How to Have a Happy Marriage – Try These Five Things Every Day
This year my husband and I will celebrate twenty years of wedded . . . uh . . . marriage. Because as much as I’d love to tell to you it’s been all bliss, it hasn’t been. Oh, I love him and he loves me – there’s no doubt about that. But love doesn’t magically make our marriage a happy one. If you want to know how to have a happy marriage you need to first know that love alone won’t keep you together.
I hate to burst your bubble, but love is not enough for a marriage to thrive. Even a couple in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage can truly love each other. They may not show each other in healthy ways, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel love.
Having a happy marriage takes work. It’s a daily, even moment-to-moment, decision to show your partner love – even when they’re not being lovable. Even when you don’t feel loving. It’s work, y’all. But it’s worth it.
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Are These Happy Marriage Tips Right for Your Marriage?
Before we go any further, I want to state that this article is not for couples who are in an abusive marriage. If you or your partner is abusive, these tips will NOT make your marriage healthy and happy. Both partners must first be emotionally healthy and free from abuse or abusive behaviors before trying these daily practices.
Do not use these tips to try to change your abusive partner. Instead, spend your energy working on yourself. Find a therapist to work with. If your partner shows signs of narcissism, check out Lisa A. Romano’s videos.
If your partner gets the help he needs and you come back together as two emotionally and mentally healthy people, then you can try these tips to maintain a healthy marriage.
Five Daily Practices for a Happy Marriage
Know Yourself – Practice Self-Awareness
When you interact with your spouse it’s important for you to know what’s going on with you. For example, if you’re having a bad day, if you’re dealing with illness, if you’re upset about something, etc acknowledge the struggles you’re dealing with. Let your spouse know upfront that you’re not at your best and you need support.
If you don’t know why you’re sad, annoyed, or angry you might blame your spouse for those feelings or even pick a fight. It’s unfair to pin responsibility for your big feelings onto your biggest ally when he didn’t cause those feelings.
Be mindful about how you’re feeling so you can interact with your husband honestly. Let him know upfront that you’re in a bad mood or that you don’t feel well. Your spouse may be able to help you feel better. But, if he can’t, don’t waste time being upset over it. Sometimes the only person who can make you feel better is YOU. Simply work on helping yourself to feel better so that you can be a better partner.
Below are my recommended resources on learning and practicing self-awareness.
Assign Positive Intent
Do you give your partner the benefit of the doubt or do you automatically assume that he has negative intentions? Before assuming why your husband has said or done something, take a step back. Try to assign positive intent to his actions.
For example, did he leave his laundry on the bathroom floor? Maybe he ran out of time or was distracted. This doesn’t mean you have to pick it up for him, but try to remember the times when you weren’t able to finish a task because the kids interrupted you or you had to move on to another task.
Stop assuming that your spouse behaves in an annoying way just to spite you. Likely it has nothing at all to do with you! Stop taking it personally and assign positive intent to his actions. When in doubt, ask your partner why he did the thing you find bothersome.
Of course, you shouldn’t ask in a rude or blaming way. Instead ask gently, in a manner that invites open communication and allows him space to explain himself. He needs to feel comfortable enough to say, “I was in a hurry and ran out of time.” or “Yeah, I was being lazy.”
Further reading on Assigning Positive Intent.
Give Each Other Space
When you’re past the honeymoon stage it’s time to find a few hobbies of your own. This tip is especially important if you’re married to an introvert. There may be some days when you or your partner just want to be alone. That’s okay and isn’t a sign of a failing marriage.
Give your spouse some space and take space when you need it. As I said in the last tip, assign positive intent to your spouse’s need for time alone. He isn’t rejecting you if he’s simply doing what it takes to stay healthy. For some people that means having some time alone.
If you feel like your friendship with your husband is fading, check out my article “What to do When Your Husband Isn’t Your Best Friend“.
Say What’s Bothering You
If something about your partner bothers you, let them know. Do it in a respectful way, but don’t hold it in. Unspoken resentment leads to contempt and contempt kills marriages.
Talk about the little things as they come up. Assign positive intent. Be sure to use your “I” statements. Example: “I feel frustrated when you leave your laundry on the floor. Help me understand why you left your laundry on the floor.” Also, ‘What can I do to help?” is a great way to spark a healthy conversation without inciting defensiveness and anger from your partner.
I recommend the resources below for learning healthy ways to deal with conflict in your marriage.
Ask For What You Need From Your Husband
Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. Not even after many years of marriage should you expect your partner to know what you need if you don’t tell him.
Of course, it’s great when our spouse anticipates our needs. Sometimes we hit it out of the park and know exactly what the other person needs or wants – sometimes before they know they need or want it! But, expecting this all the time is tiring for your partner and frustrating for you.
So, just ask for what you need. Tell your husband exactly what you need and don’t play games. It’s not true that if he loved you, he would know what you need. He has a whole life of his own to figure out. Unless you want to be held to the same standard of mind-reading (at which you’d likely fail), stop expecting your spouse to know what you need from him without being told. Use your words and get what you need!
I recommend the books below for learning healthy communication in your marriage.