Did you know that, according to research done by sociologist Paul Amato, 42%-45% of marriages nowadays will most likely end in a divorce? Which begs the question – have we forgotten what it takes to have a successful marriage?
Now, let’s counter this research with another, happier one: according to research done by Scott M. Stanley, a professor at the University of Denver, the percentage of people in the US who say that they’re either “very happy” or “pretty happy” in their marriage is around 95%! From these approximate 95%, about 63% of people would say that they’re very happy in their marriages!
See, we’ve got some really different conclusions here from the ones noted above! While almost half of the marriages will likely end in a divorce, those that do remain will be pretty successful and long-lasting.
7 Secrets to a Successful Marriage
But whether you’ve been married for only a couple of years, or more than forty, you’ve surely wondered what makes a successful marriage.
Well, here we are – I present to you the keys to a healthy marriage!
#1 Fighting Can Be Healthy – If You’re Doing It Right
Even happy couples have marital fights, that’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it can even be beneficial for a relationship. According to a survey made in 2012, it turns out that “44 percent of married couples believe that fighting more than once a week helps keep the lines of communication open”.
And so, I’ve come to realize that the key is actually not how much you fight, but what kind of fights you have. If your fights are abusive and hurtful towards your spouse, well that’s only going to make matters worse. Those are not healthy fights and that’s not a healthy marriage. If all you do is attack each other, who does the listening?
Instead, try arguing and avoid blaming your spouse for everything that’s wrong in your relationship. Fights shouldn’t revolve around hurting the other person, but expressing one’s point of view – it’s the only way they’re going to be constructive.
Practice conscious fighting
And this means you have to be more conscious of the way you fight with your spouse. It means not succumbing to old, ineffective ways of fighting that serve only to corrode your relationship and not fix it. Which is to say – don’t get stuck in old patterns and make communication and re-connection a mutual endeavor.
It’s ok if you sometimes feel stuck, it’s ok if you don’t always know how to connect to your partner. If this is the case, then, by all means, tell this openly to your partner and ask for help together. If you find it more and more difficult to work on issues by yourselves, then consider talking to a couple’s therapist.
There’s nothing wrong in asking for this kind of help and therapists can really bring in a fresh, new, and neutral, sometimes much-needed perspective in your relationship so your relationship can move forward.
#2 Keep Your Sex Life Alive and Kicking
For a lot of couples out there, sexual desire dwindles as the years go by. This can be the result of to too many work obligations, having kids, going through an illness. Frequent business trips, time away from home, and being physically separated from your spouse can also contribute to decreasing the quality of your sex life.
After a while, they find themselves in a sexless (or almost sexless) marriage and feel more like friends or relatives than like a husband and wife.
And while it’s normal for desire to lessen with time, couples forget that it too needs working on if they want to keep it alive or rekindle it.
Sex is a healthy and wonderful way of connecting to someone you love intimately and has tons of emotional and biological benefits that make your life richer and more enjoyable.
Having regular sex helps to improve your overall well being – it affects your mood (blame those hormones), it helps regulate anger, makes you feel more connected and close to your partner – heck, it’s even good for your heart health!
The importance of sex and the couple’s closeness is interconnected. The more sex you have the closer you feel to your partner, and vice versa – the closer you feel to your partner, the more sex you have. So, if you want to keep your sex drive alive in your marriage, you have to work on your affections as well, the emotional bonds you have with your partner.
This means talking openly about your desires and fantasies, trying out new stuff (like sex positions and introducing toys into your love life), and maybe even visiting a sex therapist.
#3 For a Successful Marriage You Need to Be Good at Communication
I can’t stress this enough. Couples who are good communicators stay together and are, in general, much happier.
What does it mean to be a good communicator in marriage?
Well, you should strive to be good communicators in every aspect of your life – from your sex life, to your day to day household matters life, to your kids and wider family and social life. Being a good communicator in marriage means:
Setting time aside to talk without interruptions
No TV, no computers and social networks, no phones. Just you and your partner listening attentively and talking openly and honestly with each other.
It can also mean taking some time to think about what you want to say to your partner talking about the things happening around you, communicating how all of that affects you.
Being specific and clear about the things you want to tell your partner means no double entendres or hidden subtext, no passive-aggressiveness. It’s plain and simple crossing straight to the point.
Using the “I” statements
Use the so-called “I” statements and use phrases such as “I want…”, “I feel… ”, “I need… “. By doing this you take responsibility for your feelings and are aware of them, making it easier to communicate them to your partner when something’s wrong.
