21 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Marriage
These are some of the simplest things you can do to make your marriage work.
Even the strongest marriages are vulnerable to a bit of turbulence. When your relationship is good, it feels like you're floating on air—but when things sour, you can quickly tumble down to the ground. Luckily, any good relationship can be salvaged with enough effort—and you may already be familiar with some of these ways to maintain a healthy marriage.
For instance, all of those double dates you've been going on have been secretly upping the intimacy in your relationship. And did you know that cuddling and looking at cute animal photos can keep the spark alive? To make sure you're doing everything you can to keep your spouse happy, we've gathered some of the simplest things you can do to make a marriage work.
Look at pictures of puppies together.
Do you and your partner sit in bed scrolling through adorable puppy pics together? That joint activity isn't just making you squeal with delight—it could also be helping your marriage. A 2017 study published in Psychological Science found that when subjects were shown pictures of puppies immediately after pictures of their spouses, they had more positive responses to their partners afterward and improvements in marital relations.
"One ultimate source of our feelings about our relationships can be reduced to how we associate our partners with positive affect," wrote lead researcher James K. McNulty. "Those associations can come from our partners, but also from unrelated things like puppies and bunnies."
Write down your feelings.
When in doubt, journal it out. Researchers at Northwestern University in 2013 found that couples who partook in a routine journaling exercise about their relationship experienced increased marital satisfaction. However, it's important that you don't only write down the things that bother you about your partner—keeping a list of the positives as well will serve you better in the long run.
Watch romantic comedies.
Do you regularly gravitate toward romcoms on movie night? Go ahead and congratulate yourself on your good taste—and on paving the path toward happily ever after. A 2014 study from the University of Rochester analyzed the success of various couple counseling programs, and found that couples who watched romantic films and discussed them afterward had a 50 percent lower divorce rate. So pop in a flirty flick, grab some popcorn, and don't forget to thank Meg Ryan for a long, loving marriage.
Say "thank you."
You might think that your spouse intuitively knows how grateful you are for everything they do, but it definitely doesn't hurt to let them know. In fact, a 2015 study published in the journal Personal Relationships found that expressing gratitude toward your partner is directly correlated with relationship satisfaction.
"Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes," lead study author Allen Barton told Science Daily.
Celebrate small victories.
Did your spouse recently get a promotion at work, or perhaps reach their goal weight after months of hard work? These momentous occasions call for a celebration! Your partner will appreciate the support, and the positive praise will work wonders on your marriage.
As Tara Parker-Pope writes in For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed, "Couples who regularly celebrate the good times have higher levels of commitment, intimacy, trust, and relationship satisfaction. It's not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in his or her accomplishments—you have to show it."
Send sexy texts.
These days, sending naughty texts isn't just for sultry singles looking for a good time. Even married couples frequently turn to text to keep the spark alive. And if you aren't afraid to virtually get it on, then pat yourself on the back: A study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that committed couples benefit from steamy messages more than couples in more casual relationships. Half of the respondents reported that sexting "positively influenced their sexual and emotional relationship with a partner."
But don't rely on texts to communicate.
We're all guilty of spending a little too much time on our phones, but it's essential for your marriage that you're not neglecting to interact with your spouse face-to-face. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy concluded that women who apologized and communicated important information via text were less satisfied in their relationships. Talk in person as often as possible, or make time for a call when you're not physically together—really anything's better than a thumbs up and winky face emoji.
And don't be too attached to your phone in general.
Too many people let their smartphone become a third partner in their relationship. A 2018 study of college couples published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that people who were attached to their smartphones reported less certainty in their relationship; similarly, people whose partners were always on their phones reported being less satisfied. If your spouse feels that you have an unhealthy attachment to your phone, they may also worry that something is lacking in the marriage, so try to keep your device in your pocket whenever you're together.
Go out for date nights.
If you're one of the married couples that still considers date night sacred after years of being together, then you're already on the path to success. A 2016 study by the Marriage Foundation determined that couples who hit the town once a month were more likely to stay together than those who favored staying in.
