10 Habits That Make Marriage Happier
We all know “that” couple. The one that is beaming with happiness every time you see them. They always seem to be gazing into each others eyes with so much love and connection—even when the room is otherwise chaotic or kids are climbing all over them. They are the couple that seems to always have it together. When things aren’t going smoothly in life, they still look unruffled and content in their marriage. You know who I’m talking about, right? You can picture them in your head. Their marriage seems to run seamlessly. They are always happy together, but how did they become that way? Happy marriages are made robust over time through the consistent practice of healthy habits.
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A habit is formed when a behavior becomes automatic. If you automatically get on your knees and pray when you roll out of bed, then you have formed a habit of saying morning prayers. Certainly, there are many habits that negatively impact our lives and need to be broken. Just as we have the power to break negative habits, we have the power to form positive habits. The key is consistent repetition over time. In other words, work at it!
Knowing that you can develop any habit that you set your mind to, let’s dive into the habits that make “that couple” so happy. We’ll look at what habits happy marriages have in common and how you can make those habits become automatic in your own marriage.
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10 Habits of a Happy Marriage
1. Do not talk negatively about your spouse. – In every marriage there arise frustrations, disappointments, and disagreements. However, if you want to have a happy marriage, do not turn to people outside of your marriage to vent about the arguments or shortcomings of your partner. This loyalty in marriage breeds confidence and security. You will feel safe expressing your feelings and concerns because you will know the inner workings of your relationship are not being publicly used against you or to embarrass you. No one loves and understands your spouse the way that you do. Therefore, people outside of your marital unit (even family members) have no way of understanding the full picture of the relationship since they don’t have the same basis of love.
What to try: This week when you are speaking with a friend or family member, mindfully protect your spouse. Be very aware that you only say positive things about them. If you want to dig even deeper into this topic, read through the 6 Reasons to Stop the Husband Bashing.
2. Do not compare, create! – In a happy marriage, the husband and wife do not look outside of their marriage comparing themselves to other couples who seem to be “better” than themselves. Instead, if you want a truly happy marriage, you and your partner should individually take it upon yourselves to create the type of relationship you both want. It may take some work to stop comparing your love to others, but keep at it. If you see a smitten couple or watch a TV show and see an inspiring level of romance, you should not choose to sit idly by and wish that your relationship was more like someone else’s. Rather, make a proactive effort to improve your relationship in the specific ways you feel you are lacking. If you find yourself watching a couple who is sweetly affectionate toward one another and you’re wishing you had more of that physical touch and affirmation in your marriage do not become jealous. Instead, become motivated to take solid steps toward infusing the type of passion you want into your relationship. Happy marriages are constantly evolving because each spouse recognizes positive changes that can be made and works hard to implement them.
What to try: When you see a couple that seems to have a quality you admire. Write down on paper, or in your phone notes, a specific way you could intentionally bring that quality into your own marriage. Talk with your spouse about why it’s important to you and concrete ways you are going to implement it in the coming week.
3. Choose to have fun. – Think back on your favorite memories with your spouse. Likely, many of them involve laughter or just being silly. Laughing and having a genuinely good time with your spouse fuels connection. This can be difficult if you feel irritated, restless, or just plain exhausted from the woes of regular daily life. Happy marriages contain people who choose to live in the moment. What will be the outcome if you let go of the stresses of your day to make the most of the time your time together? Connection. It is a choice. When you are in a slump of a bad mood or a bad day, choose to change your attitude. That choice is ultimately a choice to improve your relationship. Eventually, forcing silliness and smiles will become automatic as you continually choose happiness over stress and frustration when spending time with your spouse. Think about this: Would you want to come home to yourself after a long day? Choose to be someone who adds happiness and comfort to your spouse’s day. Sometimes you have to force the silliness and sometimes it just flows. However you have to bring it into your day, do it!
What to try: The next time you find yourself at the end of a long day, feeling like you are in separate worlds, commit to finding a way to make your spouse laugh. Do whatever you have to do—play a game, dance, sing—just make it happen!