Be attentive towards your partner – listen to them carefully and openly, without judgments. Don’t interfere in the middle of their sentences, put away your thoughts for a little while. In one word – be empathetic. Try to understand how they feel, what they need, and desire, what they lack, what their intentions and complaints are.
Readiness to share both good and ill
Share the good and the bad – your partner should be there for you for better or for worse, and you should hold back to share with them both the positive and the negative events and feelings in your life.
Focusing on their good sides
Focus on their good sides and share how they make you feel – tell them which of their virtues and quirks you like about them, how important they are to you, and how much you admire them as a person;
Watching the tone of your voice
When you communicate with your partner, and especially when you’re in an argument, be mindful of the tone of your voice. This can change a lot in terms of the outcome of the discussion. Try to be calmer and to speak with a normal tone of voice, the one you use in everyday life, even if you’re in the middle of an argument.
Letting go of small issues
When you’re fighting, if the issue is something that’s going to seem insignificant in a week or a month or so, then let it go. You don’t always have to be right just to prove your point. Sometimes it’s good to choose our “battles” with our partners for the sake of our relationship. Yeah, I’d also sometimes abide by the “agree to disagree” rule, and it doesn’t make me any less of a man.
Also, don’t forget to pay attention to non-verbal communication as well
Now, both of you should also be mindful of your non-verbal communication. I already mentioned the tone of voice, but there’s also the posture of the body and, of course, the expressions of our face, the ones we’re not always so conscious about.
All of these non-verbal cues can be a way to communicate with your partner, and can sometimes say a lot more than actual words.
For example, if you tell your partner “I love you” with a tone of voice that’s flat and uninterested, well then, your partner might doubt how real and honest this “I love you” really is. So besides your words, you should also take notice of your body language cues.
You also need to remember that you won’t be able to be perfect communicators all of the time and that’s okay. Nobody is. It’s the effort that counts.
#4 Don’t Make Your Partner Fill All Social Roles
Your partner/spouse is a major part of your life, that’s clear. It’s wonderful that we can rely on our partners for so many things, the good and the bad, and that we know they’ll be there for us, for whatever comes next.
But, making your partner fill literally every social role in your life is definitely unhealthy.
In a healthy marriage, the spouses are two actualized and self-sustaining people. They have friends that they sometimes see together, and sometimes separately. They have social circles that do not always involve both of them, they have different hobbies and interests.
It’s not like you’re both halves of the same person. You are still separate people, and when you’re together you make a bigger unit, one that’s more than the sum of its parts.
If you make your partner be your everything, you risk slipping into a codependent relationship, which basically means you lose your identity and meld into your partner’s. It means you can’t do anything when you’re not with them or that you feel it’s incomplete whatever you do if you do it alone.
Don’t get me wrong. This is different from what psychologists call “interdependency”, which means that you rely on each other for help, support, and understanding while maintaining a sense of identity and comfort in being on your own as well.
A healthy relationship is when “each party remains self-sufficient and self-determining. They maintain a clear identity apart from the relationship and are quite able to stand on their own two feet.”
So, if you feel you’re sometimes relying a little too much on each other for roles that you feel you can’t really fulfill, try funneling these divergent needs in different areas and people in your life.
#5 Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help When It Gets Really Tough
It’s okay not to be able to solve all of your problems throughout the years solely by yourselves. Even the best of communicators don’t always manage to weather the challenges of marriage.
And so, when stuff gets too hot to handle, well, it’s quite simple, really. Go to therapy. Nowadays, there are plenty of couples therapists out there, specializing in different areas of marital life. If you have a particular issue (or issues) with your sex life, don’t be afraid to visit a sex therapist as well.
While in the 1980s couples therapy was about 50% effective, nowadays it has risen to 75% effectiveness! This is largely due to improved therapy methods and also the emergence of new, even more, effective ones, and a better understanding of the human psyche in general.
So, as you can see, couples who are determined in seeing a counselor when they can no longer deal with marital issues themselves are more likely to stay together, than couples who don’t.
#6 Do Stuff Together
Bonding time with your partner doesn’t end the day you get married. It’s a lifelong practice, one that you should work on almost every day.
Each time you do stuff with your partner, it helps you renew your friendship and your intimate bonds. Having fun in your marriage should be mandatory!
