Relationship

Marriage advice

All-inclusive guide to being a better partner in your relationship. Everything from communication, trust, and sex is addressed here.

Relationship Expert Amy Clark November 10, 2022 • 23 minutes read
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Let’s face it: marriage isn’t always easy. One day you feel like you and your partner are on top of the world, and the next day you’re giving each other the silent treatment. But even though marriage isn’t always a bed of roses, it’s still worth fighting for.

When a marriage works, it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world. You have someone to share your life with, someone to support you through thick and thin. You’re happier, [1] less stressed, [2] and more satisfied with your life.[3] You’re also likely to live longer .[4] and be healthier.[5]

What’s more, you’re also introduced to a myriad of economic resources [6] and social benefits.[7] So, it’s no wonder that people are still getting married - with the divorce rate declining over the last decade [8] - even though it isn’t always easy.

If you’re facing marital difficulties, don’t give up hope just yet. There are plenty of ways out there to help you and your partner work through your issues. In this article, we’ll cover the ways you can save your marriage even before it starts, and what you should do once you’re already in the thick of an unhappy marriage.

Need some help keeping your marriage strong? Check out our comprehensive guide for everything from communication to finances.

9 Tips on how to save your marriage before it starts

While you can’t predict the future, there are certain things you can do to set your marriage up for success. For many years, researchers have tried to investigate the protective factors behind long-term marriages, and they’ve found that a combination of negative and positive aspects plays a role in making sure marriages last.[9]

So, what can you do to make sure your marriage is as strong as it can be? Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Make sure you’re both committed to the relationship

One of the most important things you can do for your marriage is to make sure that both you and your partner are committed to the relationship. Commitment means being willing to work through difficult times and not giving up when things get tough.[10]

Couples that have equally powerful feelings of love and commitment for each other are more likely to weather the storms of marriage, because they believe that marital problems are solvable and that their relationship is worth fighting for.[11]

So, if you’re not feeling very committed to your partner right now, ask yourself why. Is there something you can do to change the way you feel? If not, you may want to reconsider getting married.

2. Create a responsive environment

Responsiveness is key to a stable and lasting marriage. [12] A responsive environment is one in which your partner feels safe, seen, heard, and accepted for who they are.[13]

In a responsive environment, couples feel free to be themselves without fear of judgment or rejection. They can express their thoughts and feelings openly, without feeling like they have to hold back. As a result, those in happy marriages tend to engage in more positive emotions, and they’re more likely to report feeling satisfied with their relationship.[14]

So, how can you create a responsive environment in your relationship? One way is to practice active listening, which involves really paying attention to what your partner is saying and responding in a way that shows you understand and empathize with them.[15] You can also try to be more aware of your partner’s emotional needs and make an effort to meet them.

3. Communicate constructively

In your marriage, there will be times when you and your partner will disagree on something. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to disagree and have conflicts - in fact, conflict is a healthy part of any close relationship, as they’re normal ways of dealing with differences [16] and can become opportunities for growth and deeper understanding.[17]

What’s important, however, is how you handle these disagreements. Constructive communication involves problem-solving, mutual negotiation, and cooperation.[18] It’s important to avoid attacking your partner or using hurtful language, as this will only make the situation worse. Instead, try to focus on finding a solution that will work for both of you.

If you can’t seem to communicate constructively with your partner, it may be helpful to foster an environment where you can learn to safely share your thoughts and feelings with each other.[19] This ensures your marriage is built on a foundation of trust and mutual respect.

4. Align your goals

It’s also important to be on the same page when it comes to your goals for the future. Do you want to have children? Buy a house? Travel the world? Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to these things, as mismatched goals can lead to conflict and unhappiness.

Happy couples often look at shared goals such as children, shared property and friends as sources of joy and investment [11] in their future happiness, instead of potential sources of conflict and division.

When you’re aware of each other’s goals, you can also encourage and support each other in achieving them.[20] This not only strengthens your relationship, but also helps you to grow as individuals.

5. Have complementary personalities

Apart from being on the same page when it comes to your goals, it’s also important to have complementary personalities. This doesn’t mean you need to be exactly the same - in fact, having some differences can make your relationship more interesting and exciting.

What’s important is that you complement each other. Perhaps this could mean that one of you is an introvert and the other is an extrovert, or that one of you is more spontaneous while the other is more planned. These differences can actually help you to balance each other out and provide the yin to your partner’s yang.

Having a secure attachment style can also help to create a complementary relationship. Individuals with a secure attachment style tend to be more trusting, supportive, and emotionally available, which can be beneficial to a relationship. They’re also more constructive when it comes to communicating and resolving conflict.[21]

Moreover, some personality dimensions, such as openness (someone who is curious, imaginative, and willing to try new things) agreeableness (someone who is kind, compassionate, and cooperative), and conscientiousness (someone who is reliable, disciplined, and self-controlled), have been found to be predictive of relationship satisfaction.

