Wouldn’t it be great if people got a book on the day of their marriage that contains the recipe for a healthy relationship?
However, that’s a shot in the dark since your marriage doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful.
Whether you’ve been together with the love of your life for decades, or you’re still reeling from your honeymoon glow, it’s important to remember that all marriages experience their fair share of ups and downs.
After all, marriage IS work. Here are some ways you can foster a healthy marriage.
What Makes a Marriage Successful?
Although every married couple’s situation and dynamics are unique, what makes a marriage successful remains the same.
A successful marriage is characterized by tolerance, understanding, and good communication between two people.
When you are part of a marriage, you must be able to embrace these things and all the responsibilities that come with your role.
Considering all the things mentioned above, one more thing that makes a marriage successful is unconditional love.
Nobody is perfect, not even your partner, and so you must love them unconditionally to be able to understand their flaws.
Related: How to Have a Happy Marriage: 58 Coaches Share Their Best Pieces of Marriage Advice (100+ Tips)
Elements of a Strong & Successful Marriage
The following are the different characteristics of a healthy and successful marriage.
1. Communication and forgiveness: the two pillars of a healthy relationship
Unsurprisingly, 43% of mental health professionals say that the inability to resolve conflict is one of the most common factors that lead to divorce.1
Respectful communication means not being petty and trying to get even.
When you marry someone, you must accept them for who they are, not who you want them to be.
Disagreeing with your partner is completely normal.
It is a sign of a healthy relationship.
However, do not fight like high schoolers.
This means not giving them the silent treatment, bringing up past mistakes, or repeatedly arguing over the same issues.
If you have children or want one, think about how you’d like your child to act in their future marriage.
When there is respectful communication in your marriage, forgiveness will follow.
You may think you and your spouse have so many things in common, but the truth is, you are bound to have major differences.
Rather than seeing these issues as a point of contention, use them as an opportunity to learn from each other.
The core of every marriage is your commitment to your spouse.
This means you should be dedicated to keeping your marriage strong.
All couples start their marriage with a strong sense of commitment. However, this may dwindle in time.
What many people don’t realize is that commitment is not automatic. It takes continual energy, action, thought, and time.
When you exercise forgiveness in your marriage, you will be released from being controlled by your anger.
There are three types of commitment that should be present in a marriage2, as developed by Dr. Michael Johnson, a sociology professor at Penn State University:
- Personal commitment, where you say, “I want to keep my marriage healthy.”
- Moral commitment, where you say, “I made a vow to keep my commitment to this marriage.”
- Structural commitment, where you say, “I have to stay in the marriage because of my kids.”
3. Intimacy is much more than just sex
When married people hear of the word intimacy, the first thing they may think of is sex.
However, intimacy goes beyond that.
Half of the people engaged in a serious relationship have sex less than once a week.3
Intimacy means being open and honest to your partner, which means being willing to show vulnerability.
Four types of intimacy should be present in a marriage:
- Emotional intimacy, where you are comfortable sharing good and bad feelings with your partner, such as feeling insecure about certain things
- Intellectual intimacy, where you are comfortable to share your opinions and ideas, such as discussing views on politics even if you vote for different parties
- Sexual intimacy, where you and your partner engage in sexual or sensual activities such as kissing, hugging, or even holding hands
- Experiential intimacy, or when you and your partner bond by doing daily activities like sharing a meal.
4. Lack of abuse and violence
In successful marriages, violence and aggression should never be used to control your partner.
This is not just limited to physical but also emotional, verbal, economic, and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, 13% to 61% of women have experienced physical violence by a partner.4
Although conflict is a normal part of marriage, it should be solved through resolution.
Many women still stay despite experiencing domestic abuse due to fear. If you are experiencing this, do not be afraid to seek help for you and your children.
5. Quality time is intentional
These days, it’s almost impossible to disconnect from people you love, thanks to social media platforms.
But because of life’s fast pace, some of the essential things in your marriage may slip through the cracks.
Days may pass without talking to your spouse or sharing an intimate moment with them.
The truth is:
Quality time is intentional.
It requires planning because it rarely happens if you leave it to chance.
Be committed to finding quality time, whether you want to spend a couple of minutes together each day, a weekend away each month, or a date night per week.
Do not try to cover lack of quality time with material things because that is a recipe for lower marital satisfaction.5
After all, the most important things in a marriage, such as quality time, cannot be bought.
