You Have To Work To Create A Successful Marriage, But It Doesn't Have To Be A Mystery

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happy and loving couple in a good marriage posing on a field

Everyone wants a healthy and happy marriage. I'm sure you've wondered, "What makes a good marriage?" or "How come they look happily married and we’re not?"

After being married for 27 years and a couples counselor for over 10 years, I know that a good marriage isn't just something you find — it's something you make and keep on making.

Secure and healthy marriages and relationships are hard work and take effort.

They are built over time, with love, appreciation, fondness, listening, validation, care, and deliberate positive actions. It also takes time to build trust and commitment.

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So, what makes a good marriage succeed?

The only way to create a good marriage is if both partners consciously get into the "driver’s seat of the car" and direct their relationship where they want it to go.

Not only does a couple need to make a good marriage today, but tomorrow, the next day, and for the next 50 years.

You will need to share that driver's seat and continue to make it happen, even when you're tired, bored, frustrated, angry, sad, unhappy, and just don’t want to.

There are times when you will need to push through the ups and downs and hope for a better day tomorrow.

When you put your relationship in cruise control and just hope you find a good marriage, you will get lost, or worse, get into an accident.

Heed this warning and look out for the times when you think, "It will be OK. We can relax and hit cruise control."

It may be OK for an hour or two, but if you put your relationship on cruise control for a week, a month, or a year, you may hit black ice or a curve that’s bigger than you expected.

A good marriage must be created, not simply expected without any sort of effort.

Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice..."

Marriage is just that — it takes effort, pain, and difficulty. Your marriage can be great, but it won't be without its sacrifice and toil.

You will need to use your brain and think of ways to give and be kind. You will need to use your heart to be vulnerable, open, and loving.

And you will need to use your strength to vacuum when you’re tired, carry in packages when you’d rather sit on the couch, and carry one another through the trials and tribulations of life.

I wish I could sugarcoat marriage or use a magic wand to make it easy, fun, and simple. Only in Disney World and social media do you find a good marriage that doesn't take work.

Your friends' and family’s marriages probably look fun and easy, but behind the scenes, they're probably not. After the iPhones are put down, there's fighting and yelling and the "real" picture of their relationship is revealed.

Don’t be fooled by the smiles and glamour and photoshopped pictures. The real work starts when a married couple rolls up their sleeves and gets to work.

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Make time, every day or several times a day, to ask yourself the following questions and create more closeness and connection in a good marriage:

"Did I make my partner smile?"

"Did I make my partner laugh?'

"Did I lighten my partner’s burden?"

"Did I help my partner?"

"Did I ask my partner if they needed anything?"

"Did I speak my partner’s love language?"

"Did I connect with my partner?"

"Did I give my partner some downtime or space, if needed?"

"Did I express gratitude or say thank you?"

"Did I listen and validate my partner’s thoughts and feelings?"

"Did I think about when our last date was? When was the last time we had fun? Do I need to plan a date night?"

"Did I hug my partner before they left and/or when they returned?"

"Did I see my partner in a positive light or perspective? Look at their strengths?"

"Did I make our marriage strong and secure?"

"Did I say, 'I love you?'"

See what you can do to brighten your partner's day.

If you believe in your heart that you have a kind, caring, loving partner, then you don’t need to worry about whether or not your partner is completing this list, too.

At the same time, the list may be an opportunity to discuss with your partner what you're doing to make your marriage strong.

Since you won’t just find a good and successful marriage, you need to take the time to make a good and successful marriage.

You can keep on making it good and improving it by using the 15 questions above to focus on what’s really important: the two of you together. 

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Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a licensed counselor in the states of Maryland and Virginia. She is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist and PACT Level 3. To find out more about ways to make a good marriage, reach out for a 30-minute free private consultation today.