I just attended my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. 50 years together! That’s more than twice as long as my husband and I have been married (21 years). We celebrated with them at a weekend-long family reunion with all of their children, daughters and sons-in-law, grandchildren, and other extended family. Oddly conspicuous to me was that in the weekend of reunion festivities, not once was the couple asked HOW they had made it so long. Odd, only because when most people hear of such successful marriages, it’s the first thing they ask. Not odd for this couple, who once you know them, it is clear why and how they have stayed together and will until death do they part.
I’ve had many conversations with both of them about marriage and what makes one successful or not. Time together isn’t the only measure of success. Think of the miserable couples you know who have stayed together “for the children” or because they simply don’t believe in divorce. Do you consider their relationship successful? That being said, I’ve never met a couple yet who “lived happily ever after” once they found each other. The simple truth is that marriage takes hard work and commitment to succeed. You can’t just sit back and hope everything will be perfect without putting in some effort to heal and grow your relationship over time.
I thought long and hard about the habits and behaviors I’ve seen in my in-laws and other couples that I admire. I wasn’t surprised to realize that there are several things that are common among them. I’m sure you’ll have heard of many of them, but hopefully there will be one or two that you haven’t considered before. These are what I believe are the 10 habits of a healthy marriage.
1. They Date Each Other
The happiest couples I know make time to date each other. Whether it’s a regular weekly date night, an annual romantic getaway, or a monthly all-day outing, these couples make time in their busy lives to enjoy one another.
2. They Greet Each Other
Another thing happy couples do is greet one another warmly. My husband says that as a child, his mother always stopped what she was doing to welcome his father home and his father always came directly to his mother to give her a kiss. This regular affirmation of affection for one another is a simple, but often overlooked, act that makes a big difference in the state of a relationship.
3. They Bid Each Other Goodbye
Just as important as the tender greetings are affectionate goodbyes. My husband never leaves for work without coming to find me and giving me a kiss goodbye. We don’t do it so much out of a fear that we will never see each other again and we want to make sure the last memory we have of each other is a loving one. It’s more a sign of how much we care for one another. This daily reminder of that caring helps strengthen our relationship.
4. They Display Physical Affection
I don’t mean hanky panky (though that’s also helpful). One of the telltale signs of happy couples is that they like to be in physical contact. They stand near each other, sometimes hold hands or rest a hand on one another’s knee, shoulder, or arm. A woman might jokingly tap her husband on the behind. A thoughtful husband might massage his wife’s tense shoulders while she is sitting at the computer. We don’t let just anyone touch us, so frequent physical contact between a couple sends a message of trust, intimacy, and adoration between partners.
5. They Practice Verbal Affection
After a couple has been together for awhile, they start to take for granted that they each know that they love each other. Life and insecurity have a way of interfering with that knowledge though, which is why it is important to verbally remind each other. Every day my husband tells me something he loves or admires about me. Aside from being a great stroke to my ego, it is a wonderful sign of how he feels about me.
6. They Have Daily Chats
One of my friends wakes up in the pre-dawn hours so she can have coffee with her husband and chat about their days before he leaves for work. Likewise, my in-laws get up early and enjoy breakfast together. Other happy couples I know go to bed at the same time so that they can share their thoughts about the day via pillow talk. It doesn’t matter when or where you and your partner communicate, but making time each day to connect and share your thoughts is a habit almost every happy couple I know possesses.
7. They Engage in Positive Promotion
It’s hard to be perceived as a happy couple if one or both of the partners constantly complains about the other. It’s natural for a couple to have disagreements, but they should be settled and discussed between the couple, not broadcast to everyone else. I’ve often thought that the happiest couples are simply the best at marketing. They promote their spouse’s merits and the joys of their relationship, rather than airing all of their dirty laundry.
8. They Celebrate Their Individuality
Though I believe a couple must have similar core values to be happy together, beyond those core values the happiest couples I know have vastly different personalities. Great couples balance one another. Each partner admires the other’s strengths. Over time, these couples maintain the balance by pursuing individual interests so that they can remain interesting to one another.
9. They Fight Fair
Despite the fact that happy couples rarely discuss their fights in public, since they are often opposites in some ways, they aren’t exempt from fighting. My mother-in-law assures me that disagreements are a natural part of marriage. However, there is a big difference in how happy couples fight versus unhappy couples. One of the speakers at my in-laws anniversary reception said about my opinionated father-in-law that “he can disagree with someone without being disagreeable.” There is a way to disagree with someone without being cruel. You can still show respect and love towards someone whose opinion differs from yours. Happy couples argue this way, and can often come out of a major disagreement with a strengthened, rather than damaged, relationship.
10. They Expect to Be Happy
If you believe that the normal status of your relationship should be positive, you will make corrections any time it is not. Though happy couples accept that marriage has its ups and downs, they expect and work towards having more ups. If you are a pessimist who believes every major argument is a step towards divorce, you won’t use your disagreements as opportunities to strengthen your relationship.
These are the habits I have noticed in the couples I consider to be successful. They are the relationship I admire and try to emulate. What habits, behaviors, or characteristics do you admire in relationships?