The 5 Dos and Don’ts of a Successful Marriage

There is no one size fits all list of marriage dos and don’ts that will work for every marriage. Every man and woman is different. No matter what some people would like you to believe, there is no such thing as a “typical” man or a “typical” woman. This is really a big part of what makes marriage so difficult and believe me, marriage really is difficult. There will absolutely be rough patches, especially in the very beginning. It’s important to stick with it and try your best. You can’t ask for anything more from yourself or accept anything less. You owe it to yourself and to your partner. I’ve tried to avoid all the typical clichés on this list because while they can be helpful, they’re all things you’ve heard before. These dos and don’ts are my own. I’ve learned them through my own marriage and through my friends and family members. Let’s start off with the dos.

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5 Dos for a Successful Marriage

05: Do love the person you married.

If this one sounds a little bit too obvious, think about it a little bit deeper. Love the person you married – not the person you want your spouse to become or the person you expect your spouse to become. It’s hard not to cast our expectations onto the person we’re in love with but that ring on their finger and the piece of paper your signed means that your spouse has committed to spending his or her life with you. It doesn’t mean he or she has committed to changing for you. Any issues you have with your future husband or wife’s habits or behaviors should be addressed before the wedding. If your potential spouse isn’t willing to change and you don’t think you can live with whatever bad habit is being discussed, you really need to take a harder look at whether getting married is the best idea. If you’re already married and your spouse’s habit or behavior isn’t putting anyone in danger and isn’t harmful, you need to ask yourself if it’s really all that important.

04: Do see marriage as a lifelong commitment.

I don’t care who you are or what you believe. The biggest threat to the sanctity of marriage today is divorce. We’ve stopped seeing marriage as a lifelong commitment and have instead started seeing it as just another life event. Choosing to get married should mean something. It should mean that you are willing to do what it takes to spend the rest of your life with the person you’ve chosen to marry. You should be able to see yourself growing old with this person. Instead of throwing in the towel at the first sign of trouble, you need to remind yourself that you’ve made vows and you need to take those vows seriously. If you look at your marriage as something that will last a lifetime, you’ll feel a lot more committed to making it work.

03: Do spend time apart.

It’s okay to have separate interests. It’s okay to spend time with your friends and for your spouse to spend time with his or her friends. Spending time apart is an important part of a healthy relationship. You need time to miss each other. You need to have a life outside of your relationship. Make time for your friends and find your own interests but remember to also make time for your spouse. Busy with your own lives? Set aside at least one night every week and one weekend out of every month (if possible) for “couple” time. Go to dinner, see a movie or just stay home. Do things you enjoy doing together. Just make sure you get that alone time in too. The time apart will make you appreciate the time together so much more.

02: Do put your problems in perspective.

In every marriage there are big problems and little problems. A big part of building a successful marriage is knowing the difference between the two. Tackle the big problems as they crop up and focus on the little problems second and make sure you’re not making a big problem out of a little one. Sit back and take a look at the problem realistically. Look at how the problem is impacting you and how the problem is impacting your spouse.  Look at the long term outcome. Does the problem have the potential of getting worse? If so, what does the long term outcome look like? Think of the worst case scenario. Are you still married? Do you still have a roof over your head and food in the cupboards? Is everyone still alive? Is everyone out of prison? If you answered yes to all of those questions, it probably isn’t the big deal you think it is. If you answered no, it is a big problem and needs to be dealt with as such.

01: Do believe that marriage is a partnership.

View problems as shared problems. View successes as shared successes. Approach problems together. Come up with solutions as a couple. Make big decisions together. Talk about your goals and find ways to work toward them together. Talk about your spouses goals and work toward them together. You can’t chase your dreams at the expense of your spouse’s. It isn’t fair to them and will breed contempt in the relationship. Find a way to chase your dreams together and work toward your goals together. Find common ground. A marriage will not work if you’re still thinking about your own wants and needs above your partner’s. If you’re both willing to try, willing to compromise and are genuinely in love, you should be able to find a way to make sure both of your needs and wants are being met.

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5 Don’ts For a Successful Marriage

05: Don’t let boredom set in.

After a few years of marriage, you’ve told all your best stories and you’ve heard all of your spouse’s best stories. You know each other now. You’re comfortable. That doesn’t have to mean you don’t have to stop having fun. My grandparents were married for more than 50 years but still laughed together. They watched television together. They played card games. They just enjoyed each other’s company. You don’t have to be hitting the bar every night to have a good time. Have movie nights together with snacks and maybe a few drinks. Get into a new television show together. Play cards or board games. Go for hikes. Try new restaurants. There are tons of things you can do as a couple that will allow you to spend time together and build new memories.

04: Don’t let one person control the finances.

Taking control of the finances on your own, or allowing your spouse to control the finances on his or her own is a recipe for disaster. Making sure the bills are paid on time is not a responsibility that should fall on one person’s shoulders. Sit down with the bills as a couple and sort out the money. It’s not fun and can be pretty stressful but it’s better to share that stress as a couple than it is to pile it all on one person. By sharing in the bill paying process, you’re also ensuring both of you are informed of your financial situation. That helps prevent unexpected financial news – something that can definitely put a lot of strain on a marriage. It’s also important to make sure you make any big financial decisions together and with your financial situation in mind. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

03: Don’t be afraid to fight.

Some couples say they don’t fight. There is something wrong there. I’d be willing to put money on it. Fighting is a healthy part of a relationship, within reason, of course. Fights should never turn physical and should always be approached by two adults acting like adults, not two adults acting like children. There may be yelling and shouting but that’s okay. You need to get it out. If that anger is in there, it will come out. Let it come out during a fight, not passive-aggressively at other times.

02: Don’t forget why you love him (or her).

I won’t lie. My husband can drive me absolutely batty. I’ve never loved anyone like I love him but I’m also quite certain I’ve never gotten angry at someone the way I’ve gotten angry at him. Sometimes, the man just knows how to push my buttons. Whenever I’m feeling like I have to pack it in, I grab a pen and paper and start writing two lists. List one is filled with all of the things I hate about him – from the way he smacks his lips when he eats to the way he stumbles home drunk after going to have ‘a drink’ with his buddy down the road. List two is filled with all of the things I love about him – from the color of his eyes to the way he calls me “kidden” instead of “kitten”. By the time I’m done with the “love” list, it’s much, much longer than list one and I feel more in love with my husband than ever.

01: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Not to be a broken record, but I don’t think this can be mentioned enough – marriage is hard. Marriage is hard! Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably lying (some exceptions may apply). There is no shame in admitting you need a little help getting through the rough patches. Whether you see a marriage counselor, talk to your friends, talk to your relatives or seek out some sort of spiritual guidance, if you feel like you need help, seek it out. If you’re both willing to try and are both still committed to your marriage, you may be able to save your relationship.