What Does It Take To Have A Happy Marriage?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Did you know? Happy marriages can be correlated with better mental and physical health, possibly promoting an increased average life expectancy for many. However, with half of marriages ending in divorce in the United States, many might find that achieving a healthy marriage can require work. 

Identifying the characteristics of a happy marriage can help you and your partner collaborate as you work towards marital health, and a licensed couple’s therapist can help you discover new tools to improve your relationship. 

Below, we’ve summarized possible characteristics that can positively impact your marriage. We’ve also explored the use and efficacy of online therapy in promoting a healthy marriage. 

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Characteristics of a happy marriage

Happiness can be a subjective term—but many people agree that a healthy marriage depends on open communication, gratitude, equality, honesty, and commitment.

While many couples may have unique characteristics that they believe contribute to the harmony of their marriage, elements of happiness can also be boiled down to several components. These can include: 

1. Compatibility

There may not be a need to agree on everything. However, holding similar or compatible viewpoints on key aspects of your relationship—including communication, life goals, finances, honesty, and sexual needs—can make it easier for couples to have a happy marriage. 

2. Commitment

Marital commitment can mean different things to different people, including a willingness to continue working on your marriage despite challenging circumstances that may come up. Committing to remaining strong from the start can be a helpful step toward a supportive marriage. 

3. Communication

Healthy communication strategies can be difficult to develop, especially if you and your partner communicate in different ways. A couple’s therapist can be a useful guide to help you strengthen the way you both tackle challenges. 

4. Excitement

Marital excitement can be built by engaging in new and challenging tasks together. In one study, couples were asked questions such as: “Does your partner make you a better person?”, and “How much do you see your partner as a way to expand your own capabilities?”. Couples asked to try a difficult task together prior to the session were recorded reporting more positive answers to these questions than couples who were not instructed to try something challenging together. This suggests that challenges, while difficult, can provide new opportunities to foster excitement and teamwork in a marriage if both partners are willing and receptive. 

5. Sexual satisfaction

Achieving sexual satisfaction can require emotional vulnerability, honesty, and comfort between both partners. Healthy verbal and non-verbal communication can help communicate your needs and desires. Sexual satisfaction is not necessary in every marriage for a successful partnership. Experiencing a range of attraction or sexual desire can be common for any part of the relationship. Therapy can be a useful tool to successfully communicate these shifts to any other partner(s) in your marriage. Additionally, other forms of intimacy can be sought after as a possible replacement for sex or alternative focus, such as exercising or trying new things together. 

6. Respect

Studies suggest that respect can be a foundational aspect of successful romantic relationships, positively impacting all parts of a relationship, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. 

7. Companionship

According to the American Psychological Association, people who have smaller social networks can experience more pronounced feelings of companionship and a reduction in feelings of loneliness through marriage. This could indicate that many spouses consider each other to be both friends and romantic partners, which can contribute to one’s quality of life. 

8. Trust

One of the more fundamental elements of a healthy marriage is often considered to be trust. Making reasonable commitments to your spouse and being honest when those commitments are broken, for example, can help to build trust and accountability in your relationship. 

9. Authenticity

Building emotional honesty and vulnerability can help you foster a stronger relationship with your spouse. You can often attempt to do this by saying: “I love you”, or “I’d like to hear about your day”. Communicating with your spouse or partners about expectations can be helpful to ensure that each effort is fully appreciated and returned in a way that positively impacts you. 

10. Financial stability

You and your partner(s) might consider discussing spending habits and personal finances before entering marriage. Mismatches in preferences, such as one partner who is a maximalist and one who is a minimalist, can cause future financial or marital strain. To minimize this risk, you may work to discuss these topics as openly and proactively as possible. 

11. Mutual load-bearing

Discussing the division of paid and unpaid labor within your household, including whether both partners intend to pursue careers or how chores and parental responsibilities will be divided up, can help you both find the arrangement that suits your unique needs and desires. 

12. Independence

Codependency can occur in relationships when there might be a power imbalance, possibly leaving someone in the relationship feeling dependent on the other. To help minimize this risk, you can work on pouring into yourself as much as you pour into your partner. For example: When entering a marriage, most partners might find it helpful and fulfilling if they have space to pursue their own careers, friendships, passions, and activities.

How online therapy can help you improve your marriage

Every partnership can have challenges at some point. Some couples find therapy to be a helpful outlet to discuss conflict, develop strategies, and build stronger communication skills. 

Forbes has found that nearly half of all married couples have sought counseling at some point and that couples counseling can be effective if both partners are willing to grow and work together as a couple. Online therapy has been found by many to be especially beneficial, allowing couples and partners to connect with a therapist from the comfort of their home or another safe place. This can reduce feelings of nervousness or defensiveness that may surface if therapy or vulnerability is sought in an unfamiliar environment. This can make online therapy a more competitive and impactful option for many. 

 Recent studies have found that online couples therapy can be effective for most and that there are some unique benefits to an online format. In particular, the study found evidence that suggests that couples reported a higher level of comfort discussing their relationship when they were physically distanced from their therapist. Online therapists, like those available at BetterHelp, can empower you to try therapy in this way, helping you to actively address areas of need in your partnership. 

Takeaway

Establishing and maintaining a healthy marriage can require active effort from both partners. Rather than agreeing on everything, strong relationships might rely on several key facets, including compromise, communication and mutual respect. Many of the elements that contribute to marital strength can be developed, and a licensed couple’s therapist can help you and your partner find ways to improve the quality of your life together. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.

Marriage can come with complex challenges

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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