Coming from a divorced home, I know that marriage is hard. Sometimes things just fall apart or don't work out. But from the moment my now-husband proposed, I knew I wanted ours to be a forever thing. So I started observing the people around me and studying their relationships. I listened to their conversations, how they speak to each other, how they interact and how they react. I took mental notes. And I paid a lot of attention to my own relationship in the process.
Over time, I realized there are common themes in every unsuccessful marriage: resentment, blame, indifference. But there are commonalities in the successful ones, too. And gradually, I came up with a list of things I think set happy couples apart:
This is so important! We all need to feel seen and heard by the people we love. And it's such an easy thing to give our partners. Say hello when he comes home. Look him in the eyes and smile. Put down your phone and pay attention for a minute. Some people think hatred is the worst thing; I think indifference is worse.
It's obviously important to love your spouse. But you also have to like them. Even more important, let them know that you like them. People like to feel liked!
Affection is easy in the beginning. You're infatuated and in love and can't get enough of that person. But over time, our affection naturally dwindles. The key is to find ways to hold on to it. That's where this next theme comes into play ...
Talk about the good things and the hard things. Tell him what you need and what makes you happy. Tell him why that thing he did last night was frustrating for you. And then listen. Listen to his needs and wants and frustrations. Be open to his feedback and remember that it's okay to argue sometimes. Talk it out until you find common ground!
There is no such thing as an effortless marriage. Even happy couples have to work at it to make it last! So make sure you're prioritizing your relationship and always do a little more than what's strictly necessarily.
Forgiveness is a cornerstone of all successful relationships. There will be times when your spouse lets you down. Times when he says or does something that upsets you. Don't hold on to that hurt and resentment. Take the time to process what happened, then find a way to let it go.
Happy couples laugh a lot. They try to see the humor in what might otherwise be a frustrating situation. The other day, my husband opened the cabinet and realized all the popcorn was gone. At first, he was a little miffed and told me so. I laughed and said, "well you drank all the beer!" And then we both started laughing because guess what? I don't drink beer! Just like that, everything was back to normal! Keep the little things light and save your serious arguments for the big things.
Your spouse should be the one person that sets your soul on fire. After ten years of friendship, dating, and now marriage, I still feel a little giddy every time I see my husband. Part of it is our natural chemistry. The other part is the huge effort we put towards keeping that passion alive (see theme #4 above)!
We are conditioned to believe the grass is always greener on the other side. But every marriage, even happy ones, have little pitfalls and hard times. Remember: just because you have a bad day doesn't mean you have a bad marriage.
Be genuine and generous with your praise. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate him. Recognize the things he does for you and your family. See the things he does right instead of focusing on the things he does wrong.
Happy couples respect each other. When they do argue, they avoid blaming or name-calling. There are times when I'll affectionately call my husband a "dumb-dumb" (he does the same to me) but it's only during lighthearted moments. During arguments, name calling is 100% off limits. At the end of the day, you have to respect your partner and your marriage. Remember the golden rule and treat your spouse the way you want to be treated.
Along the same lines, pay attention to the conversations you have about your spouse. Think about how your partner would feel if he was listening in. Would he feel loved? Respected? If not, steer the conversation in a different direction.
As the years go by, most couples fall into routines that rarely change. That's just life! But it's so important to keep things interesting in your marriage. Pick a random spot on the map and take a road trip. Make a candlelit dinner at home. Leave a note in his lunchbox. Try something a little outside of your comfort zone in the bedroom. You might just have fun!
Make it a point to touch your spouse every single day. It could be a hug or a kiss on the forehead or a hand massage. It could be something more intimate. Whatever you choose, remember that skin-to-skin contact is part of every healthy marriage. Sometimes I don't notice how tense I feel until my husband hugs me. Immediately, my shoulders relax and I let out a breath that I didn't even know I was holding. That's the magic of touch.
There will be times when your husband says something hurtful or lashes out. He's a human being just like you. Instead of reacting or taking offense, remind him that you are on his side. And once he's ready, talk about what's really going on.
I know this article is called 13 Common Themes in Every Happy Marriage. But if you've made it this far, you deserve a bonus theme! So here it is (drum roll please) ...
BONUS: SHARED RESPONSIBILITY
Nothing spells disaster for a relationship like one partner taking on most (or all) of the responsibilities. When you're married, you're part of a team. So pull your weight - and if your spouse is lagging behind, ask him politely to pick up the slack ;)
Even if you are already in a happy relationship, I hope this list helps you through the hard times. I hope you remember to like (not just love) your spouse and to praise his efforts. I hope you can forgive him when he inevitably does something wrong. And I hope you find a way to push through with the knowledge that there will be good years and bad years and that it's all worth it in the end.
Wishing you all the happiness in the world,