Experts Say These Are the Only 8 Happy Marriage Tips Couples Need

Consider these the golden rules.
Happy couple on their wedding day.
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Wendy Rose Gould
wendy rose gould headshot
Wendy Rose Gould
The Knot Contributor
  • Wendy Rose Gould is a freelance reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Along with The Knot, she contributes to Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Insider, Verywell Mind and others.
  • Wendy has a degree in editorial journalism and a second degree in philosophy.
Updated Jan 25, 2024

It goes without saying: Deciding to get married is a huge deal, and there's no doubt you'd only enter into that commitment with deep love and dedication. Just like any relationship, though—and perhaps more so—you'll experience ups and downs. So what's the secret to a happy marriage? And FYI, it's not about never arguing or taking wow-worthy vacations every year.

Happiness in marriage is a journey that brings many of its own challenges, in addition to the joyous and profound love shared between two people. We asked relationship experts to share their "golden rules" for how to maintain a happy marriage that'll withstand the test of time.

Meet the Experts:

In this article:

      What Is a "Happy Marriage?"

      A happy marriage is one where both parties feel fulfilled, appreciated and united as a team taking on life and the world together. There's an unwavering sense of commitment to each other (even through life's inevitable trials and difficult conversations), as well as a mutual respect, admiration and desire for the other to feel happy and seen.

      Being happily married requires both people to exercise deep trust and remain patient with one another. It requires not only listening, but truly hearing what the other person says and feels. It also means taking time to acknowledge our own faults, and to continue striving toward being a better version of ourselves so we can keep showing up for our partner in meaningful ways.

      The Best Tips for a Happy Marriage, Hands-Down

      We spoke with several relationship experts, including a psychiatrist and licensed counselors and therapists, who have worked with many couples over their careers. Through their work, they've been able to pinpoint some of the key steps to a happy marriage.

      1. Make Your Relationship Your #1 Priority

      Above anything else—work, friendships, hobbies—your relationship must always claim the number one spot in your priority list. "This simple but all-inclusive idea protects the two of you from the outside world and becomes a social contract between the two of you to serve each other above and beyond all else," says Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT.

      "That does not mean that your work, children or others are given short shrift. This principle of putting the relationship first protects the two of you from each other and ensures a union that can last a lifetime."

      2. Get Reallyyy Great at Communicating

      You've likely heard this advice a million times—but have you processed what it truly means? It doesn't simply imply talking; but involves hearing, processing and conveying our thoughts in a way that's healthy, helpful and conducive. Yes, this can be difficult, particularly in challenging conversations or scenarios where one person is feeling hurt or unseen.

      "Learn how to express your dissatisfaction, frustration or downright anger in a way that can lead to a solution," urges Naomi Angoff Chedd, LMHC. "The point is not to make your spouse feel bad. The point is to fix what's broken, to better understand and respond to each other's needs and to enhance and enrich both your lives."

      3. Get to Know Yourself

      Record scratch—wait, what? Yup, getting to know who you are can make a huge difference in the quality of your relationships, including the one with your life partner.

      "Getting to know yourself is an important element of helping your partner get to know you," explains Jaki Silver, LMSW. "I often hear patients expressing things like, 'They just don't get me,' or 'They don't understand what I need.' This can lead to distress and uncertainty of the durability of the relationship."

      When Silver hears this, she asks her patients to get specific: What's a need of theirs that they want their partner to understand? And if they're unable to communicate this clearly, it's an indication they may not understand themselves or be able to share their feelings with their partner.

      "It's only through understanding ourselves, our values, our goals and our needs that we can begin to find ways to express them effectively," Silver says. "This allows our partner to work with us in creating their role in meeting our needs and the development of solutions together."

      4. Keep Dating

      Just because the ink is dried on your marriage certificate doesn't mean the courting phase has to be over. Remaining curious about your partner and continuing to date them can make for a very happy marriage, according to experts.

      "Ultimately, the decision to continue to date your partner shows your investment in them and helps keep the relationship alive," explains Leanna Stockard, LMFT. "It makes them feel valued as a human being, and shows that you want to continue to grow and evolve with them through all of life's changes [and] to continue to have fun adventures."

      5. Use a Filter

      No, not that kind of filter! The kind of filter you use before saying whatever's on your mind. As the saying goes, you can't put squeezed toothpaste back in a tube, and you can't take back words that have been spoken. Be intentional about the way you communicate versus being reactive or impulsive.

      "It is inevitable that anger and resentment may surface at times—and many problems are worth arguing about," says Chedd. "But you don't have to say everything that is on your mind, especially when your emotions are at a fever pitch."

      "Wait 10 minutes or wait an hour. Even sleep on it," Chedd suggests. "And if it still bothers you and seems worth a conversation, bring it up in a calm, kind-spirited [manner] rather than in an accusing way."

      6. Always Have Your Partner's Back

      "What's mine is yours" is a common saying we associate with finances and belongings, but it also extends to our partner's well-being and heart: You two are a partnership, so protect each other and always stand up for the other.

      "You are first and foremost a survival team where you both protect each other from the slings and arrows of life. You are both staunch defenders of each other at all times," says Dr. Tatkin. "Having each other's backs—even when in disagreement with the other—is one of the strongest attachment values we can express."

      7. Try to Surprise Each Other

      It's so easy to fall into the monotony of daily routines—but where's the fun in doing that for 50 years? Predictability is important to help us feel secure and comfortable, but also try to spice things up every once in a while to keep that spark ablaze.

      "Bring home a big bouquet of flowers or a gigantic balloon for no reason. Take your spouse on a 'mystery' ride to a little restaurant or to look at a breathtaking view. Declare a mental health day and take the day off together," Chedd suggests.

      "Do whatever helps you connect and remember why you are right here, right now, with the right person."

      8. Learn Your Partner's Love Language

      The phrase "treat others the way you want to be treated," is a golden standard, but what if that looked a bit different? Treating others the way they want to be treated is a big key to a happy marriage. You can do that by understanding what your partner's love language is.

      "You may realize that the way you are showing your partner that you love and care about them is not resonating with your partner the way you are intending," Stockard says.

      "Learning how to speak each other's love languages helps you realize signs for compassion and caring that we may have otherwise missed, or that we did not realize had a much deeper meaning than what we believed at the time."

      Be it through emotional intimacy, quality time or check-ins throughout the day, learn what specific acts of love and intimacy your partner needs to feel secure and—you guessed it—happy in your marriage.

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