How to Stay Happily Married

I have been a divorce attorney for about 10 years and married for close to 13. My husband and I have three beautiful children and are expecting #4 this summer. As you can imagine, I am a bit obsessed with staying happily married.

Many of my clients want to stay happily married too. They do not want to divorce. They do not want their life to change dramatically and have their children be raised in two households. Sometimes, divorce is unavoidable, but here are some of the statistics that may impact happy marriages:

1. Attitudes. A democratic attitude, where both seek to cooperate and compromise is most functional.

In fact, I have read that contempt between spouses will almost certainly lead to a break-up. If you find yourself disrespecting your spouse or being disrespected, take action. By stopping negative patterns you may be able to save your marriage.

2. In-laws. Especially if couples live close to parents, getting along with in-laws is important.

If your in laws are a problem, move far, far away. Never let anything interfere with your family, not work, not friends, not extended family. The best gift you can give yourself and your children is a healthy marriage.

3. Common Interests. Couples with shared interests are more likely to participate in activities together and develop greater understanding and empathy for each other.

If you don’t have common hobbies, start something new together. Plan for the future and have common goals. It is worth trying something new to share common interests with your spouse.

4. Do Opposites Attract? In general, the more similar a couple’s background in terms of education, religion, nationality, and social status, the better.

This seems to relate to common interests and beliefs. It is difficult to share a life with someone who doesn’t share your values. Make sure you and your spouse share values on items like education, religion, consumerism, and spending money in general.

5. Children. Children strengthen an already strong marriage, but may only “hold together” a poor one.

Well here are your common interests! I don’t think this is what #3 had in mind. I have counseled many couples who have waited until their children are grown before divorcing. Many have simply been biding their time. When their adult children hear the news, they are often relieved and supportive.

6. Communication. Happily married couples tend to: (a) talk to each other more often, (b) are more sensitive to each other’s feelings, and (c) use non-verbal communication more effectively.

Check in. It’s too easy to check out of your spouse’s needs. Focus on listening and making sure the other person feels heard. This may be the greatest sign of respect and honor you can give your spouse.

7. Roles. Similar expectations of work roles, housework roles, and spouse roles is one of the most important factors in marriage. If both spouses are traditional, that works wonderfully – as it does if both are more contemporary. The greatest conflicts occur when wives are more contemporary than husbands in what they consider the “right” roles for husbands and wives.

Division of duties is one of the greatest benefits to being married. You don’t have to do it all. But, when one spouse feels like they are doing it all by themselves, be it parenting or taking financial responsibility for the family, this can be a recipe for disaster.

8. Personality. Obviously, the personality of the individuals involved is one of the most crucial factors. Traits such as emotional stability, self-control, affection, responsibility, favorable self-perception, and optimism are correlated with good marriage adjustment.

This seems to be more about emotional health and maturity than just personality. Of course spouses need to be compatible, but they also need to be emotionally mature and healthy, able to forgive themselves and their spouse, and exhibit self control in order to make marriage work.

9. Religious Participation. Religiosity and marital success are related, regardless of denomination, as has been demonstrated consistently in studies over many years.

Woo-hoo, with all of the options out there, this seems to be an easy one. There are all sorts of religions and congregations. This factor also supports the best outcomes for parenting.

While there are plenty of opinions about what makes a healthy happy marriage, looking at the statistics does seem to shed some light on some factors that seem to up the odds of staying happily married.