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Keys to a Successful Marriage

So you want to get married, but you don’t want to end up as a divorce statistic. Makes sense.

But what are the keys to a successful marriage? What determines if your marriage will be successful, or come to an end in the stale smelling office of your local attorney?

While there’s no exact formula for success, there are definitely things you can do to improve your odds.


What Do Successful Married Couples Do Differently?


I’ve had the pleasure of working with many, many couples over the years. There are definitely clear keys to success, and certain types of people seem to do better at marriage in general than others.

Basically, successful married couples are in sync on key issues. These are very specific issues though – if you like Tim Horton’s and your spouse likes Starbucks you’ll probably be OK.

There are also certain qualities that are helpful, like easy goingness (is that a word?), open mindedness, and self-awareness. Since traits tend to take a long time to change, you’re better off focusing on things you can start doing right away.


3 Key Takeaways You Can Use Today


1) Never Stop Dating

The most common problem with marriage compared to dating is quality time.

When you’re dating, you can’t make enough time for your new romance. When you’re married, there’s a tendency to make time for you and yours when everything else is done. The problem, obviously, is there’s always more to do.

There’s a kind of false security that comes with marriage, isn’t there? You feel like you can slack because, well, you’re married. They’re not going anywhere.

You can’t use the commitment of marriage as an excuse to slack on your partner.

2) Get Your Priorities Straight

One of the biggest complaints from couples is they’re both trying hard and neither is happy. This happens when you’re doing stuff for your partner, but not the stuff that’s important to them.

A common example is the husband who works 80 hours a week and the wife who says he doesn’t care about her. The husband loses his shit, and screams “What!!! Do you know how fucking hard I work for this family!?” and on and on.

An interesting exercise: Write out the top three things most important to your partner’s relationship satisfaction, and have them do the same. Compare your answers.

When I explain the exercise, people smile and I can see them thinking “Too easy”. Immediately after, jaws drop and I get to enjoy a truly magical moment when they look at each other, and everything clicks into place. There’s so much carried in this look: Amazement, apology, curiousity, understanding, connection. Moments like this fuel my passion for reconnecting couples.

3) Know Your Role

Although you may feel like you’re always the same person, you have many roles that allow you to adapt to different situations.

A doctor, for example, is interacting with people in a different way than he would at home. He’s in a professional role. While in this role, certain traits like empathy are stronger, while others like judgement are minimized.

Your priorities change depending on what role you’re in. As a mother or father, caring for your children and ensuring stability and financial security are important. If you’re too busy being mom or dad, you can forget to be husband and wife.

Be aware of how you define yourself, and how that affects your marriage.

By January 20, 2015 February 18th, 2022 Blog, Psychology & Relationships

Author Ryan

More posts by Ryan

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Keith says:

    Great post Ryan. I’d add also be careful how you argue – don’t throw darts trying to hurt them. Rather focus on the specific issue. Paul Ekman/Daniel Goleman (I forget) wrote about how contempt is the single biggest destroyer of relationships and they can predict with something like 92% accuracy if a marriage will last depending on how the two communicate with each other, specifically when they argue and how they treat each other (with respect or contempt).

    Thanks Ryan! It’s so true that couples need to keep dating for the life of their relationships. This gets lost in the “too busy” and taking each other for granted syndrome that is so common. Maybe this is why back in the day when life was a real struggle for survival, couples were more likely to stay together. Today people are bored and spend too much time questioning their relationship, or see the grass is greener when out and about.

    • Ryan says:

      Excellent point. I actually just scoured through another article, I was sure I had mentioned that… but I didn’t. D’oh!

      There’s a whole bit on that, called complain don’t criticize. You’ve basically summed it up already – identify what you don’t like, and say that rather than insulting them for what they’re doing.

      Thanks for bringing that up 🙂

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