4. Do not criticize using absolute words. – Criticizing using phrases like “you always”, or “you never” is extremely damaging to a marriage over time. In happy marriages, as in all marriages, complaints and disappointments arise. The difference in a happy marriage is that the husband and wife choose not to use criticizing language that attacks their spouse’s character. After all, does your spouse really “never listen”, or are you really just frustrated by not feeling understood lately. The latter is a much less inflammatory way of describing the root of the issue. Using absolutes when criticizing your partner will not have a positive result because it is a natural instinct to become fiercely defensive when attacked. Instead, try to phrase your disappointments in a way that does not attack or criticize your partner. Instead of saying “you never spend time with me”, reorganize your thoughts and say, “I miss you and I feel lonely when we don’t have time together.” The trick is to focus your words on how you feel instead of making a harsh comment that criticizes your spouse. This can be a hard habit to form since our heated emotions can sometimes override our rational mind. However, consistency over time will make a tremendous difference in your marriage.
What to try: The next time tension arises, rather than using critical language, take a moment to step back and rework your thoughts to convey how the issue causing tension has made you feel. Express that feeling in a way that is calm, thoughtful and doesn’t attack your spouse.
5. Connect all day long. – Throughout the day, spouses in happy marriages find ways to connect—physically and emotionally. They touch when they are around each other, they communicate throughout the day and they make intimacy a priority. Spouses that are connected are better able to anticipate the needs of their husband or wife. They become so in-tune with their partner that they know how their spouse best feels their love and they know specifically how to build up and compliment each other. Just as in any area of life, a meaningful connection fosters security and ultimately happiness. A natural result of a strong, consistent connection is the presence of kindness. When you are connected with your spouse you are better able to understand which ways your spouse feels love, which compliments really mean something to them and which things they love or hate when brought up. In happy marriages, when a disagreement arises, rather than trying to “win”, or cut each other down, they still choose to be kind. This could mean biting your tongue, committing to never raise your voice, or not blurting out things that you know will hurt your spouse’s feelings. If you are able to feel a connection with your spouse all day long you will be building up your relationship in big ways every single day with minimal effort so when stresses do get high, you will be more prone to dealing with each other in kindness.
What to try: Each time your spouse walks into the same room as you, find an intentional way to connect with them. You could kiss, hug, ask a meaningful question—make them feel loved and considered every single time they are around you.
6. Unplug regularly. – The happiest couples don’t need electronics to fill every ounce of their free time. They recognize that a day filled with shallow entertainment—like social media or electronic games—leaves little satisfaction at the end of the day. Whereas, a day filled with quality time with the person who means the most to you leaves you feeling fulfilled and even more connected at the end of the day. Unplugging regularly from electronics leaves time for focused attention. When time together isn’t interrupted by a phone dinging, it becomes more meaningful because each partner is able to get the interaction that they crave. If time together has slipped into a pattern of each of you sitting near each other with your eyes tied to your phone screen you aren’t getting as much out of each other as you could be. It takes a conscious and determined effort, but if you decide that the majority of your time together will not involve electronics you will notice a huge difference in your marriage. If you choose to go for a walk instead of watch another episode of your favorite TV show, you will be surprised how much closer you feel to your spouse at the end of the day.
What to try: Life can get so busy. Often, the only time you have alone with your spouse is at night just before bed. For a few days, try making a rule that your bedroom is an electronic-free zone. Don’t turn on the tv, don’t grab your phone, don’t even set your phone alarm while in your bedroom. You may notice so much difference that you decide to never go back! If you are pretty attached to your devices, you could also ease into it in a fun way by trying the Time to Unplug Date Night. “Unplug Every Day” also has some unique ways of unplugging.
7. Look back and look forward. – Reminiscing on favorite memories from the past is a regular occurrence in happy marriages. Reflecting on your love story—the first time you saw each other, your first date, your wedding day—is the quickest way to reignite the butterflies in your stomach. Fortify the good memories in your mind by sharing them with each other. Reflect often, but more importantly put your feelings about your memories together into words. Why is a particular memory so special to you? Describe the way he smelled. Talk about the way she looked. Bring the memory back to life. In the same way, DREAM of the future together and often. Talk about what you are most excited for. Be specific when talking about your hopes for the future. When you think about the future do you see yourselves having a BBQ on a big porch of a house you own with sweet little faces running around? Where do you live? How many kids do you see? What job do you imagine having? Be specific and ask questions to get a better idea of how your spouse’s dreams coincide with yours.
