6 Little Things to Do NOW to Make Your Marriage Happier

couple reading a Valentine card

Maybe you chat with them at holiday parties or during those gatherings the class mom arranges. They are funny, they are witty, and, yes, they are that couple. The ones that make you wonder, “Hmm, are we as happy as they are?” Comparing relationships is a ubiquitous game all married couples play. The other turn in that game? You spy the ones that make you think, “Dang, I’m SO glad we aren’t like THAT!”

My mind doesn’t often stay on the comparing jag -- it goes off on some other tangent (and circles back around and loop-di-loops). In those moments, I wonder why some couples make it and others don’t. What separates a happy couple from a so-so one? Why do some relationships last, while others just don’t make it to the finish line? We asked a few experts to chime in on what successful, happy couples do every day to keep that flame going year after year.

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1.) Check in with each other often. Before Kiddo? My husband and I were in touch constantly. We had cute texts and phone chats throughout the day. After Kiddo? Eh, not so much. That’s something he and I should work on, according to Heidi Poelman, author of The Two-Minute Marriage Project. "Happy couples take interest in what the other has going on during the day and call to check in," she says. This is especially true on the big days. "Remember if your spouse had a doctor's appointment or a big meeting," she advises.

2. Embrace each other’s weird factor. When you are with your partner, you let it all hang out -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the really-not-cool parts. "Today's popular culture is cynical and 'cool' -- expressions of love are often looked on as embarrassing and awkward," says Dr. Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist and the author of Money, Sex, and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. Being a part of a couple means being okay with showing the odd and weird facets of yourself to your partner. Our spouses see us at our most vulnerable, and they love us anyway (or are supposed to, anyway). Make sure both of you “drop the act” and just be yourselves around each other.

3. Put it in writing. Keeping a relationship strong and healthy is tough. Sometimes it’s not only hard to say exactly the right thing, it’s tough to even know what you want to say. Whether just “I’m thinking about you” or you need to get something deeper across, a Hallmark card is a perfect way to make sure your spouse knows what you are feeling. Leave a card for your partner by his phone, on the dashboard of the car, or anywhere else where he’ll find it and be able to read what your heart has to say.

4. Have rituals. My husband and I always (always!) kiss each other three times when saying goodbye or going to bed. We also quote The Simpsons and have other little exchanges that only we find amusing. They are small things, but big in the way it bonds us. "One of my husband's and my little rituals is that when we are going up or down stairs or an escalator, we always stop with me on the upper step and him on the lower step so my arms wrap perfectly around his neck. One of us says, 'Stair hug!'" confesses Poelman. "It's just silly and started 15 years ago, but it's fun for us."

5. Say "thank you." This one is huge as in H-U-G-E. "Happy couples offer positive feedback to one another," says Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach. "A small thanks, an acknowledgement of something their partner did that made their day a little easier, an upbeat comment during a hard moment -- staying positive has a powerful impact on a spouse, especially when the woman is positive." We teach it to our kids from a young age, yet it’s so easy for us to slip up and not say “Thanks!” to our partners on a regular basis. This is one that I need to work on, folks. I mean, every morning, I smile and chat and say a huge “Thanks!” to my corner barista. My husband deserves the same, no? 

6. Let things go. Ditch the tally marks. Forget the fight you had about Valentine’s Day three years ago. Talk about it. Get it out. Then, please, for the sake of a happy marriage and getting to that finish line, let it go. (Insert “Frozen” sing-along here.) It's the only way to keep moving forward in any relationship. "Happy couples don’t make a big deal of the little moments of anger, impatience, frustration that pass between them," Coleman says. "They accept them for what they are, often offer a brief explanation or apology later, maybe talk it through briefly -- but the ripples are minimum."

Do you do these six things? Which ones do you need to work on?

 

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image © iStock.com/gchutka 

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