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10 must-have habits for a happy marriage

Wondering how to have a happy marriage? Try these super simple must-have habits for a happy marriage today!

A couple on their wedding day with the text overlay, "Must have habits for a happy marriage."

There is no doubt that having a happy marriage comes down to one thing- picking the right person in the first place.

On this I speak from experience, having been married a grand total of three times (luckily I finally got it right).

Of course, what does the right person mean?

After all, when you’re 16 and rebellious, the right person might look like a motor-cycle riding, cigarette-smoking, high school dropout.

But when you’re 36 anyone rocking up to your door like that will have you muttering darkly about men with Peter Pan complexes.

But because this isn’t a post about finding Mr Right, I’ll stick with the following definition – that the right person is someone who at their core is a good person, who cares about nurturing and growing your relationship, and who reciprocates the effort that you put in to it.

However, even when you have found the right person, that doesn’t mean every day is effortless.

That would be way too easy.

All relationships take work and in addition, all relationships bear the brunt of stress caused by factors outside that relationship.

These must-have habits for a healthy and happy marriage help maintain harmony and happiness in my home and act as a buffer during those more trying times.

You might also like: 10 tips for a happy marriage.

Give him the best

Woman offering her husband her sandwich.

When you read that title, your instincts may have been to think I was going to mention giving him our best selves rather than that argumentative, haggard, it’s 6 pm and I’m tired and hangry version.

But here I’m actually talking about practicalities. Whether it’s the biggest piece of cake, the last piece of chocolate, or the only perfectly done pancake, I give my husband the best.

Now I have to admit that this was a lot easier to do when we met than now.

In the flush of first love, everything is easy.

Now sometimes I eye that last corn chip in the bowl and think how good it would taste.

But by consciously and intentionally choosing to put him first, I consistently reinforce to myself how the success in our relationship comes from looking after each other.

It also makes me feel good to do this for him.

Plus, as you may remember above, the right person reciprocates your efforts. Luckily, my husband also gives me the best.

So it’s a win-win situation- you feel good about yourself because you’re doing something nice, and when it’s his turn to do it to you, you can enjoy it without guilt.

Say yes to making love

Wife in nightshirt walking towards husband on the bed.

It’s so easy to say no to making love.

Most of the time this comes from being super tired and wanting little more when you get into bed than to snuggle into your pillow and fall asleep.

I know that I was brought up in an era where women turning down their husbands was like standing joke.

But you know what? Being rejected doesn’t feel nice.

And the reality is, most of us are past the stage of two hour long love-making marathons.

We can, however, usually summon the energy for ten or fifteen minutes, and this has a significant effect on our relationship satisfaction.

If you’re wondering about numbers, most people in committed relationships make love once a week, and that’s the perfect amount for prime levels of happiness (source). 

So the next time your instinct is to say no, try get past that and see what impact it has on your general feeling of closeness to each other.

You might also like: How to make love more in your marriage.

Say thank you

Woman thanking her husband as one of the must have habits for a happy marriage.

When your husband makes a cup of tea for you, cooks dinner, mows the lawn, makes appointments, whatever – then take the time to say thank you.

Sometimes we don’t do this because we assume that by saying thank you we are somehow implying that it is our job to have done whatever that was, and they’ve simply helped us.

But he’s not doing it for you, he’s doing it for you BOTH- the team that is YOU.

One of the things that can make us feel most dissatisfied is when we don’t feel appreciated, so get into the habit of expressing your gratitude. Like all things, your modelling of it will encourage the same behavior in him.

You might also like: Simple, practical ways to show your appreciation.

Remember it’s not a competition

Two couples sharing stories and laughing.

Sometimes, without even thinking about it, we pitch ourselves against our husbands.

They start to tell a story and we interrupt and make sure we tell what actually happened.

They make the bed and we go redo it the “right” way.

They do one thing, so we tell them the five things we’ve done.

From someone who likes to think they are often right, I admit this is something I struggle with.

But acting in competition with your husband puts you against him when it needs to be you and him against the world.

In addition, undermining your husband is emasculating and puts you in a position where you’re being more mother than lover.

So remember the saying about not letting the truth get in the way of a good story.

Leave what they do without “fixing” it.

And trust that everyone is doing everything they can.

Have clear expectations

Man cooking dinner.

Number 4 aside, a lot of stress, resentment and conflict can be simply avoided by making it clear who is responsible for what.

For example, in our house we now have set nights for cooking. My husband does Monday, Tuesday, Friday; I do Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and we alternate Sundays.

In terms of housework, he dusts and does the floors, I clean the bathrooms and vacuum.

You might also like: How to get your husband to help around the house.

However even though we have these clear expectations, we also support each other.

If he is still doing housework, I won’t sit on the couch and chill. I’ll go do some washing, or some other chore. We both clean up the kitchen together.

It’s keeping that team focus at all times.

Apologize

A man holding a bunch of flowers and a sign saying sorry.

If you speak harshly or rudely, snap or criticize, or simply make a mistake (hey, we’ve all been there), take a deep breath and say sorry.

