Top 20 Secrets to Building a Great Marriage

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco
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Many couples could avoid divorce if they got some good advice (and remembered it) when their marriage started having serious trouble. Here are some tips that should benefit most couples.

  1. Think before you speak. Couples tend to develop hot button issues that cause frequent arguments. You can reduce bickering by waiting before responding to something that has made you angry. Count to ten. It may be better to discuss difficult issues once emotions are not so high.
  2. Don't give up. Any married person will tell you that marriages wax and wane. There are good times, bad times, and so-so times. A marriage is viable if the good outweighs the bad, even by a little bit. The more you appreciate the good and try to let the bad roll off, the easier it will get, and the more fondness and connection you will feel towards your spouse.
  3. Give your marriage at least as much attention as you give your hobbies. People spend huge amounts of time, money, and effort on their off-work interests. But when a marriage is making them feel bad, some throw up their hands and decide that it's useless to try anymore. Reading books on marriage, conflict resolution, and communication techniques will help your marriage. Getting your spouse to read them is even better.
  4. Treat your spouse better than you treat anyone else. Have you heard the expression "familiarity breeds contempt?" The unfortunate truth is that people tend to treat their spouses worse than they treat strangers. Retrain yourself to give your spouse the utmost respect.
  5. Have separate interests. Make sure you have some private space, and give your spouse some, too. Marriage entails a lot of togetherness, but you don't need to be joined at the hip.
  6. Encourage your spouse's dreams and goals. In a successful marriage, one spouse is happy for the other's successes. Good spouses foster the other in achieving goals. Sometimes goals, such as a career change, are scary and need to be carefully evaluated. Do the work together.
  7. Find things you enjoy doing together. A marriage is a partnership. If you both have totally separate interests, you will eventually grow apart. Find shared interests, pursuits, and enjoyment, recognizing that these activities will probably change over time.
  8. Don't think the grass is always greener on the other side. Most people who leave their marriages for someone else find the same problems in the new relationship, and many regret not having worked things out in their first marriage.
  9. Don't sweat the little things. As in the world of work, it is important to have priorities. Carefully pick your battles, and let the other stuff slide.
  10. Compliment your spouse at least once every day. This leads to a healthy relationship, and it is the right thing to do, because your spouse is probably doing many good things every day.
  11. Work hard with your spouse to create financial security. One of the benefits of marriage is the creation of a strong economic joint venture. As your financial security builds up, it will be one of the things that lets you feel good about each other and the world. It will also be a measure of the good work you've both done during your marriage.
  12. Be your spouse's partner. Keep each other informed about activities you are engaged in, including your work days and what you do at home. The time you spend separately outside in the world every day is very significant. Always talk to each other at the end of the day about how your day went.
  13. Always assume the best of your spouse. Everyone has misunderstandings and miscommunications. If your spouse's actions displease you, wait a bit and, then, try to find out the motivation. You might well find that your spouse meant to be constructive and not negative and that you made the wrong interpretation or assumption.
  14. Give your spouse a treat occasionally. If there's something your spouse likes, offer it without being asked sometimes, even if you don't care for it. It can be a small thing: a date to the movies, a ride to a place your spouse likes to go, or maybe a favorite food from the grocery store
  15. Don't fight with your spouse about the kids. Disagreements about children can be very corrosive to a marriage. Have your discussions off-line so that your children do not know you disagree. Get professional advice, if needed, to help you coordinate and respect your different views.
  16. Don't complain about your spouse to your friends and family. One complaint at a low time in your marriage will resonate with the listener long after the problem or spat was resolved. If you need to talk with someone about your marriage, find an independent professional.
  17. Be faithful. Affairs destroy many marriages. If you can't resist someone outside of your marriage, be honest with everyone and end the marriage first.
  18. Spend time with mutual friends. Pursuing outside friendships together, with single people or other couples, is often very good for a marriage.
  19. Forgive each other. Marriage is very long, and bad things are bound to happen. Every spouse (even you!) makes mistakes and treats the other poorly at times. You must be able to forgive your spouse for the wrongs done to you and move on. Remember that the next time it may be you who needs to be forgiven.
  20. Appreciate each other's contributions to the marital venture. Marriages often fail because of perceived differences in the level of contribution of each party. Try to appreciate the other person's contributions, whether they are financial or emotional.

Marriage isn't easy. Building a strong marriage takes time, effort, and maturity. But it's worth it.

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