Healthy Marriage Checklist
Marriage is more than just wearing a beautiful gown and tux and saying “I do.”
It takes a lot of work to follow through with your marital responsibilities.
It turns out checklists are not just beneficial in the grocery. You can also follow a checklist to ensure you stay track of keeping your marriage healthy.
Here’s a list to guide you:
1. Sit and resolve issues
Every married couple you know argues and has misunderstandings. But shockingly, 69% of marital conflicts are not resolved.6
It is essential to open your communication flow by sitting down and resolving issues instead of letting them spiral into something bigger.
If you don’t agree on something, learn to compromise and respect each other’s views.
2. Support each other
Despite being married, you should still work on your personal goals and encourage your partner as well.
More women than men adjust their careers to accommodate family life, and if this is true for your marriage, don’t forget to acknowledge your wife’s sacrifices.7
Motivating each other and assuring your partner that they have your support is key.
This will make them more confident in their ability to accomplish something.
3. Show your partner you love them
Love is the most common reason for marriage, so it’s a no-brainer to show your partner you love them.8
This may be a kiss, a hug, a nice home-cooked meal, or saying “I love you.”
Showing your partner you love them may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many couples forget to do so.
Letting your partner know you love them even after years of marriage will make them feel special.
If you fail to do this, you may have the dynamics of roommates.
4. Treat your spouse like your best friend
When you treat your spouse like your best friend, your marriage can increase your well-being.9
Do you remember how much spark your relationship had in your first months as a couple?
That spark doesn’t have to wear off after saying your vows.
If you pass by a flower shop, pick up a rose for your wife on your way home (if she's into that).
If you recall your wife mentioning a new restaurant in town, surprise her with a reservation.
5. Lower your voice
Have you ever found yourself shouting at your partner due to frustration or lack of confidence?10
Every time you feel the urge to increase the intensity of your voice, remember that this will not do you or your partner any good.
Instead, lower your voice and try to deliver your point directly.
This will help you avoid saying things that you will regret.
Focus on the current problem and do not attack your spouse’s character or bring up past issues.
6. Make time for yourself
Marriage is not just about spending time with your partner 24/7. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Take time to recharge and enjoy your personal and professional interests.
Follow the 8 areas of self-care by practicing mindfulness, learning new skills, reflecting on your feelings, or doing any activity that makes you happy.11
7. Know your partner’s love language
Everyone has their language of love.
By taking time to know your spouse’s hobbies and preferences, you can make them feel valued.12
This could be picking them up from work, saying they look beautiful, or planning a date, among many others.
8. Forget about your phone
Twenty percent of couples reported that the internet had a negative impact on their marriage.
So unless you want to take a picture, forget about your phone when you spend quality time with your spouse.13
Whether you want to snuggle up and watch a movie or head to your favorite restaurant, make sure you are free of distractions.
9. Compliment your spouse
When you’re with someone for years, you may think there’s no need to say compliments.
However, acknowledging their positive attributes will go a long way.
Men need affirmations most, and those who don’t feel affirmed by their wives are twice as likely to divorce compared to those who did.14
10. Stop nagging
Even if you are in a healthy marriage, you may still feel jealous or taken for granted.
However, jealousy decreases the satisfaction of marriage, especially in men.15
If you feel the need to control your partner, try to be rational.
Calmly open up to your partner about your feelings and see how you can meet each other’s expectations.
11. Don’t make threats
Considering 50 percent of marriages in the US end in divorce, many people think it is normal.
However, you don’t have to be a part of that statistics.16
Couples who threaten their partner to get a divorce during fights are more likely to pull the trigger.
If you are committed to making your marriage work, do not mention divorce when you go through a difficult period.
Instead of saying you will leave them, try to look for ways to work together.
Treat a crisis like a storm.
No matter how scary it is, it is only temporary.
Related: How to Avoid Divorce - 20 Ways to Revive a Struggling Marriage
12. Remember what attracted you to your spouse
Humor is one of the major drivers of romantic attraction.17
13. Stay faithful
Infidelity is one of the most common causes of divorce.18
Cheating is usually driven by deeper problems in the marriage.
One of the best tips to stay faithful is to avoid potential traps that lead you to become unfaithful such as confiding your marriage problems to someone you are attracted to.