The Keys to Successful Marriage

Why do some marriages seem to work out and others fail?  Why do certain couples just seem to “fit” together and others, sometimes those who appear to have the perfect relationship, end up divorced?  Over the last few decades researchers have attempted to gain a better understanding of what it takes to make a successful marriage. Some of the guidelines that are particularly consistent across couples with successful relationships are offered below as suggestions to help keep your marriage strong and healthy.

  • Expect mutuality & respect. Couples in happy relationship have high expectations from one other even early in their marriage. The couples who are the most successful do not accept hurtful behavior from one another even very early in their marriage. There is a clear relationship between a “low level of tolerance for bad relationship behavior” and a couple’s happiness.


  • Get help when necessary. Healthy couples are proactive and tend to seek help for marital concerns sooner rather than waiting the nearly six-year average seen in couples with marital problems. While it is natural look for simple and straight-forward solutions to difficulties, successful relationships tend to view counseling as a positive resource and attempt to overcome concerns before they lead to despair.


  • Think before you speak. While it is important to be open and spontaneous, certain subjects or situations call for a more caring or thoughtful approach. The happiest couples learn to balance their desire to share critical opinions. They recognize when to hold off talking about difficult issues during a tough moment or conversation.


  • Bring up problems gently. All relationships face conflict and couples need to be able to know how to sit down together and have a conversation when there are difficulties. The happiest couples have developed the skill of knowing how to approach one another about uncomfortable subjects in a manner that is not confrontational or blaming. Learning to overcome their anxiety or insecurity about how discussing negative feelings can often help develop relational self-esteem.


  • Gender clarity. While our society has changed in many ways with respect to equal rights for women, when it comes to our personal relationships the way we were raised by our parents can have a powerful impact on our marital life. Couples who have the strongest marriages have flexibility in their relationship and how they openly interact about the roles and expectations they each have with regards to men and women. In particular, research indicates women are more flexible in relationships and the happiest relationships are seen where men are able to allow their wives to have a greater amount of influence in the marriage, retaining a less rigid gender definition.


  • Learn the rules for a healthy argument. Strong emotions are a natural and healthy part of a relationship. Successful couples learn very early that there need to be strategies to bring an argument to an end so it does not get out of control. They use various tactics that include humor, backing down, compassionate recognition of the difficulties involved, joining and finding common ground even if there are differences, acknowledging the other’s courage in raising a difficult subject, extending a caring or thoughtful acknowledgment, changing subjects, or just showing an appreciate the other’s feelings about what is being discussed. Occasionally, when an argument is very serious and tempers flair, couples may choose to take a “time out”, agreeing to return to the discussion after tempers have cooled a bit. Avoiding derogatory language and developing healthy arguing habits allows healthy couples to feel confident about approaching difficult situations with confidence.


  • Emphasize strengths. In successful relationships, even while discussing problems, couples tend to emphasize the positive rather than focusing on the negative. In fact, research suggests satisfied couples will make at least five times as many positive statements to and about each other and their relationship as negative ones. For example, “We have a lot of fun” as opposed to “We never do anything fun any more.” A successful relationship is built on a positive and supportive climate of togetherness and strengths.


While there is no “one size fits all” approach to relationships, there are definitely tools we can use that tend strengthen and enhance our satisfaction and sense of togetherness. Couples therapy or marriage counseling may be a great way to strengthen your relationship. To set up an appointment with a San Diego therapist, call David Christopher, M.S. at (858) 792-0777.

David L. Christopher, MS is one of San Diego County's premier counseling & marriage and family therapy providers. W/ over 30 yrs experience, his comprehensive approach to individual psychotherapy and couples counseling has helped thousands become effective communicators & develop stronger relationships. Specialties: self-esteem, relationships, ADD, depression, addiction, stepfamilies. His website is
David Christopher, M.S., LMFT

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.

%d bloggers like this: