What’s the secret to a great marriage? Ask husbands, wives, and relationship experts, and you’ll likely get many different answers. The truth is, there may not be ONE thing you can do to create your best marriage, but rather, there are many parts that go into building a loving partnership. These 10 rules for a happy marriage are a great place to start.
We’ve compiled some of the best, tried-and-true marriage rules for spouses to live by. While the term “rules” might sound intense; don’t let it get to you. In this sense, rules are merely guidelines or guideposts.
These rules of a happy marriage can help us live our best lives and find our happiest marriage or long-term love relationship.
Express your love every day
To build a strong, love-charged marriage, you have to make it a priority to show and express that love every single day. This is a lot easier for some people (and some couples) who find saying “I love you” or showing physical affection to be very natural. But this is not all couples, and it is certainly not all individuals. In fact, we each have our own love language.
Love languages refer to the method by which you best experience feeling loved. Learning your partner’s love language as well as your own can be instrumental in helping you learn how to express love each day. We suggest checking out the official book The Five Love Languages to learn all about this. (PS: Check out 15 terrific books on marriage we love).
Expressing your love, in whatever form, sometimes can be an act of will. Sometimes, being loving takes effort. It’s healthy to admit that, and know that our emotions go through ebbs and flows. We might not always be feeling loving to our spouse. We might not be into it today.
That’s ok. Making the effort despite your own feelings is the key. Sometimes, that’s what marriage is.
Read Next: 99 Ways to Show Love and Affection
Be in charge of your own emotions
Having a partner around to support you and help you with your problems is wonderful (especially when getting through hard times together), but it can be easy to fall into a trap of wanting them to fix things for you. I know I fell into this trap when I was first with my husband and experiencing a lot of reassurance-seeking issues. I thought “if only he would say or do such-and-such, I’d feel better.”
The truth is, we’re all responsible for our selves: our actions, our self-worth, our emotions.
One rule for a happy marriage is to remember this and practice it. It’s the mature, adult thing to do to recognize that we’re in charge of our own emotions. This helps us avoid looking to our partner to “fix” us, and it helps us avoid playing the blame game; thinking our partner is at fault for the way we may be feeling. According to PsychCentral, it is “our beliefs and expectations about a person or event or situation [that] directly influence and, many would argue, cause our feelings.”
In a marriage, being responsible for your own emotions shows up in several different ways.
It’s about taking ownership of your emotions in a conflict situation.
It’s about controlling negative emotions and not taking them out on your partner in an unhealthy or unking way.
And it’s about realizing that we all come with emotional baggage and we’re the ones in charge of figuring that shiz out.
Marriage is a breeding ground for these issues to come to light. We’re comfortable with another person and this allows us to be vulnerable. This is when “stuff” comes up. Your old issues, neuroses, anxieties. (PS: Check our guide on how to stop overthinking for more).
And your spouse is the closest person to you. They are undoubtedly going to “trigger” something in you. Trust me. It happens. When it does, remember to take a step back and recognize what the truth is. Observe where these emotions are coming from (hint: it’s probably from deep inside you.)
If both partners keep this in mind throughout a relationship, they will be much more emotionally healthy and experience better communication.
Read Next: 7 Things People in Happy Relationships Don’t Do
Keep divorce off the table
In marriage, the “D” word can be a scary threat. It could be worth setting a rule together that you’ll keep that word off the table.
For most couples, there is an awareness that divorce is an option. This knowledge might not be at the forefront of our minds, but we are aware of its existence in the background. Keeping far in the background, in my opinion, is an important rule for a good marriage!
When divorce becomes something that we threaten (whether directly or indirectly) this weakens the foundation of our marriage. It says, “I have a way out.”
Instead of allowing this to become the mindset, we should think of divorce as an absolute last resort. It should not be “on the table” except in the most extreme of cases. Otherwise, what are we fighting for?
Putting the possibility of divorce on the wayyy back burner helps us to recognize the sacredness of marriage and the depth of the commitment we made. It forces us to focus all our efforts towards saving and building that which we promised to protect.
Always maintain a team mindset
Many relationship experts would argue that a team mindset is absolutely one of the keys to a successful marriage. This one makes plenty of obvious sense. When you know you are a team, it makes it easier to remember that you’re not working against each other, even when you’re in conflict. If you’re thinking and working like a team, you’ll stay a team—and a winning team at that.
So, in a marriage, what does it mean to be a team?