These traits are also negatively correlated with aggression, [22] which is a huge thing you should obviously avoid in your marriage![23]

6. Be on the same page when it comes to religion

Couples in long-term marriages often credit religion and spirituality for giving them the strength to stay together and weather through storms, and a sense of family and community. [24] Religious couples are also often happier, are more satisfied with their life and marriage, and have established more boundaries that protect them during conflicts.[25]

This is probably because when religious couples face conflict, they turn to God or their religious community for a sense of safety and control over their lives.[26] They also have a shared belief system that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose, which can be beneficial during tough times.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to be overly religious or go to church every week, but it’s important to be on the same page when it comes to your beliefs. If you and your partner have different religious beliefs, it’s important to be respectful of each other’s views and to find a way to compromise.

For example, you could agree to attend each other’s religious ceremonies, or to have a shared belief system that you both adhere to. Whatever you do, make sure you’re both comfortable with the arrangement and that you’re able to talk about your beliefs openly and without judgment.

7. Foster a healthy sexual relationship

While sexual satisfaction is often cited as a cornerstone of happy and long-term marriages, sexual relationship isn’t always necessary for a stable and committed relationship. [27] [28]

Whatever a sexual relationship means for you and your partner, however, whether that means a lot of sex or no sex, it’s important to make sure that you’re both on the same page. This means being open and honest about your needs, wants, and desires, and being able to communicate these things to your partner.

It also means making sure that you’re both comfortable with the level of intimacy in your relationship, and that you’re meeting each other’s needs. If you’re not sure what your partner needs or wants, ask them! This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s an important one.

8. Learn to divide household chores

Once you’re married, you’re going to deal with a lot of different things together, including bills, groceries, and maybe even kids. One way to make sure that you’re both happy in your marriage is to learn how to divide household chores between you.

This doesn’t mean that one person does all the cooking and cleaning while the other person just sits back and relaxes, but it does mean finding a way to divide the work that needs to be done so that both of you are happy with the arrangement.

For example, you could agree to cook dinner three nights a week, while your partner cooks two nights a week. If you’re raising children, cooperate as a team to decide who will do what when it comes to childcare. Doing so can lead to a greater appreciation of your partner and a more harmonious relationship.[29]

Being equal partners in the household can help to foster a sense of equality and cooperation in your marriage, which is essential for a satisfactory and long-term relationship.[30]

9. Have conversations about money and finances

While getting married boasts a lot of economic and tax benefits, it’s important to have conversations about money and finances with your partner before you tie the knot. ** (reference31)** Money is one of the most common sources of conflict in marriages, and it can be a huge source of stress.[32]

Sit down with your partner and talk about your financial goals, both short-term and long-term. Talk about your spending habits and see if you can find common ground. It’s also important to talk about how you’ll handle debt, both existing debt and future debt.

Making sure that you’re on the same page when it comes to money can help to avoid a lot of conflict and stress down the road.

Want to know more secrets behind a happy marriage? Here are seven things you can do today to ensure it.

While no marriage is perfect, there are a few things you can do to help make sure that yours is as happy and successful as possible. From fostering a healthy sexual relationship to learning to divide household chores, these tips can help to set you on the right path.


What to do when you’re in an unhappy marriage

If a happy marriage leads to a lot of health benefits, an unhappy marriage can have the opposite effect. Unhappily married individuals are unlikely to experience the same health benefits as their happily married counterparts, [33] and being single might actually be better for your health than being in an unhappy marriage.[34]

If you’re in an unhappy marriage, there are a few things you can do to try and improve the situation. Here are several ways you can work on making your unhappy marriage a little bit happier.

1. Identify the source of the problem

The first step is to identify the source of the problem. Is it a lack of communication? Financial problems? Different priorities? Once you’ve identified the source of the problem, you can start to work on finding a solution.

If the source of the problem is something like different priorities, you and your partner might need to sit down and have a serious conversation about where your relationship is going. On the other hand, if the problem is something like a lack of communication, you might need to work on making an effort to communicate more with your partner.

No matter what the source of the problem is, identifying it is the first step to finding a solution.

Marriage is a lot of work. Here are some common signs that you might not be able to overcome the odds and save it!

2. Have the talk

Once you’ve identified the source of the problem, it’s important to have a conversation with your partner about how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling unhappy, frustrated, or even just disappointed, it’s important to communicate those feelings to your partner.

It can be difficult to have these conversations, but they’re essential if you want to improve your relationship. Simply put, you can’t fix a problem if you’re not talking about it.

If you can’t directly talk to your partner about the issue, try initiating small talk. Even something as simple as starting a conversation about your day can help to improve communication and make it easier to talk about bigger issues.[35]

No matter how you approach it, having the talk is an important step in making your unhappy marriage a little bit happier.

3. Use compassion and kindness

When you’re in an unhappy marriage, it’s easy to get caught up in negative emotions like anger and resentment. But your partner might just as be confused as to why your marriage isn’t working as you are, so putting the negative feelings aside and approaching the situation with compassion and kindness can go a long way.

