriage growing up, it’s much more difficult to figure it out on your own later in life. So, if you are one of those people who didn’t learn how to have a happy relationship from their parents, you are not alone.
Let’s start by talking about the most important things in a marriage:
Unfortunately, trust is something that is hard to come by sometimes. People usually have one of two approaches:
(1) I don’t trust you until you prove that you are trustworthy, or (2) I trust you until you prove that you are untrustworthy.
Either way, trust is crucial to a happy marriage.
Both spouses must treat the other one with respect and kindness. That means never speaki ng in a mean or derogatory manner, nor engaging in any kind of mental, emotional, or physical abuse.
You must treat them like the Golden Rule – “treat others they way you would like to be treated.”
Many romantic relationships do not start out as friendships, but some do. Regardless of whether you are friends first or not, the best marriages are the ones that claim to be best friends. That’s the kind of relationship where each person has the other’s back and are able to talk to and confide in their spouse completely.
In order to have a healthy relationship, you have to enjoy spending time together.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend 24/7 with each other attached at the hip. But it does mean that you two enjoy doing activities together on a regular basis. They are your constant “built-in” companion.
Compatibility occurs on many, many different levels. From personality differences (introvert/extrovert), to hobbies, likes/dislikes, religion, politics, and other values, it is important to be as compatible as possible.
Although they say, “opposites attract,” I believe that similarity is one of the most important ingredients to a good marriage.
There are many different kinds of love – from the kind you have to a pet, your child, or your grandma – to the romantic type that makes you fall madly in love. And I don’t mean infatuation, because that fades.
Being “in love” with your partner does not have to fade. It can, and should, last forever.
Beyond the obvious (speaking and acting kindly), it’s important to extend your kindness to one another by doing the “little things.”
Simple acts of kindness go a long way. Rubbing her shoulders or bringing him coffee are small things, but it shows that you love the other person. So, don’t underestimate the power of the small gestures of kindness.
8. Sexual Intimacy
Everyone has their own level of sex drive, so it’s important to find a partner who matches your own. Some people don’t need a lot of sex, but others do for both physical and emotional reasons.
Don’t overlook the fact that if you are not sexually in sync, it could be a huge reason the marriage doesn’t work out.
9. Emotional Intimacy
Emotional intimacy is just as important as sexual intimacy and compatibility. Even if a couple has sex every day, that doesn’t always mean that there is a lot of emotional intimacy between them.
Without the emotional connection, the relationship becomes distant and cold. So, don’t forget to nurture your feelings and love for one another.
If you have problems (which most couples do), you can’t solve them without talking to one another. And I don’t mean yelling and screaming. I mean sitting down rationally and speaking about both of your concerns. You need to keep that line of communication open at all times.
Now that we have discussed some of the most important things in a marriage, let’s push the discussion even further and talk about some other crucial things that make a marriage good:
11. Putting Your Spouse as a Priority
Your spouse cannot be happily married to you if they feel like they are a low priority on your list.
Whether you put the kids, work, your friends, or anything else in front of your spouse, it will not turn out well. You need to make each other your top priority.
12. Spending Time Together
I know life can get very busy for most people, but it’s vital that you find time to spend together – alone. Not that it’s not fun to hang out as a family with the kids or with friends, but that’s not quality time with each other.
Make regular date nights and make an effort to do it all the time.
13. Talking and Connecting
The time spent together should be quality. Sure, you could sit in your living room all alone with each other (which is spending time together), but if you are both on your phones, or even if you’re watching TV, you are not really connecting.
So, don’t forget to talk to each other and keep up that connection you had when you first started dating.
14. Shared Values
As I mentioned above, it is really important for you both to share similar values. That doesn’t mean that you have to be identical, but you do have to view the world through lenses that are compatible with one another.
For example, an extreme right-winger and an extreme left-winger are probably not going to see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues in the world. I think you get my point.
15. Mutual Plans for the Future
Do you want kids? If so, how many? How do you want to plan for retirement? What do you want to do in retirement? Where do you want to live? Do you want to travel?
All of these questions are important so that you can have a shared vision of what your future together will look like.
Next, how do you deal with a struggling marriage? When you are unhappy in your marriage, what are you supposed to do about it? No one gives us a rule book about how to fix a broken relationship, right? So, here are some tips for how you can start to heal your marriage:
16. Talk about Your Problems
You can’t change, or fix, what you don’t recognize. So, talk to each other about your problems – don’t avoid conflict.
But when you talk, be rational and have empathy for your spouse. Try to see the situation from their perspective, not just yours. I cannot stress how important empathy is to a healthy marriage!
17. Rediscover Commitment
Some people “give up” in an unhappy marriage. They mentally and emotionally just “check out.” But you can’t do that!
BOTH people need to be 100% committed to fixing the relationship. One person can’t do it on their own. So, you need to talk and commit to making the necessary changes for the relationship to rebuild.
18. Seek Professional Help
Many people simply can’t do this on their own because they don’t have the necessary skills. That’s where a trained professional can help you.
Don’t feel like a failure if you seek out a therapist or marriage counselor. In fact, you are the opposite – you are winners for trying your best to save the marriage. It’s a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness!
If you are in an unhappy marriage, don’t be discouraged. There are many relationships that have come back from the brink of destruction, and yours can too.
And if you’re not yet married, I hope you will take this marriage advice to heart when trying to find the right partner (or wondering if the one you’re with is “it”).
Marriage doesn’t have to be difficult – it’s the people who make it hard. So, just remember these tips, and you can finally have the happily ever after that you’ve always dreamed about.