When we were kids, we were taught (hopefully) how to share and play nice with others. However somehow as adults, these early lessons of kindness and respect for others don’t always translate into keys to a successful marriage.

Whether you are a couple of newlyweds or you’ve been at it for decades, it’s never too late to learn new life skills, and creating healthy relationships is perhaps the best and most important skill you can cultivate.

The following four strategies are the essential relationship elements of a lasting love. If you can master these, you will set yourself up to experience a wonderful relationship for the rest of your life.

Keys to a successful marriage

1. Create Trust and Mutual Respect


Trust and mutual respect are probably one the most important keys to a successful marriage.

Even the most loving of relationships is going to be put to the test every once in a while. All couples experience ups and downs and the stress of every day life. The key is to not take that out on each other.

Create a safe environment in your relationship where each of you can speak honestly and freely. This can be as simple as creating a 10 minute daily check-in with your partner. Questions like, “How are you doing with me?” or “How do you feel about us?” are great ways to get started.

Never interrupt, yell at, or belittle the other person by calling them names. When things get too heated, step back, and wait until things cool off. Make sure you return to your partner after an agreed upon time. For example, “Let’s take a break and talk in an hour/after dinner/tomorrow at 8am.” 

2. Leave the Judging For the Courtroom


Judging your partner (or anyone else for that matter) only leads to problems in a marriage. Trust me, you’re not perfect and until you get there (which will be never) don’t bother judging others.

“For better or for worse.” When we go married, this is what we signed up. Even if they suck at cleaning up after themselves, always lose their keys, or don’t want to have sex as much as you do. Guess what, you aren’t perfect either and the more you focus on their imperfections, the more frustrated you will become.

It’s important to accept your partner and not judge them. It’s also important to recognize that you made a choice to marry this person and you are also choosing to stay with them. This doesn’t mean you have to like everything they do. But it does mean that you should try and be as compassionate as possible. Compassion is the opposite of judgement and it allows you to be open and fully connect with those you love.

3. Carve Out Time for Each Other


Making time for you and your partner to spend quality time together and staying connected is one of the keys to a successful marriage.

It’s far too easy to get busy and neglect the relationship – especially if you have kids. Many couples (parents) get to the point where they become more like roommates than a romantic couple. Don’t allow this to happen. Be sure to make time each week to check in with each other and reconnect. Create regular date nights. Find activities you like to do together and stick with them, even when it isn’t convenient. Watching TV together can be a nice compliment to quality time, but it shouldn’t be the only way you spend time together.

4. Take Ownership & Responsibility For Your Feelings


Be accountable and responsible for your feelings. Blaming someone else for how you feel is emotionally immature and a waste of time.

It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to fix us or make us better. It is our responsibility to heal ourselves from old wounds and scars. Our partners should be there to support us in becoming whole, but ultimately it is our responsibility to heal, not theirs.

Statements like, “You’re make me so angry” are examples of emotional immaturity. You are responsible for your feelings – which, by the way, only occur as a result of what you tell yourself about what is happening, NOT what is actually happening.

These strategies will help you and your partner stay connected and remain a source of comfort and solace. But let’s face it, sometimes life punches us in the throat and before we know it, the relationship is on the rocks. Sadly, the ones closest to us are often who we take for granted most. Don’t let this happen or you will be forming new relationships you don’t want to – with divorce attorneys.

Marriage can either be the best thing that ever happens to you or the worst. Whether you believe it or not, you hold all the cards in your hand. If you and your partner are struggling, find an awesome couples counselor you like and trust to help you reconnect and stay connected!

James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Greater New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.