Compassionate love or the “type of love that ultimately centers on the good of the other” [36] has been shown to be beneficial for the mental health and wellness of both the giver and the receiver.[37] Not only does it make you feel good, but it can also help to improve your relationship and make your partner feel appreciated.

Remember the saying, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?” The same is true for marriages. If you want to make your unhappy marriage a little bit happier, focus on being kind and compassionate.

4. Practice forgiveness

If your unhappy marriage is the result of infidelity or some other transgression, forgiveness can be a difficult thing to come by. Having the ability to forgive your partner can be essential to moving on and improving your relationship.[38]

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to forget what happened or pretend that it didn’t hurt. It just means that you’re willing to let go of the anger and resentment and move on.

Of course, forgiveness isn’t possible if your partner isn’t willing to take responsibility for their actions. If your partner isn’t willing to work on rebuilding trust, then forgiveness might not be possible.

But if both you and your partner are willing to work on forgiveness, it can be a powerful tool for making your unhappy marriage a little bit happier.

5. Work on your shared goals

One of the best ways to make an unhappy marriage a little bit happier is to focus on your shared goals. What do you both want out of life? What are your dreams and aspirations?

Working towards a shared goal can help to improve communication and collaboration, [39] both of which are essential for a happy marriage. It can also help to create a sense of purpose and meaning in your relationship.

Of course, it’s not always easy to find shared goals. If you’re struggling to identify something that you both want, try thinking about the things that make you both happy. Perhaps there’s a hobby that you both enjoy or a cause that you’re both passionate about.

6. Initiate physical touch

Physical touch is an important part of any relationship, but it can be especially helpful in an unhappy marriage. Research has shown that physical touch can help to reduce stress, [40] anxiety, and even pain.[41]

But you don’t have to wait until you’re feeling stressed or anxious to initiate physical touch. Something as simple as holding hands or giving your partner a hug can help to improve your relationship and make your partner feel more understood and appreciated.[42]

Affectionate physical touch can buffer the effects of negative interactions between spouses and promote positive interactions, [46] both of which are essential for a happy marriage.

You have to make sure, of course, that your partner is comfortable with physical touch. If they’re not, then you’ll need to find other ways to show them affection. But if they are, then don’t be afraid to get a little bit physical.

7. Speak each other’s love language

One of the best pieces of advice for making an unhappy marriage a little bit happier is to learn your partner’s love language. Everyone expresses and receives love differently, [43] so being able to speak your partner’s love language can be essential for a happy relationship.[44]

There are five different love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Which one is your partner’s?

Perhaps your partner loves to receive compliments and hear that they’re doing a good job. Or maybe they appreciate it when you make time to spend with them without distractions.

Whatever their love language is, make an effort to speak it. It can significantly improve your relationship and make both of you a lot happier.

8. Plan date nights

Even something as simple as planning a regular date night can significantly improve the quality of your relationship. [45] And they don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Just make sure that you’re both able to focus on each other and enjoy each other’s company.

Regular date nights give you both time to focus on each other without any distractions. They’re also a great opportunity to try new things together and keep the spark alive in your relationship.

If you’re struggling to come up with date night ideas, try thinking outside the box. Maybe there’s something that you’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance. Or perhaps there’s a place that you’ve always wanted to visit but never had the time.

9. Engage in social and emotional activities together

When was the last time you told your partner how much you love them? How often do you say “I’m sorry” when you’ve done something wrong? When was the last time you went out together just to hang out and talk?

These social and emotional activities exist within romantic and non-romantic relationships, [47] and they can significantly improve the quality of your relationship.

Make an effort to regularly engage in social and emotional activities with your partner. It’ll make both of you feel more connected and appreciated, and it can help to improve the overall quality of your relationship.

10. Seek professional help

Relationship and marriage problems are the most common reasons people seek out therapy, but even the healthiest of relationships can benefit from professional help. [48]

If you’ve done everything that you can think of to improve your relationship and nothing seems to be working, then it might be time to seek professional help. Emotion-focused couple therapy (EFT) and behavioral couple therapy (BCT) are the two most popular forms of therapy that have been shown to be effective in treating relationship problems and improving the quality of relationships.[49]

If you’re not sure whether therapy is right for you, consider talking to a therapist or counselor about your relationship. They can help you to identify the problem and offer guidance on how to improve things.

By following these tips, you can start to work on making your unhappy marriage a little happier. It’ll take time and effort, but it’s worth it if you want to improve your relationship and make both of you a lot happier.


The best marriage books of all time

If you’re looking for advice on making your marriage work, you’re in luck. This list of books is packed with information and tips from the happiest couples on earth. So whether you’re struggling to keep your relationship together or want to make it even better, these books have something for you.

  1. The Single Girl's Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife: Becoming A Stepmother With Humor And Grace
  2. For Married Men Only: Three Principles for Loving Your Wife
  3. Relationship Goals: How to Win at Dating, Marriage, and Sex
  4. The Emotionally Healthy Marriage: Growing Closer by Understanding Each Other

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Relationship Expert

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, marriage, and family. She has been happily married for over ten years and loves her husband and three kids. Before …

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