Of course, as I said in secret #4, your partner shouldn’t be the sole person in your life on whom all happiness and fun times depend. But, maintaining your bond of closeness and emotional intimacy requires to have and share experiences together.
And so, this means that once in a while (but try to keep it regular this “once in a while”), you should introduce new activities that you can do together and that you’ll both enjoy.
Maybe it’s a skill you’ve been dying to master for years, like doing pottery or learning a new language. Or is it a cooking class made after a particular type of cuisine you both like? Maybe it’s a passion nobody else understands but the two of you! Or some kind of sport, an adrenaline experience such as paragliding or bungee jumping… Maybe it’s the sheer joy of traveling together around the world… Or a particular cause you’re dedicated to… The options are practically endless as long as you’re enthusiastic about doing stuff together.
All in all, couples who are happy in their marriage want to do things together and experience novelty together.
Whatever kind of experience that you think might enrich your relationship, just do it – but do it together!
#7 Appreciate the Small Things in Life
Our lives consist of tiny little moments of miracle and joy that not all of us are used to notice and appreciate (or at least, not most of the time, anyway).
And while it’s super-important to be there for all of the bad times that might await, it’s just as important to celebrate the good times and to look forward to even seemingly trivial things and occurrences in your daily life.
Whether it’s a daily ritual that you share with your partner like having your morning coffee, or a sip of wine in the evening when you recount your days, acknowledge it as a wonderful part of your relationship and appreciate its presence.
Celebrate good news, even the smallest of them, like they’re big events. Count the compliment from their boss like a promotion. You’ll find that these kinds of seemingly small appreciations can be great ways to connect to your partner.
Final Thoughts – what the online community has to say about successful marriage
These are snippets from stories from people who’ve been happily married for more than 10 years. Nobody can tell you exactly how to have a successful marriage, but there are some general characteristics that seem to show up time and time again. Let’s see them!
Married for 19 years – the key is kindness and tolerance
“19 years here.
Be kind to your spouse. Some people treat their life partner worse than they would a roommate.
No public disagreements. If you have a bone to pick, you do it in private. Publicly, you have each other’s backs.
Don’t go to bed angry. I know it’s a trite, oft-repeated cliche, but seriously, just resolve your disagreements when they occur, clear the air, and move on. Otherwise they just build up. Also, if you’ve been an asshole because you’re moody that day, just apologize. It happens.
By the same token, if it’s a small thing, let it goooo. Yes, it’s annoying to pick up your goddamned socks off the floor, but I’m not perfect either and the bathroom cabinets are full of junk, which annoys you. Neither of us is going to change at this point, obviously. Live with the flaws. It’s not that big of a deal.”
20 years together – the key is don’t be rude to one another
“We just celebrated our 20th anniversary a couple of weeks ago. The biggest thing is remembering that just because you’re married doesn’t mean you get to be rude. If you are nicer to waiters than you are to your spouse, you’re pretty much fucked.
Our ground rules have always been no name calling – ever, not even “jokingly” – and no threats to leave or divorce or anything else like that. We are committed to each other and to our kids so whatever is the disagreement, there is always a way to compromise.”
25 years together – the key is to be buddies
“Happily married for 25 years here. It hasn’t been a bed of roses, there have been tough times and good ones – said goodbye to my baby for a long work trip this AM, and cried. My tips? Be buddies, don’t stress over the little stuff, be positive, cut each other some slack, spend time together when you can’t but don’t fight about it, LAUGH, realize how many of the things we get angry about are ridiculous…”
15 years together – the key is to communicate and keep intimacy and romance alive
Been together 15 years, since I was 19. Agreeing here with several others, communication is vital. You have to be able to talk honestly. And keep having fun. If it gets boring and stagnant it can create problems. Keep the intimacy alive, don’t let romance die! Or sex!!! Otherwise you slide into housemate territory and away from a couple. That’s some pointers that have worked for us.
26 years together – the key is to be 100% aboard
“Today’s our 26th anniversary – who’d have guessed way back then? I married my first sweetheart and went through interesting times throughout the years. You ask for tips? Here’s one: you know that whole “sharing the work 50/50” notion? Well it’s complete bunk. What works is total commitment by both spouses, everybody is aboard for 100%. There is no counting, no “I’ve done my share now it’s your turn”. When stuff needs to get done, you do it and enjoy doing it and smile. Married life is simple: You are back to back in the water fighting off sharks for the rest of your lives and you just do what has to be done as it comes; and say thanks when your partner knifes one you missed.”