What Does It Take To Have A Happy Marriage?
Happy marriages are correlated with better mental and physical health, including an increased average life expectancy. But, with half of marriages ending in divorce in the United States, achieving a healthy marriage requires 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.
Characteristics Of A Happy Marriage
Happiness is a subjective term, but many people agree that a healthy marriage depends on open communication, gratitude, equality, honesty, and commitment. There could be an endless list of things that couples consider important to their relationship and marital success, including:
Compatibility: There is no need to agree on everything. But, 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.
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.
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. A therapist may be able to teach you new ways to bring up your concerns with your partner. For example, they may ask you to try using “I statements” to avoid placing blame on your partner when you voice frustrations, such as “I feel ____ when you ___ because _____.”
Excitement: Marital excitement can be built by engaging in new and challenging tasks together. In one study, couples were asked questions like “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 reported more positive answers to these questions than couple’s who were not instructed to try something challenging together. Seeking out new activities may positively impact your feelings towards your partner.
Sexual needs: Achieving sexual health often requires emotional vulnerability, honesty, and comfort between both partners. Healthy verbal and non-verbal communication can help communicate your needs and desires. For individuals with physical or mental health problems, sexual dysfunction can be common. Partners can work together to maintain or reestablish romantic and sexual connection by planning date nights, engaging in romance outside of the bedroom, communicating respectfully, quitting smoking, engaging in regular exercise, and trying new things together.
Respect: Studies show that respect is a foundational aspect of successful romantic relationships.
Companionship: According to the American Psychological Association, people with smaller social networks can experience large gains in companionship and reduction in loneliness through marriage. Many spouses consider each other to be both friends and romantic partners, which can contribute to quality of life.
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 can help build trust and accountability in your relationship.
Authenticity: Building emotional honesty and vulnerability can help you foster a stronger relationship with your spouse. When you say, “I love you”, or “I’d like to hear about your day”, your spouse should feel as though you mean it.
Finances: You and your partner should consider discussing spending habits and personal finance 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 and may be best discussed openly and proactively. Other financial decisions, such as budgets and savings plans, can be made collaboratively, too.
Work: Discussing the division of paid and un-paid 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.
- Independence: Codependency can occur in relationships when there is a power imbalance that leaves someone in the relationship feeling dependent on the other. When entering a marriage, most partners need space to pursue their own careers, friendships, passions, and activities.
How To Improve Your Marriage
No marriage is perfect, and every partnership is bound to have challenges at some point. You and your partner can take steps to improve your bond and ability to deal with issues as they come up. Some couples find therapy to be a helpful outlet to discuss conflict, develop strategies, and build stronger communication skills. A 2022 article in Forbes Health states 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. Couples with difficulty communicating, frequent fighting, trust issues, reduced emotional or physical connection, sexual problems, goal differences, infidelity, or general dissatisfaction may find the most benefit from couples’ therapy. But any couple open to therapy may benefit from it.
A 2020 study found that online couples therapy is effective, and that there are some unique benefits to an online format. In particular, the study found 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, enable you to try therapy from the comfort of your own home. Additionally, you may find it helpful that you can schedule sessions outside of normal business hours, so neither you nor your partner must skip work to attend a therapy session.
Establishing and maintaining a healthy marriage requires active effort from both partners. Rather than agreeing on everything, strong relationships often rely on 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.