What Makes a Happy Marriage?
By America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts.
As our loyal readers know, we have been researching successful marriage around the world for nearly three decades. We have travelled to 47 countries on six of the world’s seven continents in search of the best marriages.
In our speeches, blogs, and world travels we are often asked – Are there ways to ensure that a marriage will be happy? The answer is of course, no. Life, love, and marriage do not come with absolute guarantees. Marriage does not come with a warranty.
Let us hasten to add, however, you can greatly increase the odds that your marriage will last a lifetime if your profile closely resembles the following 15 findings we have gleaned from our own research and the marriage research of others whose research we highly value.
If your marriage profile looks like this, you are well on your way to a long and successful marriage. These are, in essence, the predictors of a happy marriage.
1. It stands to reason that you and the one you love must first pass the Marriage Quiz. If you can’t get out of the starting gate with a successful marriage, the rest doesn’t matter. Take the Quiz and if you both receive a score of 18 or higher on the Marriage Quiz, you have met the first pre-requisite of a successful marriage.
2. Wait until you are at least 25+ to get married. Couples who get married after the age of 25 are far more likely to stay married than those who get married sooner. Doing so will pay many dividends over the years ahead. Experience and wisdom that comes with age will certainly contribute to the success of a marriage.
3. Have an income-producing job with stability before you get married. Here’s what we know, couples with annual incomes over $50,000 (vs. under $25,000) experience a drastically reduced risk of divorce. Couples who have steady jobs with steady incomes are far more likely to have a successful marriage.
4. Do not have children in the first year of your marriage. Bring children into the world when your marriage is ready for them. Nora Ephron once said, Having children is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage! Children are wonderful, but they bring stress and challenges to a marital relationship, especially to a new marriage. Have children when you know and understand each other and your marriage is ready for the responsibilities associated with parenting. Your marriage will be well served, make no mistake about that.
5. Being spiritual and/or religious is good for your marriage. Couples that consider themselves religious or spiritual (vs. not) are considerably less likely to get divorced. Faith and spirituality contribute to the sense of oneness felt by successfully married couples – a necessary prerequisite to a long and happy marriage.
6. Focus on getting an education that includes post-secondary training (college, trade school, etc.). College educated couples have a much less chance of divorce than those with only a high school diploma. Education almost always leads to enlightenment and understanding and more tolerance for the views of others – so critically important in successful marriages. In fact, college educated women are more likely to get married than their less educated counterparts, and much more likely to have a successful marriage.
7. Make sure your spouse is your best friend. When someone asks you who your best friend is, the honest answer must be, My spouse. There is no other acceptable answer to this question. If you answer this question correctly, your marriage has a better than average chance of success. Being in love is never enough without friendship. All long-term successfully married couples know this to be a fact1
8. Always fight fair in your marriage. All married couples argue – the good, the bad, and the ugly marriages – they all do it. The difference is how they argue. If you decide to submerge your feelings, let the anger fester, and go to bed mad at each other – well, you are heading down a path that could ultimately lead to the destruction of your marriage. Arguing is healthy for a marriage. Just fight fair and never make your arguments personal and hurtful!
9. Never lose your individual identity or subjugate your individual strengths just because you got married. While in many ways two becomes one in the best marriages, losing who you are is not a pre-requisite to being happily and blissfully married. Quite the contrary, losing the sense of who you are hurts your marriage. It doesn’t help your marriage. Be true to your identity as a human being. It will serve your marriage well.
10. Never, we repeat, never engage in acts of infidelity. While some marriages survive infidelity, the overwhelming majority do not. Think long and hard about what you will lose before you engage in infidelity – before you violate the most sacred of marital trusts.
11. Always allow time to be alone – for both you and your spouse. We have learned over the past three decades of research one fundamental truism – every human being has a fundamental predisposition to be alone, to be by themselves from time to time. Allowing yourself time to be alone to your thoughts each day will serve you and your marriage well. Extending the same opportunity to your spouse will pay huge dividends for your marriage. A marriage that does not follow this simple advice could place their marriage in grave jeopardy.
12. Talk about anything and everything! Marriages thrive on open communication and honest discussion. The most successfully married couples we have interviewed around the world tell us that they have learned to communicate frequently, fairly, openly, and honestly. Mum is not the word in marriages that work! Practicing communication with your spouse each and every day is a necessary prerequisite for the success of your marriage. There should be no sacred cows in your marriage!
13. Always show mutual respect and admiration for each other. The best marriages repeatedly engage in acts of kindness towards each other. They do nice things for each other with no expectation of something in return. They work hard to understand each other’s needs and wants. They say thank you and please. They open doors for each other. Successfully married couples do all these things automatically, without ever thinking about it. But remember – these behaviors take daily practice! Start today.
14. The greatest joy in life for both you and your spouse is spending time with each other. If you do not feel this way, you do NOT fit the profile of the most happily and successfully married couples we have interviewed around the world. Couples who love each other deeply, who want to spend their lives with each other, and who cannot imagine life without each other, will almost always tell you this – the one they want to be with more than anyone else is their spouse. There is no substitute for togetherness when it comes to a happily married couple, make no mistake about that.
15. Understand that all marriages go through seasons – much like the seasons of nature. A marriage is born in the spring, blossoms over the summer, grows to maturity in the fall, and settles in over the winter. When we find true love, most of us find it for a lifetime. Those marriages and relationships that last over time started with the simple planting of a seed. The seed was nourished over time. Love grown with tender and loving care matures into fully-grown love that can withstand the tests of time. You can make your love and your marriage last for a lifetime.
There is a profile for marital success – there are predictors associated with the best marriages and they do not occur by accident or happenstance. It takes hard work to make a marriage work.
There are characteristics associated with success and tale-tale signs of impending failure. Heed the advice and the odds are in your favor. Ignore the predictors and do so at your own peril. The choice is yours.
In love and marriage the simple things matter. Love well!
By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz
For hundreds of tips to enhance your relationship get the Doctor’s best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley) Available wherever books are sold.
Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book
Winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book
Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships