How To Build A Happy Marriage

Updated September 30, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

When you date and plan to marry, relationships are often filled with excitement as both partners put forth lots of effort to appeal to the other person. Sometimes, after the marriage, the excitement can diminish as the honeymoon period naturally comes to an end. This can be worsened by both partners becoming more complacent in the relationship. Life also changes as it can become more routine. Other times, life brings challenges, and those can also cause problems in the relationship.

Marriages Can Face Challenges
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The reality is, marriages take work. It is helpful to start from the beginning with plans that will keep your marriage happy. However, it is never too late to make changes that will make your marriage happier. Try these tips to help build and maintain a happy marriage:

Build a Happy Marriage with Open Honesty

The foundation of most relationships is based on communication. Every marriage needs an open and honest conversation to build a happy relationship and maintain it over time. This may seem difficult when there are problems or challenges you do not necessarily want to discuss. However, it is important to be direct, open, and honest, even during those difficult times.

Being open and honest applies to many different areas that intersect with a relationship. This could be about the state of your job, the state of your finances, or even the state of your marriage. If you are having fears and concerns about your marriage, it is important to take those directly to your partner and talk them over openly. This can resolve them or at least let you work on resolving them more quickly.

Say Things Nicely

Although your goal should be to talk openly and honestly, you do not necessarily have to say every thought you have or say it exactly how it entered your mind. Sometimes you may have information to share, and you will want to think about how to put it nicely. For example, you could be frustrated with your partner about something, and you can give that feedback in nice terms, rather than in the blunt and direct ways those thoughts might typically go through your mind.

Show Your Appreciation

As a dating couple, you may have frequently expressed your appreciation for your partner. You may have done this in many ways, such as a hug and kiss upon seeing them after a long day or by planning special surprises for them. After years of marriage, couples can become more accustomed to seeing their partner every day and may think less often about showing that special appreciation.

The problem with not showing appreciation is that it can make both partners feel less emotionally satisfied. When people do not feel appreciated, they may feel less connected to their partner. They may even start to feel very hurt, and sometimes, they will look elsewhere for the appreciation they may so desperately want. So, both partners need to remember to show appreciation in little and big ways. It will help maintain the emotional connection and make both partners feel good.

Express Your Gratitude

Just as couples may become more complacent about showing their appreciation to one another, they may also forget to show their gratitude. Again, the routine may dictate that each partner does certain things in the relationship. The other partner may just become accustomed to those things being done without actually saying anything ingratitude of it being done.

This can make each partner feel as though they are being taken for granted. Each partner may even start to keep a score of what they have done that seemingly went unnoticed. Over time, resentments can build up, and each partner may have unspoken upset towards the other. If left unaddressed, this can cause the relationship to deteriorate, potentially leading to fighting and bigger problems.

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To avoid these problems, each partner needs to continue to show gratitude towards one another for the small and big things they do. There may be roles that each partner naturally takes on, but the other person needs to notice and say, ‘thank you.’ This avoids that trap of taking things for granted and both partners feeling as though they are not valued in the relationship.

Be Kind to One Another

Just as you should show appreciation and gratitude for the small and big things your partner does, you should also continue to be kind to one another. This also involves smaller and bigger actions you can take to show your partner that you care for them. Sometimes, it is even just as small as complimenting them. Being kind also involves not taking out your frustrations on your partner, especially when those frustrations are related to work or things outside the marriage.

Be Positive, Stay Happy, Let Small Things Go

Another way to avoid building resentment in marriage and maintain happiness is to let the small things go. In most relationships, there can be big problems (such as, for example, infidelity or one partner leading the couple into financial problems), and of course, those should be addressed directly and as quickly as possible to resolve them and help to maintain the relationship.

However, many smaller problems should be let go of. These include annoyances over more minor things, such as forgetting to put their shoes away. If you hold onto those annoyances, they will only build over time. They will lead to resentment and unhappiness. Letting go requires not taking it personally, giving feedback for them to do it differently next time, and then just moving ahead with your day.

Building a Happy Marriage Means Taking Care of Yourself

In relationships, sometimes one or both partners let themselves go, negatively affecting the whole relationship. Taking care of yourself can apply to your appearance, and it is helpful to continue to present yourself attractively (at least sometimes) to your partner. However, taking care of yourself also applies to attending to your emotional and psychological health.

Every person has certain physical, emotional, and psychological needs that must be met to be personally happy. It can be tempting to sacrifice oneself for the other person or the relationship in a relationship. However, each partner needs to take care of themselves and keep themselves well to work alongside their partner to make the marriage as happy as possible.

Engage in your self-care by doing things that you enjoy with your partner and even apart from your partner. If you sometimes need alone time, talk to your partner and make sure you set that time aside. If you need a spa day or a yoga class, do those things as much as your finances will allow. Engage in other wellness steps such as Mindfulness Meditation that can help you be at your best.

Marriages Can Face Challenges

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Foster Other Friendships

Although your marriage will be the primary relationship in your life, it cannot be the only relationship. Everyone also needs friends and other social supports. Couples also benefit from spending time with other couples. Each can support the others’ relationship by providing a sounding board sometimes and by being a source of advice at other times. So, make sure to foster your other friendships.

