Many couples enter into marriage together with the best of intentions. But how can they continue to sustain a happy marriage decades after they say, "I do?"
There isn't a "secret recipe" to a healthy marriage. However, studies have found several components that help make up a successful marriage.
There are many ingredients to a lasting relationship and happy life as a married couple. However, there are some things that no marriage can survive without, no matter how hard the couple tries.
Things to know
- The most important things in a marriage are respect and communication. These values will get you through the most challenging times and allow partners to be effective support systems for each other.
- Intimacy is another fundamental value in a marriage, but that doesn't mean having sex every day. There is a range of things couples do that foster closeness and prevent drifting apart.
- If certain values are missing from your marriage, it doesn't mean it's unsalvagable. However, there's definitely work to be done if one or both parties are unhappy.
These top 5 most important things in a marriage are the glue that binds your relationship together and helps you maintain a healthy relationship no matter what challenges you face:
Open communication is a must-have item for any committed relationship. You need to be able to communicate and share what's going on in each other's lives. Furthermore, you need to be able to openly share what's on your mind and in your heart to keep the emotional connection of your relationship alive.
When communication breaks down, so do many other parts of a healthy marriage. Without top-notch communication skills, little things can quickly snowball into serious relationship issues.
Emotions like frustration, mistrust, and resentment can seep into your relationship and poison it. Before you know it, your hopes and desires are all but gone, and you're left living with a stranger you barely know.
Luckily, there are lots of ways for you and your spouse to maintain a strong relationship through communication.
First and foremost, you should make time to talk to each other every single day. These conversations can be simple opportunities for you to each share about your day, or they can be more in-depth conversations about anything that's on your mind. Just make sure you're listening as much as you're talking.
Also, ensure you're sharing what bothers you or impacts your mental health just as much as you share the good things with your partner. This may mean you need to look up "Fair Fighting Rules" or practice using I Statements to make your feelings known.
These forms of assertive communication will help you avoid emotions like resentment while also letting you share what's on your mind in a healthy way that doesn't make your partner feel guilty or ashamed.
Finally, you can use communication skills at the forefront of your marriage by practicing active listening when talking to your spouse.
This means you not only share your thoughts but also pause and listen to your partner without judgment or distraction. This helps your partner feel heard and validated, strengthening your relationship even more.
Trust is another pillar for a successful marriage, and it's one that often becomes overlooked the longer two people remain together.
A marriage built on mutual trust will help you each uphold your marital vows and commit to each other day in and day out. It will also ease your mind as you can trust your partner completely with anything and everything.
Trust takes time to establish, and it involves several key components. We must trust that our partner has our best interests in mind and is looking out for us. We must also trust that our partner is being faithful to us both physically and emotionally.
And, of course, we have to trust that our partner is telling us the complete truth about their past and present so that we know exactly the type of person we've committed to.
Lies and secrecy quickly taint even the most successful relationships. Therefore, it's essential not to keep secrets from your spouse or intentionally do things that go against the trust you've established. Once trust is broken, it can be incredibly difficult (or even impossible) to reestablish it.
If you find yourself in a position where you need to rebuild your trust with your spouse, both partners must be willing to own their part in your relationship problems and be ready to work towards reestablishing trust.
This means you must be honest with yourselves and each other about what happened and how it made you feel. In other words, you'll need to communicate. If trust cannot be reestablished or it continues to be ignored, your marriage likely will not survive.
When couples think about the word "intimacy" in their relationship, most only consider sexual intercourse. However, intimacy is so much more than sex — and it's important for spouses to realize that.
There are six types of relationship intimacy. These types include creative intimacy, emotional intimacy, experiential intimacy, intellectual intimacy, physical intimacy, and spiritual intimacy. Each kind of intimacy is essential for a healthy marriage, and they all require our focus.
Physical intimacy can involve sex, but it can also involve other forms of a physical connection. For example, cuddling, holding hands, and massages are all forms of physical intimacy. In other words, anything that involves physical touch can be a form of physical intimacy for you and your partner.
Emotional and intellectual intimacy are similar since they both involve communicating with each other. Emotional intimacy involves bonding over your feelings, whereas intellectual intimacy involves sharing your views and opinions. Both are important for getting to know each other and maintaining a healthy relationship.
Creative intimacy involves connecting through acts of self-expression or creativity. This means you could connect through art forms you both enjoy, or you can even make a point to cook a meal together every once in a while. Over time, these small gestures add up and build your connection.
Similarly, experiential intimacy connects couples over shared experiences. This may involve things like previous relationships that didn't work out or other types of past experiences, such as childhood memories. The more of these details you share, the more connected you may feel.
Finally, spiritual intimacy involves connecting over beliefs, morals, and values you cherish. For some couples, this involves religious worship. For others, it means going on weekly walks through nature or volunteering together. It really depends on what beliefs and morals you and your partner feel are most important.
Regardless of where you stand on each form of intimacy, it's essential to make time for all of them if you want a lasting relationship with your partner.
Intimacy is all about quality time with your partner and the connection you share. You can use your love languages and date nights to build these intimate bonds.
Respect is another aspect of marriage that many couples take for granted. Yet, without mutual respect, most relationships cannot survive.
Respect involves a deep understanding of your significant other's thoughts, values, attitudes, and opinions. When you respect your spouse, you ask them for their insight. You acknowledge that you may or may not always agree, but you still love your partner anyway.
In fact, many couples enjoy each other's company even when they don't see eye to eye because they respect each other.
Respect is also what helps couples work through the challenges they face in a long-term marriage. You understand a person's past and do not question what they did in previous relationships. Instead, you decide to love and stand by them because you respect them.
Respect and trust often go hand-in-hand, and both are absolutely within the top 5 most important things in a marriage.
Empathy is the ability to understand how another person is feeling. Empathy helps us connect and communicate with others, especially when that person is our spouse. For this reason, empathy is a crucial component of a happy marriage.
When we show empathy towards our partner, we put aside our feelings and put ourselves in our partner's shoes. Empathy includes patience, acceptance, and unconditional love. All of these items are important for a healthy relationship, which makes empathy all that much more important.
To show your partner empathy, make sure you are not only listening to what they say but what their body language says as well. Even if your spouse discloses something that upsets you or causes stress, try to regulate your emotions so you can give them what you need in that moment.
Putting your feelings aside for the sake of your partner is essential in certain situations and is a way to show your partner love and understanding.
What To Do When Something's Missing
If you notice that these top 5 most important things in a marriage are missing from yours, don't worry. Even if they aren't present today, there are things you and your spouse can do to improve your relationship in the future and add these key components back into your lives.
First and foremost, don't wait to fight for your marriage when you're separated, try to repair the issues in your relationship and focus more on these key components now. This will take time and require effort from both you and your partner.
However, making time for intimacy and communication is vital if you want a strong relationship. If you feel like you have a truly unhealthy couple dynamic or that you don't have the skills you need to repair your marriage on your own, then it may be worth enlisting the help of a marriage and family therapist or couple's counselor.
Therapy can be an excellent tool for rebuilding relationships, including marriage. There's no shame in asking for help. Sometimes it's necessary, and that's okay.
Finally, you may need to step out of your comfort zone, develop new habits and try new things with your partner. You may need to stop relying on family members and turn to your partner for emotional support and other needs to reconnect and rebuild your relationship.
Just remember, a marriage isn't over until you say it is. All of these top 5 most important things in a marriage take work and can be added back in at any time. As long as you and your partner are committed to each other, you can enjoy a long, happy marriage side by side.