Do you think there are certain rules for a happy marriage?
Now, I don’t normally write about marriage, but it seems timely as my husband and I are celebrating 15 years of marriage next week! Yes, that’s us in the photo!
I’m not going to lie. Although we have a very loving marriage, it hasn’t always been “wedded bliss”. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs and I expect that we’ll continue to.
I can’t profess to have mastered these so-called “rules for a happy marriage” by any means, however we’ve grown a lot together over the years and I’d like to think we’ve learned a few things along the way….
Are there rules for a happy marriage?
I can recall my bridal shower and older friends and relatives who had been married for some time offering me their versions of marital wisdom in the form of “happy marriage rules”.
I can’t say I truly remember what specific advice I received at the time, other than “never go to bed angry”, so I guess their advice didn’t make a lasting impression on me!
What I can say with certainty is the key thing I’ve learned about the rules for a happy marriage over the years –
It’s that they don’t exist!
Not the happy marriage part. I think that is totally attainable.
I’m talking about a set of specific rules for a happy marriage. There isn’t a one-size-fits all set of guideposts here.
You just have to fumble along and figure out what works in your marriage.
If you’re interested in learning what has (and has not) worked in my marriage, read on for my personal rules for a happy marriage….
My Rules For a Happy Marriage
A lot of what I’ve learned in my 15 years of marriage has come from making mistakes or learning what not to do. I guess you could say, I’ve learned what works for my marriage by trial and error or by literally doing the opposite of what eventually worked.
Here are some of my rules for a happy marriage that have emerged over the years:
It’s ok to go to bed angry!
Maybe this is the one piece of advice I can recall from my bridal shower because it is the one rule that definitely does NOT work for us!
We’ve learned this by spending the first few years of our relationship trying to not go to bed angry after an argument. This only resulted in conversations going around in circles, lasting into the wee hours of the morning until we were bleary-eyed and incoherent.
Most of the time we didn’t even work things out until the next day, but wasted precious sleeping hours on talking things to death!
We’ve since learned that what works for us is to walk away. It’s ok to leave things unsettled temporarily. Sometimes a little space and introspection is exactly what you need in order to gain the needed perspective to healthily resolve things and move on.
Sure, it’s not easy to go to bed all upset, but we usually come back together the next day with a greater understanding of the other’s point of view once the hurt and anger has subsided a bit.
Support each other’s passions unconditionally
I haven’t always supported my husband’s passions. In the past, I admit that I withheld support because his passions were outside of my own comfort zone.
I’ve learned over the years that he is much more of a dreamer than I am (which I now value so much) and some of the passions he’s tried pursuing over the years felt unrealistic or scary to my extremely realistic self.
Furthermore, as you know from reading my blogs, I’ve struggled to figure out what my own passions were, so it wasn’t always easy to have a partner who was passionate about many things!
Nevertheless, I’ve realized that his passions shouldn’t need my approval to warrant my support. I should support whatever he is passionate about, whether it is skyrocketing to the moon or buying a vacation home, because that is the level of support he gives me, unconditionally.
Recognize each other’s love language
You may have heard of the 5 love languages which describe five ways that we receive and express love in a relationship.
Once you and your partner understand your own love language and that of the other, you are better able to give each other what you each need.
It took me a while to realize that my husband really valued when I noticed the little things he was doing around the house or when I made it a point to thank him for planning a special day.
His love language is words of affirmation and thus I’ve learned to express my appreciation for him and the things he does more openly and frequently.
In regards to myself, I value quality time and physical touch so an evening where I have his undivided attention while cuddling on the couch is how I feel most loved.
We’ve learned to love one another how we each want to be loved.
If you’re interested in reading more about the different love languages, check out the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman.
Be friends first
I think it’s really important to value the friendship you have with your partner AND to try to treat your spouse like you would treat a good friend.
Sometimes it’s too easy to fall into unhealthy patterns with our partners. We constantly nag over unimportant things, are overly critical, bicker unnecessarily, or speak rudely to one another.
My husband and I try to treat each other as we’d treat a good friend, with respect and open mindedness for the other’s point of view. Sure, we mess up and don’t always do this, but this is the goal.
Give each other space
Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Whenever we’re apart for an extended period of time, we miss each other, but also recognize that time apart is healthy.
It helps you appreciate your partner when you spend time apart. Not only does maintaining your separate friendships and hobbies give you each space, it also gives you the opportunity to return to the relationship with new and exciting things to talk about.
This becomes even more important when you have children. You need your family time, your couple time, and your separate alone time in order to maintain your sanity!
We’ve learned that giving each other space and allowing the other to have their alone time (without guilt) allows us to come back to our relationship and our family feeling rejuvenated and grateful for all we have.
Be silly together
In our early days, we sometimes had fights that lasted for days. The actual arguing didn’t last for days, but we’d spend the subsequent few days post fight in anger, ignoring each other, until one of us would finally cave and apologize or ask if we could talk further.
That is freakin exhausting!
In recent years, instead of prolonging an argument for days, we find it’s much easier to move on when one of us bites the bullet and simply does something to make the other laugh.
Laughter is the best medicine. It breaks the stand off and we’re able to come back together to discuss a resolution.
I know you’ve heard that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others and you also most definitely should not compare your marriage to someone else’s (or marriages you see on TV or in movies – I’ve definitely been guilty of that! 🙋🏻♀️)
I’ve realized that no marriage is the same as another and that’s the way it should be!
Furthermore, I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. I’m only seeing what the other couple chooses to allow me to see and vice versa.
You can’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides, so why waste the mental energy of comparing your marriage to other people’s?
Do what works for your marriage
This leads me to the last point, which is also the overall message of this post.
There are no set rules for a happy marriage! You have to find what works for you and your spouse.
This is going to be different for everyone. It’s also going to change along the way as you go through new chapters and different seasons of life.
You can only hope that you’ve established a strong foundation in your relationship, so that you can weather the different seasons and obstacles that may arise.
What are your rules for a happy marriage?
Would you add anything to this list? Comment below!
Carly is a wife, mom, and former NYC fashion industry executive turned writer and life coach. Through her writings on littlevoicebigmatter.com, she shares practical advice, heartfelt insights, and actionable resources to inspire and support women in motherhood, relationships, wellness, and life. Carly also helps women create better balance in their lives and live with more joy, purpose, and connection every day through her coaching.