And go on double dates.
Going on a double date will introduce a new activity into your rotation and improve the intimacy in your relationship. In a 2014 study published in Personal Relationships, couples who engaged in "deeply personal conversations" while out with another couple reported feeling more passionate toward each other than couples who only conversed deeply with one another. Researchers found that couples were more likely to disclose their feelings when they heard other couples doing the same. Monkey see, monkey do!
And maintain friendships with other couples.
Double dates aside, it's human nature to want to spend time with people similar to yourself, so it makes sense that couples tend to befriend other couples. But what most couples probably don't realize is that these friendships are actually helping their marriage.
In the book Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships, co-authors Geoffrey Greif and Kathleen Holtz Deal discovered that couples' friendships benefit a marriage by providing comfort, support, and excitement. "We can talk about anything we want to," said one couple in the book. "We have shared sad times and good times."
Reminisce about the good times.
There's a reason that close couples (and best friends) have so many inside jokes that they love to remind each other about. Laughter is the backbone of any good bond—and remembering good times might be the secret to maintaining a healthy marriage, according to a significant 2007 study published in Motivation and Emotion. The researchers noted that couples who reminisced about hilarious moments reported greater relationship satisfaction.
Hang out with your partner's friends.
Your willingness to include your spouse in your friend outings doesn't go unnoticed. On the contrary, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Leisure Research, this act of integration is only going to strengthen your bond with your significant other.
Fall asleep in each other's arms.
Nothing brings a married couple closer together (literally) than a bit of spooning. A 2014 study from the University of Hertfordshire found that 94 percent of couples that slept while touching reported relationship satisfaction.
Work out together regularly.
Exercise has a positive effect on both your muscles and your marriage. An oft-cited 2000 study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that after couples participated in a physical activity together, they were more satisfied with their relationships and felt more in love.
Or run a marathon together.
If you're feeling really ambitious, ask your spouse to sign up for a 5K with you—the months of training together will fortify your fellowship. "Shared goals that a couple can work toward help give a relationship greater purpose," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett told Brit + Co. "Also, the time spent achieving those goals helps the couple strengthen their bond."
Going through the same motions every day can make a marriage feel stale. One way to spice things up? Plan a vacation for just you and your spouse at least once a year. In fact, a 2016 survey conducted by Booking.com suggests that the happiness couples feel when planning a vacation actually trumps the joy they felt on their wedding day.
Understand how your spouse feels.
A good spouse is someone who can also be a good friend. A 2012 study from the American Psychological Association even determined that relationship satisfaction is correlated with each partner's ability to read their spouse's emotions. When your partner comes home looking upset or especially ecstatic, it's your job to ask them why they're feeling that way.
A good marriage is all about the give and take. You may not want to go to the grocery store, but as a devoted spouse, you're willing to put your own interests aside for the sake of compromise. As a 2017 study published in the Journal of Family Theory & Review concluded, the willingness "to forgo self-interest and desired activities for the good of a partner or relationship is an important aspect of maintaining relationships."
Learn to communicate without words.
There's no question that quality conversation is essential if you want to maintain a healthy marriage. At the same time, there are many ways to communicate that don't involve speaking out loud at all. As relationship expert Patricia Love told O, The Oprah Magazine, "Everyone—men, women, myself included—needs to learn that before we can communicate with words, we need to connect nonverbally. We can do that in simple ways—through touch, sex, doing things together. The deepest moments of intimacy occur when you're not talking."
And go the extra mile.
Most of us look back on our first date with our spouse and remember getting all dolled up to meet a potential new partner. As a relationship progresses, many people stop putting this same exuberant effort into spending time together, but those couples that do find their date nights and other outings to be more enjoyable.
As a pivotal 2007 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded, study participants who tried to present themselves well experienced greater happiness after interacting with their partner. So go ahead and make that extra effort to maintain a healthy marriage: Your spouse is worth it.