This might vary among couples, just as your priorities and your preferences vary, so it’s wise to sit down and actually talk about it together. Ask your wife what would make her feel like the two of you are a team. Ask your husband how you can be a better teammate. And so on. Together, you will likely discover some clear ways to improve.
Make your marriage a priority
Perhaps one of my favorite rules for a successful marriage is this: make your marriage a priority.
This is a subtle one, but it will reveal itself in your actions.
Prioritizing your marriage is so important. It doesn’t just mean making time for your marriage. It means respecting the wonder and specialness of your marriage. It means putting real effort into growing and maintaining the relationship. It means putting your spouse first. And it might mean sacrificing some other things for the sake of your marriage.
But here’s a secret: keeping your marriage as a main priority in your life pays off. When you’re continually paying attention and in-tune with what’s happening in your marriage (and regularly working to improve it), things generally go much more smoothly and peacefully.
In other words, giving your marriage frequent little “tune-ups” makes it far more likely that you’ll avoid a major and unexpected collision.
Read this next: Our 30-Day Relationship Challenge For Couples
Show gratitude and appreciation for your spouse
Love isn’t the only thing that makes the world go round—and that keeps a marriage thriving. Gratitude and appreciation are also extremely valuable.
You don’t need to make a grand gesture to show your partner that you appreciate them. It can be easier than you think to do this. A simple “thank you” or a quick compliment can go a long way. If your partner enjoys receiving cards and notes, this can also be a thoughtful way to show them that you care. Heck, even an appreciate or romantic text can be effective. All these things solidify your romantic relationship and your friendship as well.
What matters most is the thought and the intent behind it. Remind yourself to regularly demonstrate gratitude for the things your spouse does for you and gives to you. If you’re like me, your marriage brings so many blessings and joys to your life. You can never show this too much.
You can also do good things for your spouse behind the scenes, such as praying for them. Acting lovingly doesn’t have to be something that is seen or recognized for it to be worthwhile and valuable.
Strive to give more than you get
We humans love to be selfish. It’s true, and I’ll be the first to admit it.
My husband has given me exponentially more back massages than I have ever given him. He’s so kind and generous to do this for me. But I know that I should be reciprocating more often than I do. His back deserves some rubbing, too. It’s something I try to stay aware of; to be sure I’m focusing on giving to my husband rather than taking from him. And this applies to so much more than back rubs!
I know that acting selflessly and putting him first is something I’ll have to work on for the rest of my life. Why? Because it goes against human nature to be selfless.
But part of creating an amazing relationship is the act of working on ourselves. Because I love my husband and my desire is to be the best wife to him that I can be, I am committed to continually bettering myself. Becoming a more selfless, more loving, and more generous person is important not only for my marriage but for my life. This is just another way in which real love helps us grow.
Read Next: 48 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married
Make time for your marriage
Making time to be with your partner is one of the #1 rules for a good marriage. In its simplest form, this means taking time to be together every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You could incorporate a morning or evening ritual to get used to connecting more regularly.
Be sure you’re spending quality time together. Date nights are great (and we’ve got tons of date ideas for couples for you) but what matters is that you spend time one-on-one. Put away the phones and laptops and really strive to engage with one another. It doesn’t mean you have to have a deep conversation. But simply being together, without distractions, will cement your bond in a very real and true way.
Keep intimacy alive
Closeness is an incredibly important part of any marriage. This closeness, or intimacy, is physical, emotional, and even spiritual.
We’re not just talking about keeping a ‘spark’ alive. What is truly vital for a strong marriage is intimacy in whatever form it takes.
The best marriage advice I can give is to be vulnerable. This is the only way intimacy is created. When you are vulnerable, you open yourself up to another person, and in this space is where the intimacy begins.
Having important and meaningful conversations is part of it. Being open about your fears, hopes, and dreams.
Being physically intimate is also a large part of it. A healthy sex life is tremendously important to a marriage. But non-sexual intimacy shouldn’t be ignored, either.
What could your marriage use in the intimacy department? Don’t be afraid to discuss it with your spouse, and if you want something, the best advice is to just ask.
Never stop learning about what love is
And finally, the secret to a happy marriage just might be a neverending discovery of the meaning and purpose of love. Love is incredibly deep and unfathomable. What it means to love and be loved are vast and complex mysteries that have been puzzling humankind for centuries.
These are concepts that definitely deserve our attention and contemplation. And the more we ponder love and work on understanding it (and more importantly GIVING it) the more full of love we will naturally become.
If you want to build a great marriage, the best and most honest advice I can give is to continually open your heart to love.