Top 10 Pieces of Advice for a Long and Healthy Marriage
1. Commitment is crucial
- Have a long-term view: "It's like investing in the stock market, you can't pull your money out as soon as it dips." – Marlene Pearson, marriage preparation curriculum developer.
- Your partner is a package deal: You have to take the good with the not so good.
- Be willing to put time and effort into sustaining and enhancing your relationship.
- Recognize that marriage is a journey that ebbs and flows; passion will wane, but reignite over time.
- The success of your marriage is not measured by how you celebrate the good times, but by how you support each other through the challenges.
2. Share quality time
- Never stop being friends.
- Talk about more than just family logistics like soccer games and grocery shopping.
- Make time to connect with quality conversations – even if the time has to be scheduled. That doesn’t mean a romantic date necessarily, but just setting aside some time.
- Always take time to laugh and play together inside and outside the home.
- Continue to date.
- “Build a comfortable, fulfilling couple sexual style and deal with sexual problems and conflicts early on.” - Barry McCarthy, Ph.D. bestselling author of Getting It Right the First Time
3. Keep a sense of humor
- Be willing to laugh at yourself
- “Humorous responses (to be used gently and often) and the ability to develop and select light-hearted interpretations of life’s inevitable awkwardnesses are of great value in aborting downward emotional spirals (interpretations where blaming the other person can cause great harm).” - Roger Harms, Wichita Community Marriage Policy
4. Master healthy communication
- Speak to each other lovingly and respectfully; Do not criticize, belittle, ridicule or reject your partner.
- Have patience.
- Be gentle.
- Be willing to listen.
- Be willing to talk.
- Be willing to validate what your partner is expressing, even if you do not agree with it.
5. Do “little” things that make a big difference
- Affirm your partner and relationship daily by saying things like, “I love you,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry.”
- Do things for your partner without being asked.
- Pray for your partner: "Our research shows that praying for your partner can bring you back to the common goals. When people pray, they become one with their spouse. A subtle shift occurs. Praying regulates your emotion and it never leads to anger. 'Knee-mail' is social support available 24/7. We know that couples who have access to social support tend to negotiate their relationships better than anyone else." - Dr. Frank Fincham, Eminent Scholar and Director of the FSU Family Institute.
6. Choose your battles
- Be quick to forgive and slow to anger.
- The worst possible advice you can give a newlywed couples is to express your feelings about everything. Far better advice is to choose your battles, so when you make a request of your spouse, and your spouse doesn't comply, step back for a moment and ask how important is this? Is this one of those issues I go to war over, or do I focus instead on what my spouse does for me, and let this one slide by? Be creative about differences and find a compromise. If you talk to people in long-term, happy marriages, they'll tell you acceptance is one of the key components to making it last. - Michelle Weiner Davis, author of bestseller Divorce Busting.
7. Do your part
- “Successful marriage is not so much a matter of finding the right person, but being the right person.” - Scott Stanley, Ph.D., is a research professor and co director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver.
- Be the best person you can be in your relationship—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
- "If you want a happy marriage, invest time and energy in it like you did when you were dating and take an annual checkup." - David H. Olson, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Life Innovations, is Professor Emeritus, Family Social Science, University of Minnesota
- Look independently at your issues: It is often easier to point to your partner's issues than it is to examine your own.
8. Foster trust and security
- Learn to trust and be trustworthy.
- Avoid temptation.
- “Build boundaries, like a fortress, around your marriage to protect it” (for example, strong boundaries with the opposite sex, in-laws, use of alcohol, etc.) - Glen and Joan Mears, a 38-years-married couple and military marriage counselors
9. “Work with your partner or spouse to create a shared vision for your relationship.” - Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and author of the bestselling book Getting the Love You Want
- Agree on what you want your relationship to look and feel like.
- Develop goals for your relationship.
- Decide on what types of things you need to be doing to move toward making your vision a reality.
10. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. “Healthy relationships are created, not found.” - Martha Miller, LCSW-C
- Marriage Education is helpful and preventive.
- Therapy is not admitting defeat; it can help.
- “I now think of long-term marriage like I think about living in my home state of Minnesota. You move into marriage in the springtime of hope, but eventually arrive at the Minnesota winter, with its cold and darkness. Many of us are tempted to give up and move south at this point, not realizing that maybe we've hit a rough spot in a marriage that's actually above average. The problem with giving up, of course, is that our next marriage will enter its own winter at some point. So do we just keep moving on, or do we make our stand now—with this person, in this season? That's the moral, existential question we face when our marriage is in trouble.” - William Doherty, Ph.D., professor and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota and cofounder of the National Registry of Marriage-Friendly Therapists.