If you want your marriage to make it, then you need to devote time, effort, and energy to your spouse, no matter how new or old your partnership is. Even stable marriages require regular maintenance and management. To help you keep your promise to live happily ever after, this article compiles therapists, relationship experts, marriage counselors, and research to gather the top 10 best pieces of marriage advice, according to experts. With these marriage tips, you will be setting yourself up for a happy and healthy relationship for years to come.
1. Never leave the house without saying goodbye.
Don’t forget to give your spouse a hug and a kiss before you leave the house. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds and can make a big difference in your relationship. “Affection keeps the juices flowing and the romance alive,” explains psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, PhD, author of How to Be Happy Partners.
2. Keep your spouse’s secrets – no matter how small.
When your spouse confides in you, that’s not something to take lightly. And even if the secret they shared with you seems small and trivial, it’s not something you should tell friends and family members—no matter what. “What may seem insignificant, trivial, or cute to you may be serious to your partner,” Tessina says. “Recognize what is important to your partner and don’t discuss it with your friends or family.”
3. When bringing up a complaint or criticism, start with a compliment first.
Nobody enjoys hearing about the things they’re doing wrong, even when it’s necessary. That’s why relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca says that “when you need to express criticisms or frustrations with your partner, start with a compliment first. It’s also smart to end with a reminder of something else you like about them.” Doing so, she says, “puts the negative statements in perspective”
4. Use laughter to your advantage.
Even in tense situations, sometimes all you need is a moment of levity to change the tone of the conversation. “If something frustrating is happening, try easing the tension with a bit of humor,” suggests Tessina. “Don’t poke fun at your mate, but use shared humor as a way to say, ‘I know this is tough, but we’ll get through it.’ Your partner will think of you as someone soothing and helpful to have around when problems happen.”
5. Change things up to avoid boredom.
Conflict isn’t the only thing that can make your marriage turn sour. According to a University of Michigan study, boredom is a serious issue for married couples, too. So you should do your best to pepper your routine with some moments of unpredictability. Go on surprise day trips; take a class or do an activity together; plan a vacation abroad—whatever you do, just make sure things remain exciting, a throwback to the beginning of your relationship.
6. Don’t ever stop going on dates.
“Never stop dating,” says certified emotional intelligence coach Bradley K. Ward, PCC. He notes that you can easily keep your relationship as fun and as loving as it was at the start simply by treating it exactly like you did then.
7. Don’t try to change your spouse.
There is a huge difference between supporting your spouse as they work on making healthy changes and asking them to be someone they’re not. “It’s not that your partner will never change. It’s that you cannot change your partner,” Karl Pillemer, PhD, head researcher behind the Cornell Marriage Advice Project, explains in his book 30 Lessons for Living.
“You may support your partner in an attempt to make a change, and you may change together. But what’s misguided is the idea that you can push your husband or wife to change in the direction you have chosen for him or her,” Pillemer writes. “People who finally accept their mate for who and what they are, rather than seeing them as a do-it-yourself project, find the experience liberating—and are much more likely to have happy and satisfying relationships for decades.”
8. Foster a friendship as well as a romantic relationship.
We’re schooled early on to think of friendship and romantic love as different. However, what makes friendships work are the same things that make a marriage work. “We look forward to being with friends, we relish their company, we relax with them, we share common interests, and we talk openly,” Pillemer writes in his book. During his research for the Cornell Marriage Advice Project, one 87-year-old told him, “Think back to the playground when you were a child. Your spouse should be that other kid you would most like to play with!”
9. Understand that love changes over time – and embrace the change.
The way you feel about your spouse is bound to change over time as you both evolve as people. And if you want your marriage to last, you need to embrace this change rather than try to turn back time.
“Quality relationships include the understanding that the definition and conceptualization of love constantly changes,” explains clinical psychologist Stephanie J. Wong, PhD. “Many people associate love with the ‘butterflies’ that occur when first dating someone. As time goes on, you may still get butterflies, but it can also evolve to mutual respect, an advanced understanding of each other’s likes and dislikes, and appreciating a partner’s strengths.”
