Six Expert-Backed Tips To Have A Happier Marriage

Fortune Well June 26, 2023


Six Expert-Backed Tips To Have A Happier Marriage

While fairy tales and rom-coms often end with the couple living “happily ever after,” real life can be far from that once the proverbial honeymoon period is over. But there is hope for couples who are aiming to infuse a little more happiness into their relationship.

While fairy tales and rom-coms often end with the couple living “happily ever after,” real life can be far from that once the proverbial honeymoon period is over. But there is hope for couples who are aiming to infuse a little more happiness into their relationship.

“The notion of a perfect, problem-free, and everlasting happiness in marriage is unrealistic. Every relationship faces challenges, conflicts, and ups and downs,” says Courtney Cope, licensed marriage and family therapist and principal clinical operations manager at BetterHelp, an online mental health platform. “The expectation of a perpetual state of bliss can lead to disappointment and frustration. Recognizing that a fulfilling marriage requires ongoing effort and adaptation can help manage expectations.”

As part of that ongoing effort, Cope recommends six tried-and-true methods to nurture your emotional connection and help ensure a successful marriage:

1. Set aside quality time together

Whether it’s weekly date nights or monthly getaways for a long weekend, it’s important for couples to invest in regularly scheduled time together that’s just for the two of them.

“During different seasons of life, such as parenting, going to school, et cetera, and during different financial situations, such as young married couples versus more established couples, the ways you spend quality time together may look different; however, it’s important you put something on your calendar regularly,” says Cope.


2. Express love and appreciation

“Whether it’s verbal affirmation or physical expressions of love, it’s important to take the time to express your affection, desire, care, and appreciation for your partner,” says Cope. “Let them know every day and every week how much they matter to you.” 


3. Prioritize emotional and physical intimacy

While physical intimacy is important, it’s crucial that couples realize there are other meaningful ways of being intimate with each other as well.

“It’s easy to let the busyness of work, raising a family, and taking care of all the little details of life take precedence over tending to the intimacy of your relationship,” explains Cope. “However, it’s important that even if you’re in a season of life where physical intimacy isn’t possible, such as illness, pregnancy, postpartum, or depression, that the couple is still fostering emotional intimacy by sharing feelings, stating desires, and being deeply known by your partner.”

If physical intimacy becomes a struggle because of health challenges or emotional struggles, you and your partner may benefit from speaking with a sex therapist, sex educator, or medical doctor.


4. Engage in shared interests

Although it may be tempting to stick to your own hobbies, finding ways to connect over shared interests can also be helpful to your relationship (just make sure it doesn’t involve unhealthy habits, such as binge-watching TV).

“When you have bonds that go beyond a marriage license and sexual intimacy it allows for deeper enrichment in your relationship and in the life you build together,” says Cope.


5. Manage conflict constructively

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, and marriage is no exception, but it’s how you navigate it that makes all the difference.

Assuming positive intent when your partner does something you perceive as hurtful can help avoid unnecessary fights. For example, you may be upset that your partner left a mess in the kitchen even though you’ve asked your spouse multiple times to clean the dishes before leaving for work. Then you remember your partner has a big presentation and may have needed to rush off to the office to finish preparing for it. 

“In this instance, it appears at face value that your partner was being disrespectful, inconsiderate, or forgetful, but perhaps they were just dealing with their own stressors, anxieties, or limitations in that moment,” shares Cope.

If you feel yourself getting frustrated, Cope recommends taking a 20- to 45-minute time-out in separate rooms and then coming back once you’re both calmer and have had time to reflect on what you really want to say. Once there, she suggests using “I statements” to get your point across without blaming your partner.

In the above example about your partner and the disorderly kitchen, you may be tempted to shout: “You always leave the kitchen a mess, and you don’t care at all about my feelings!” Instead, Cope says, you could say: “I want to talk to you about something important if you have a minute. I am noticing myself feeling really stressed and overwhelmed when the kitchen is a mess because I only have a short period of time to make my breakfast in the morning before getting to work as well. When the kitchen is left a mess it sometimes causes me to be late for work.”


6. Support each other’s growth and personal development

If you’ve been married for any significant amount of time, it’s safe to say you and your partner aren’t the same people you were on your wedding day (for better or worse, pun intended). 

“It’s important to support your partner in their evolution of becoming the next version of themselves and offer them both space and emphatic encouragement of their personal journey,” says Cope. “The more supportive you are of your partner in their discovery of themselves, the more excited they will be to continue their life journey with you as a key character in their life story.”

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