17 Daily Habits That Keep a Marriage Healthy, According to Therapists
It’s the little things you do that keep your marriage healthy. Pick up these expert-backed habits.
Ask anyone who's tied the knot and they'll tell you: Even couples who seem like they're made for each other put a lot of hard work into making sure their marriages remain healthy. And while romantic getaways and over-the-top gifts may be nice, when it comes down to it, it's the little things you do on a daily basis that keep that flame lit. With the help of top therapists, we've rounded up the things every married person should be doing on the regular to keep their marriage healthy.
Give your partner a proper greeting when they come and go.
While it may be easy enough to give a nod to your partner when they leave the house in the morning or walk in the door at the end of the day, giving them a strong sendoff and a proper hello can make all the difference in the health of your relationship over time.
"Don't just say 'hi' or 'bye' at the door and then go on your way," says licensed psychotherapist Jessica Marchena, LMHC, owner of the Heart Connection Center in Boca Raton, Florida. She says that a peck on their way in or out "is key to maintaining not only the emotional connection, but the physical connection" as well.
Ask them if they need anything.
Something as simple as asking your partner if there's anything you can do for them when you're on your way home "shows that you are thinking of them and want to be supportive to them," says Marchena.
Sure, you may instinctively do some things for your partner, whether that means grabbing their favorite treat when you're at the grocery store or picking up for them around the house. But actually asking your partner what they need on a daily basis can be a powerful way to cement your bond.
And tell your partner what you need without being critical.
When one spouse says, "Is there a way you could stop leaving your socks on the floor?" all too often, their partner hears it as a personal slight. Instead, try to make those needs known without criticizing your partner. "If we can find a way to talk about our partner's behaviors and how those behaviors impact the way we feel, then it is much easier for our partner to hear," says Dana McNeil, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in San Diego. In doing so, you're more likely to receive a response that's rooted in empathy, rather than defensiveness.
Make time for daily discussions with no distractions.
If you want to keep your marriage healthy, it's essential that you put your phone down in favor of some digital-free communication with your partner. "Set time to speak without distractions," suggests Tamar Blank, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and founder of Riverdale Psychology who practices in New York and New Jersey.
Blank also recommends taking time to have conversations where you focus purely on the positive and "don't speak about annoying things."
Have a daily vent session.
However, that doesn't mean you should simply push down those negative feelings you're having. To keep your relationship on steady footing, you need to take the time to express what's weighing heavily on your mind, too.
"This is our safe time to leave the mask we wear out in the world at the door and just feel comfort, support, love, and understanding," says McNeil.
Let your partner know you're thinking about them.
Something as simple as a text checking in with your partner to let them know you miss them can be enough to keep your relationship going strong. McNeil calls these "small regular deposits into our partner's emotional bank account." Over time, these "deposits" contribute to a greater feeling of warmth, stability, appreciation, and emotional wellbeing.
Say "thank you."
While it may seem like a small gesture, saying "thank you" to your partner on a regular basis can yield big long-term results.
"As time passes and we get comfortable, we tend to take one another for granted," explains licensed professional clinical counselor Stefanie Juliano, MS, LPCC, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. "It's important to remind our partners that we still have gratitude."
Check in about your partner's feelings.
Even if you feel like you and your partner are relatively open with one another, asking them about their emotional state can make a big difference. Juliano says that asking non-prying questions like, "How are you doing?" or "How's your project going?" or "What are you looking forward to this next month?" are all great ways to gauge how your partner is feeling and to learn what you can do to better support them.
A little compliment can go a long way when it comes to keeping your relationship healthy, says Juliano. Whether it's complimenting your spouse's outfit or simply saying you're proud of your their accomplishments at work, these moments can make all the difference in how secure they feel in the marriage.
Make time for intimacy.
Not everyone has the time—or the inclination—to make sex a part of their daily routine. But there are plenty of other ways to keep the intimacy between yourself and your partner alive every single day. "Hold hands in the car, put your hand on their leg on the couch or at dinner, rub their back after a long day, [or] give a hug or kiss that's a little longer than typical," suggests Juliano.
Surprise one another.
You don't have to buy your spouse gifts to keep them on their toes. "Just as when you were first dating and your partner may have brought you a favorite treat or surprised you with a small gift, these little gestures have just as big of an impact in marriage," says therapist Lauren Cook, MMFT, author of The Sunny Side Up: Celebrating Happiness. Even something as small as taking your spouse's car to get washed is enough to keep the magic in your marriage alive!
Fill them in throughout the day.
"Whether it's a quick text or a two minute phone call, reaching out to your partner and keeping them up to date with the highs and lows of the day lets them know that they are on your mind and that you value their opinion," says Cook. She notes that repetitive acts of love like these, even if you're not physically together, have a cumulative effect on a marriage.
Relationships are work, but they're also supposed to be fun. So try doing something playful with your partner on a daily basis. It's the key to keeping your marriage healthy.
"We play by trying new experiences together, being silly and goofy together, and playing actual games together," says Seattle-based licensed mental health therapist Rachel Elder. She adds that a little playtime can not only improve your connection with your partner, but will increase your overall wellbeing and reduce stress.
Tell your partner that you hear them, even when you're arguing.
It's critical to always validate your partner's feelings before sharing your own, especially at the height of a fight. "During an argument or disagreement, try to repeat what your partner has said to you, to make sure you are understanding them correctly," suggests clinical psychologist Alyssa Austern, PsyD, with Garden State Psychology in Chatham, New Jersey.
Letting your partner know that you hear them, love them, and respect them, even when you can't see eye-to-eye, can make all the difference in terms of the health of your marriage in the long run.
If you're in a healthy marriage, chances are your partner values your input—so offer it! And when you and your partner come to a disagreement about the way something is being done, "offer a solution so that you give your partner a way to do it differently in the future and not leave them guessing what might work better," says licensed clinical marriage and family therapist Risa Ganel, MS, owner of Together Couples Counseling in Columbia, Maryland.
It may be hard to admit fault, but doing so—and doing so frequently—can keep your marriage rock solid. And no, we don't mean simply tossing out an offhand "sorry" here and there. "It includes acknowledging your contribution to [making your spouse] upset and what you will do differently going forward to help avoid future upsets," explains Ganel.
Talk about your future.
It's understandable if you don't want to get into the nitty gritty aspects of where you see yourselves in a decade every single day. But be sure to talk about your future, even if the slightest of ways. "Prompts 'wouldn't it be nice if…' and 'I'd be great if we could…'" are a great way to start the process, says financial therapist Lindsay Bryan Podvin, LMSW, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even if it's all hypothetical, it can help cement your bond. After all, if you don't talk about your future, how will your spouse know for certain that you see them in yours?