Along with fostering friendships, it is important not to become so overly involved in one’s marriage that other familial relationships are forgotten or neglected. Just as time with friends can support a strong marriage, connections to family and familial relationships can also support the marriage. Essentially, foster your other relationships as a way to promote a life-long and happy, strong marriage.

Allow Some Silence

Some couples may think that things are not going well and may start to feel unhappy because things feel comfortable. It is okay for the relationship to be comfortable and for there to be times of silence. It may just mean you are the ease with one another. Allowing some silence also means taking a break to think sometimes. For example, if you are arguing, you may each need to step away, allow some silence, and calm down before you continue talking. This can also save you from saying hurtful things.

Seek Couples Counseling for a Happy Marriage

You may also benefit from Couples Counseling to help promote a happy marriage. This may be especially helpful if you lack strong family relationships or live some distance away from other close friends. You can participate in Couples Counseling before you marry, in Premarital Counseling, to promote a successful and happy marriage. Many couples also use Couples Counseling to save their marriage. It does not have to be something you turn to only during difficult circumstances or after you’ve been immersed in a long-standing unhappy marriage.

If you are interested in using Couples Counseling to start your marriage off right or save your marriage, you can usually find a therapist online. In fact, some people choose to pursue Couples Counseling through online platforms, called Teletherapy. This format can allow you to easily participate in Couples Counseling with a skilled Therapist from anywhere, at any time that is convenient for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What is the most important factor in a happy marriage?

The most important factor that continually comes up in evaluations and research studies on happy couples identifies friendship as the most important factor contributing to happy marriages. Researchers think the reason behind this involves the love and support found in friendship but is likely made up of several components, including:

  • Considerate communication. In good friendships, communication is continual and respectful, and happy marriages are no different. Friends are often those who feel safe and comfortable revealing themselves at their best and worst, and marriages are similarly bolstered and strengthened by intimacy and vulnerability, not unlike the intimacy and vulnerability found in friendship.
  • Time together. Friends spend time together. They may not always see each other multiple times each week—or even multiple times in a month—but friends make time for one another, even if that time is as short or simple as talking on the phone or trading memes back and forth. Marriages are similarly in need of quality time, and the happiest marriages are those in which a couple makes spending time together with a high priority.
  • Support for one another. Friendships are typically considered important because they are among the most supportive relationships a person can have. The support found in friendship is among the more important components that must be found and fostered in happy marriages. Just as friends offer support—teasing support though it may be—spouses must offer one another support, consideration, and encouragement to foster a happy and fulfilling marriage.

Friendship is an enduring bond—frequently even far beyond the bounds of happy marriages. Ensuring that your marriage is built on and supported by a strong friendship can be vital to making sure that your marriage is built to last and is filled with happiness. Even if your relationship began as a dating relationship and not a friendship, friendship can be given plenty of attention within a relationship and is likely to provide a stronger and more solid base for a relationship than physical attraction or shared interests alone. Happy couples prioritize friendship, and one of the best snippets of marriage advice available is this: make sure your partner is your best friend.

How do I build a strong relationship in my marriage?

Marriage advice for building a strong marriage relationship is not terribly different from building a strong relationship overall, as the basis of any good marriage is friendship. To build a strong relationship, you must tend to several key components. Tips for a happy marriage include attending to:

  • Your foundation. The foundation of your relationship is the rock you will return to when your relationship grows difficult, stale, or troubled. Tips for a happy marriage must include some foundation work. Without a strong foundation, relationships can quickly and easily fold. To build a strong foundation (and, consequently, a strong relationship), focus on what brought you and your partner together and what has kept you together. Whether it is a mutual devotion to environmental concerns or a shared love of music, coupled with any success, they have a foundation from which to build their relationship.
  • Your communication. Communication serves as another stone in the foundation of your relationship. Communication between two partners must be open, considerate, respectful, and “I” focused, which means that complaints, concerns, and fears should be communicated using “I.” For example, someone who is frustrated by their partner’s lack of availability might come to their partner and say, “I feel like I am not much of a priority right now, and it hurts my feelings.”
  • Your willingness to forgive. You will make mistakes, and your partner will make mistakes. Being able to forgive yourself and your partner is essential to make your relationship last. The golden rule is often the best rule to live by in these situations. Do you want to be forgiven for your mistakes and your pitfalls? Do the same for your partner. Marriage tips would be remiss were they to avoid a mention of forgiveness and grace.
  • Your physical relationship. Although sex alone is not a great basis for relationships, sex and physical affection are often extremely important parts of maintaining and building a healthy relationship. Sex, holding hands, hugging, and even brushing up against one another as you pass can help maintain a sense of closeness and togetherness, helping build a strong relationship. Whether you’ve been married for a matter of weeks, or you’ve been married for several decades, physical affection is important.

What are the rules for a happy marriage?

There are plenty of long-standing tips for a happy marriage that virtually everyone who announces their marriage hears. “Don’t go to bed angry.” “Live and let live.” “Happy wife, happy life.” Although these are frequently accepted and acknowledged rules, they are all problematic in some way or another. What are the true tips for a happy marriage? Happy marriage tips typically follow a prescribed set of rules or guidelines. These include:

  1. Limit your expectations. Expectations can quickly erode even the most joyful of relationships because expectations create resentment and anger. Although there are plenty of perfectly reasonable expectations to be found in a relationship—the expectation that you will be treated well-loved and not cheated on, for instance—there are also numerous expectations that can damage relationships. Expectations regarding finances, chores, and even making dinner can cause enormous arguments and resentment in a marriage. Happy couples limit their expectations.
  2. Acknowledge your limits. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. When you cannot fulfill a promise or an expectation, communicate that you cannot quite get there. Continually communicating your limits, mistakes, and pitfalls will let your partner know that you are humble and vulnerable with them and will help foster a sense of closeness and intimacy.
  3. Carve out your own path. Although marriages based on friendship are most frequently identified as the happiest ones, marriages in which both partners see only one another frequently fizzle and burn out. This is because partners that forget to foster a sense of individuality can quickly grow codependent and resentful of one another and can feel suffocated.
  4. Appreciate and respect your partner. Marriages that are happy (and marriages that last) are made up of two partners who value and respect each other. Appreciation is usually simple: remember to say “thank you,” encourage your partner, and support their successes. Respecting your partner is similarly simple and requires that you consider your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. Improving the respect and appreciation, you feel for your partner can do a lot to help save your marriage.

How can I be happy in a bad marriage?

Learning to be happy in an unhappy marriage is not necessarily the best course of action. The particular reason for your marriage’s label of “bad” will determine whether or not you should try to be happy in that marriage, rather than leaving the marriage behind and starting over. There are several bad marriages that you should never try to stay in. These include:

  • Abusive relationships. Abusive relationships cover a wide range of behaviors, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, and mental abuse. If your partner harms you in any way, the best course of action is likely to leave the relationship altogether, rather than trying to “be happy” in the marriage. Your self-worth and safety are more important than trying to be happy in a dangerous or problematic relationship.
  • Manipulative relationships. Manipulative relationships are usually included in abusive relationships, but they may be more nuanced and more difficult to detect than other abusive relationships. If your partner manipulates you through guilt or gaslighting, creating distance is the best choice.
  • Relationships are based on lies. Although many people will suggest that a white lie is not too problematic, lies can be extremely problematic in relationships. If your relationship was built primarily on lies, it is likely best to avoid trying to be happy and create distance from the partner who continually lied to you.

If your relationship does not fall under the umbrella of the bad marriages above but is bad simply because it has lost a sense of spontaneity or romance, learning to be happy is not a matter of risking your safety or harming your mental health. To learn to be happy in a marriage that has lost its spark, you may:

  • Focus on your own behaviors. If you want to be happy, focus on your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Although it can be frustrating if your partner does not attend to your needs the way you hoped they would, you cannot rely on other people to make you happy. Attend to your own thought patterns, needs, and behaviors, and learn how to be happy on your own.
  • Accept what you cannot control. You cannot control other people’s behavior, nor can you completely control the state of your marriage. Make the changes you need to make to support healthy, happy marriage and let go of the rest.
  • Communicate your needs. Although some bad relationships are made that way by design, plenty grows stale over time or after years of neglect. Take some time to communicate your needs to your partner and ask for theirs. This can help both of you reach a place that is far happier than before.

Why unhappy couples stay married?

 Staying in a marriage is not always worse than leaving a marriage, even if the couple is unhappy. Therapy can be utilized during the marriage to improve the state of the relationship. There are plenty of other situations in which unhappy couples may stay married, not the least of which include:

  • Fear of change. Many unhappy couples got married when they were young or in some trouble, such as experiencing an unwanted pregnancy and are afraid of living alone. These couples likely do not know how to function outside of their marriage relationship, as they may have spent the vast majority of their life with their partner. Being afraid of change is perfectly normal but is not usually considered a solid reason to stay within an unhappy relationship. If you’ve been married since your youth, taking on such an intense change can be frightening.
  • Abuse or manipulation. Abusive relationships can be powerful and intense motivators to keep people in unhappy marriages, as abusive relationships can threaten to cut people off from financial, social, and emotional assistance. Abusers can threaten their partners’ lives should they attempt to leave and may even exert physical or emotional violence over their partners after past attempts to leave the relationship.
  • Financial concerns. If you have spent most of your life with two incomes or relying on your spouse’s income, the prospect of leaving your marriage can be daunting. As living costs continue to rise and many minimum wage positions provide far less than standard living expenses, the prospect of losing financial security and help can make leaving an unhappy marriage feel impossible. Financial hardship could also come from family members or friends who do not condone divorce and refuse to offer any assistance in the absence of previous financial help.
  • Hope for change. Some people stay in unhappy marriages because they hope that their partner will change or their relationship will improve. Some people attend therapy with their partner, while others wait for a short period of unhappiness in the marriage. For these individuals, not being happy in a marriage is not tantamount to not being happy overall.

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