What to try: Every day bring up a memory from your past. Try to add a new element that you haven’t ever mentioned, or haven’t talked about in awhile. To get even more creative you could try Recreating a Past Photo Date Night.
8. Be undeniably loyal. – In happy marriages, each spouse is fiercely loyal in thought and action. No matter what, you should be on your spouse’s “team.” You should loyally support them and the choices they make. Supporting your spouse should be much more than cheering them on when they have succeeded. Any stress or fear your spouse is dealing with should be heard with sympathetic ears. When they bring something to you, don’t attempt to minimize the issue, making it seem like it is not as big of a deal as they’re making it out to be. Instead, relate to them, let them feel that you are there for them unconditionally. Loyalty of thought is also a key component in happy marriages. Your spouse’s comfort and trust should always be at the forefront of your mind. If you’re not careful, one negative thought about your spouse can lead to a downward spiral. If you do not intentionally decide to be loyal to your spouse, even in thought, your thoughts can deteriorate to generating a whole slew of examples of what your spouse should have done differently. In happy marriages, each spouse feels taken care of physically and emotionally because they know their spouse is loyal in all aspects of life—even in their mind.
What to try: In the coming weeks, when your spouse seems down, put everything aside to really listen to what is going on with them. Ask, “What are you thinking about?” Sit close, make eye contact, and let them feel your uninterrupted support, no matter how small the concern. Also, monitor your thoughts carefully. When you feel one frustration about your spouse causing your thoughts to spiral downward, change the direction of the spiral by elevating your thoughts. Concentrate on the things your spouse does right and the things that you are grateful for.
9. Encourage hobbies. – Happy couples encourage their partner’s hobbies. Sometimes this means learning how to golf, dance, paint, or whatever your spouse loves to do. Other times this means you make a conscious effort to support your spouse going out to do what they love, alone or with friends. When your spouse is allowed go out and have an enjoyable time, they come back rejuvenated and ready to give their best self to your marriage. Hobbies can be positive and therapeutic for a person. They may serve a calming purpose or even boost self-esteem. Both of which result in spouses who are better able to come back and contribute to their marriage. If you encourage your spouse’s hobbies, not making them feel guilty for the time they put into them, your marriage will be a happier place. They will come back ready to help and pay back that gift of encouragement.
What to try: Schedule a specific time to take part in your spouse’s hobby together. Decide to learn as much as you can and be as supportive as possible.
10. Continue to date each other. – Dating is so much more than a Friday night away from the kids—or at least it should be! Husbands and wives in happy marriages know that dating brings a spark into marriage. It has a way of making you remember why you fell in love by bringing back those feelings of butterflies and special attention. Couples who consistently set time aside to date their spouse are happier. They have focused time to talk, touch and enjoy each other’s company. These are basic necessities in marriage that are often neglected due to the chaos of everyday life. A date isn’t necessarily dinner and a movie. It can be so much more engaging than that. You could be active together and go for a hike or get competitive and play a game. The bottom line is that making the effort to set aside time, plan out and enjoy your spouse makes for a happier marriage. Date and get the most out of dating. This is the best way to remember why you fell in love with your love!
What to try: This week, plan out the perfect date night for the two of you. Does your spouse love being silly or more romantic things like star gazing? Even if you don’t have tons of time you could still create a fun and intimate night in together!
Having exactly the marriage you want is obtainable. Take time to acquire these habits. If these 10 behaviors become automatic in your marriage you are bound to have a happier, more fulfilled life. With continual practice of each of these habits you will become “that couple” that others look to, wondering how you still seem so happy and in love after all this time.
If you’re looking of more resources to help you along in your goal of having the happiest possible marriage, you should take a look at our Top 12 Favorite Marriage Books. If you are having some serious struggles in your marriage, we encourage you to check out our free webinar on Ten Ways to Reclaim Your Marriage, or our Marriage Masters Program.