When we feel bad, we often get defensive and try to rationalize why our poor behavior was justified, usually by making our spouse to blame.

Know when you’re heading down this path and stop yourself before you go any further.

Remember two sides of the same coin

A man high fiving his dog.

We tend to think of ourselves as having positive and negative traits, but in actuality, traits can have both good and bad sides.

I am an organized person.

When this is positively expressed, it helps our household run smoothly. It means that I always meet deadlines and manage most of my tasks well.

When it’s negatively expressed, I can become micro-managing and hyper-critical if it’s not done my way (see point 4 above).

My husband is a really patient and loving person. I benefit from this all the time. 

This may also mean that we end up running late because he stopped getting ready for five minutes to rub the dog’s tummy.

I call this two sides of the same coin, and it works by thinking to yourself that when something is bothering you (e.g. us not leaving on time because of him cuddling the dog), that if it weren’t for that annoying trait, you wouldn’t have those other positive benefits you cherish (such as patience and caring).

Practice 100 percent enthusiastic agreement

A couple high fiving outside a cafe.

There are so many hours in a day, and yet those 24 hours can be filled with innumerable things.

Our choice to say yes to one thing means we must say no to other things.

For example, if your husband decides that he wants to take up golf and is going to play for five hours a day in the weekend, that’s five hours where he may not be able to spend time with the family, do his share of the chores, or any number of other things.

Additionally, a choice to spend money on a hobby means money that is no longer available for other things that might be important to the household in another way.

If one spouse does these things without the genuine agreement of the other person then it’s a recipe for resentment.

I know that one of the things that I struggled with the most in my previous marriage was the way in which my husband never consulted with me about what he was doing – on anything from going to a friend’s house after work, to committing to a six month amateur production with frequent evening and weekend rehearsals.

Instead I was told what he was doing, and if I didn’t like it, I was accused of being a control freak.

No wonder we didn’t last.

My husband and I were determined that the decisions we made about time and money had to have the blessings of both of us.

We call it 100% enthusiastic agreement.

It has helped simplify our lives and also ensured that the decisions we are making are in line with our relationship values, which, as you can probably tell, are more important for us than our individual values.

Remember one day one of you will have to live without the other

Woman on a swing at sunset. The swing next to her is empty symbolizing that she has lost her husband.

When I met my husband, I knew that he was different to the men I’d had in the past.

One day I remember coming to the realization that we would never want to be apart from each other. That meant that one day one of us was going to have to live without the other because the other one would have died (yes I do have an active imagination).

Remembering that your time together is finite is a wonderful habit for putting all other things into perspective.

Never speak badly about your husband

Two women talking positively about their husbands.

My final habit has less to do with what you do to each other than what you do with other people, and that’s not to speak badly about your husband.

It can be easy to bitch and moan, especially when you are under stress, but it does no-one any good.

You feel bad for making your husband look bad, and your words may also influence the relationship that he has with other people.

I complained about my second husband so much, that as well as the things I mention above, it also made me look like a fool for putting up with him for so long.

This meant that when I did need the support to leave him, it was harder to find. People assumed I was just complaining as usual.

If you have an issue with your spouse, talk to him about it, not anyone else.

Summing up

Like I said at the beginning, these rules work because at our core my husband and I are good people who care for each other and make our relationship a priority.

All your positive intentions and actions will mean nothing if you’re with someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

But if you’ve found the right one, then see how these must-have habits for a happy marriage can help make your good relationship into an even better one.

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Emma

Monday 4th of June 2018

Great post Katie! I appreciate the hard work that goes into writing this. My husband and I are both shift workers and this adds a new level of complexity when we have limited time to see each other. Habit #10 is super important as previously discussed and I am with Steve regarding his comment. Looking forward to future blogs. Emma

Katie

Monday 4th of June 2018

Thank you Emma! Keeping your issues within your marriage is super important - there are times when you need to speak out, but this should be when you need help, not just to have a vent.

Steve

Tuesday 29th of May 2018

Katie, this is such a great list and is a much needed message to both husbands and wives. I particularly liked your point in #1 that you must give your best, but the other must reciprocate. Otherwise you have an imbalance in the relationship - one spouse is always giving to the relationship and the other is taking. A great marriage is made up of two givers.

Look forward to reading more of your posts.

Steve

Katie

Wednesday 30th of May 2018

Thanks Steve, great to see a man's perspective!

Sara

Tuesday 9th of January 2018

As I contemplate a second marriage, I really want someone that I could have this with. I think I've found him and I loved reading your must-have habits. Thanks for sharing your hard-won wisdom.

Katie

Wednesday 10th of January 2018

Oh Sara, I wish you all the happiness! A good marriage makes so many things possible.

Breezy Williams

Friday 4th of August 2017

Never speaking badly about your spouse is a HUGE one! I hate when I am around other couples and hear one of them say something rude about the other. I do my best to always talk up my husband! Thank you for sharing!

Katie

Saturday 5th of August 2017

Yes talking up is super important as well- let the world know how much you admire him. Thanks for the comment.

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