I once heard a guy, in his late twenties, buff and tattooed, say that having a happy marriage was “like winning the power ball.”
But is that what it takes to have a good marriage? Luck?
Thankfully, that is not the case. A happy marriage is more than luck—it is the result of our daily decisions and actions. When it comes to love, we have some control over our fate.
Data from the Survey of Marital Generosity suggests that there are things that couples can do to keep their happiness levels high. The study looked at married couples to better understand what kinds of attitudes and behaviors helped people to have the happiest marriages. Whether you are married or not, many of the traits they discovered are good to put into practice in any relationship.
Below are some takeaways from the study on how to increase your happiness in marriage.
1.) Learn how to manage your money—no matter how much you make.
The survey found that income is not related to marital happiness. But having debt and financial stress was. In other words, it’s not so much about what you make, but how you use it. If you’ve never been taught how to manage money, there are free resources to help you learn. For starters, check out Crown, MyMoney.Gov, or AmericaSaves.
2.) Share the housework and childcare.
Both men and women reported higher levels of marital happiness when chores around the house and childcare were “shared equally.”
3.) Find friends who support your marriage.
Couples who report that “my friends are supportive of my marriage” were more likely to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages, and were less prone to divorce.
4.) Go to a house of worship together weekly.
Couples that attend church, synagogue, or mosque together weekly were more likely to report that they were “very happy” in their marriage, and less divorce-prone. Couples who both agree that “God is at the center of our marriage” are at least 26 percentage points more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages.
5.) Make your spouse coffee in the morning.
Generous behavior includes “small acts of service (e.g. making coffee for one’s spouse in the morning), the expression of affection, displays of respect, and a willingness to ‘forgive him/her for mistakes and failings.” Generous couples were more likely to report that they are “very happy” and less divorce-prone
6.) Be committed.
Think of the relationship in terms of “we” instead of “me.” Couples who expressed strong commitment were much more likely to report high marital happiness, and much less likely to report divorce proneness. Committed couples say they will stay in the marriage “no matter what rough times we encounter.” For more on commitment, see David’s post here.
7.) Have good sex.
Men and women who report that they are sexually satisfied are more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages.
But how do you get sexual satisfaction?
The report explains, “What happens outside of the bedroom seems to matter a great deal in predicting how happy husbands and wives are with what happens in the bedroom.” Couples with high levels of generosity, commitment, religious faith, and couple-centered quality time were more likely to report being sexually satisfied. Women who report that their husbands share housework were more likely to report being sexually satisfied.
8.) Go on a date at least once a week.
You don’t actually have to go anywhere, but couples who spent quality time with each other at least once a week scored higher levels of happiness, and less risk of divorce. This was also true of couples who spent time with their children. Try making Friday night date night and Saturday night family game night.
Easier said than done, sometimes! Which of these seems most difficult for you? And which seems easiest? Sound off in the comments!