10. Leave love notes around the house, and text your spouse to remind them how much you love them.
“Whether you write ‘I love you’ in a lipstick heart on the bathroom mirror, leave a bright pink Post-It note on their car window, or handwrite a real love letter that you cover in heart stickers and spray with perfume, it is nice for your partner to receive something sweet that they can keep as a memento,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA. “Give your partner something meaningful to keep when you are old and gray, and they’ll be happy to grow older with you!”
Texting shouldn’t be the preferred method of communication in any relationship. However, when it comes to your marriage, it pays to send sweet nothings via SMS every now and again. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Couples & Relationship Therapy showed that texting affectionate messages was positively associated with relationship satisfaction.
11. Argue to resolve rather than to win.
“One thing that can stop a fight in its tracks is to remember that you are on the same team,” says Scott-Hudson. “Don’t go for the low blow or say the inflammatory thing that will only further serve to upset and hurt your partner. You love them. You are a team. Act like it. Think, ‘What would resolve this as a win for both of us?’”
12. Learn how to actually apologize.
If you want your marriage to last, then you need to learn how to apologize and actually mean it. “An apology signifies that you have insight into your behaviors and that you see your role in the situation,” says Brown. And make sure that it’s not always you or always your spouse having to say sorry. “If one partner is always the person apologizing, this is an imbalance in the relationship and will lead to problems in the marriage,” she explains.
13. Don’t be afraid of counseling.
Marriage counselors are only there to help you and your relationship. So going to therapy hardly makes you a failure. In fact, one 2010 study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that marriage counseling can help even the most distressed of couples, so long as both you and your spouse are willing to change and improve.
14. Perform routine relationship evaluations.
“Take time to zoom out of the relationship together and inquire into questions like, ‘How is the relationship doing?’ ‘Where have we been struggling?’ ‘What has been good?’ ‘What do we desire?’ ‘How can we support each other?’” suggests relationship coach Marie Anna Winter. Doing this strengthens the bond between you and your spouse and makes both of you more aware of what is and isn’t working in your relationship.
15. Do research on how to spice things up in the bedroom.
Don’t be afraid to do your research when it comes to sex. Even an old dog can learn new tricks. According to a 2016 Chapman University study, sexually satisfied couples read sex advice online or in magazines—and then give it a whirl.
16. Love your spouse’s love language.
Everybody has a different love language. And in a marriage, part of being a good spouse is understanding your partner’s unique one: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, or physical touch. “You might like physical touch and they may like quality time. Get to know your language so you can tell them what you enjoy and vice versa,” explains Kountz.
17. Remember to thank your spouse, even for the little things.
Sure, you say “thanks” for the big things—a gift, date night, or bouquet of roses, for example. But what about all those little things your spouse does to make your life easier and better? If you aren’t expressing your gratitude for these things already, you might want to start. According to a 2015 study from the University of Georgia, the greatest predictor of marital quality is the ability to express gratitude.
18. Give your spouse your undivided attention.
“When your spouse is communicating with you, immediately stop multi-tasking,” suggests Bracha Goetz, author of Searching for God in the Garbage. “Your spouse will instantly feel valued, and the rest of your married life can become like your first exciting date together.”
19. Support your spouse’s dreams.
Does your spouse dream of getting their master’s degree? Do they hope one day to earn their pilot’s license? Whatever their goal may be, your job as a loving spouse is to support them as they work toward achieving it. Similarly, you should talk openly and honestly about your vision for the future, so your partner can support you in any and every way.
20. Press the ‘reset’ button every morning.
Leave the past in the past and let every day be a clean slate between you and your spouse. Even if your spouse said something mean or did something aggravating, “try to forgive your partner for the slights of yesterday,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Caroline Madden, PhD. “Start each morning fresh. Accept that we all have bad days where we aren’t the loving partners we ideally would like to be.”