What Couples Who Stay Married 'Happily Ever After' Do Waaay Differently

Photo: Unsplash: Eric Froehling
Marriage Advice Based On 8 Things People In Happy Marriages & Successful Long-Term Relationships Do

Advice taken directly from the source.

When it comes to understanding what makes for happy marriages and successful long-relationships, the best advice is often found at the source itself — those couples who have not only found true love, but are already living "happily ever after" with each other.

Whether husband and wife, girlfriend and boyfriend, or partner, these people typically practice particular behavior and communication habits that work well for both of them, with both individuals making a conscious effort to actively nurture each other and their bond.


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The years I've spent counseling couples have taught me not only what is not happening in marriages that become unhappy, but also what is happening when marriages thrive at their best.

Here is my marriage and relationship advice for you based on eight things couples in happy marriages and successful long-term relationships do waaay differently than everyone else.

1. They communicate explicitly.

This is the biggest pothole for many couples who face trouble in their relationships. Explicit communication happens when your words convey a clear and message, leaving nothing to the imagination, as opposed to passively making assumptions about things the other person "should” know.

Never assume in relationships of any kind. Ask for what you want and say what you need to say. This not only increases the chances you will get what you want, but also makes it easier for the other person to understand you and make you happy.

2. They stay emotionally connected to one another.

Connection is about feeling emotionally close to the other person.

For women especially, physical intimacy usually comes out of a feeling of emotional connection. In unsuccessful couples, one individual may pick a fight in order to connect with the other person because they don't know to do so in an emotionally healthy way, or because they learned this behavior from their parents.

Things like work, commutes, travel, and juggling kids' schedules all complete with couple time for everyone, but healthy couples go out of their way on a regular basis to be sure to connect in a positive way with their mate.

3. They respect each other’s needs.

Everyone has different needs and it is important to speak up about what works for each of you so you can negotiate what you each need from one another.

Couples in unhealthy relationships often create arguments subconsciously in order to create emotional space because they haven't been open with each other about their needs for things like time apart in order to maintain each of their individual identities.

Individuals in healthy couples know themselves well, express to their partner who are they and what they need in order to remain that person, and therefore are less likely to experience a loss of self in the relationship.


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4. They find balance in the relationship.

People in healthy couples find balance between work time, down time, fun time, and rejuvenating activities, both on their own and together.

Sometimes there will be activites each wants to do alone or with close friends, and the other partners both respects and supports such choices.

5. They create time together.

Healthy couples know it's important to continue doing the things that worked when they were first dating and falling in love. They carve out time for just the two of them and make that time a priority.

For most healthy couples, some version of a date night takes place at least once every two weeks, but preferably once weekly. If the frequency drop to any less than two weeks, most couples find the quality of their connection suffers for it. This puts them in “red zone”, and they must now try harder to reconnect.

Date nights should be a time when you tune out the rest of the world, including your kids. Family time is not the same as couples time. The point is to reconnect as a couple, not as Mom and Dad.

Important note: Turn off the cell phones or at least do not answer unless it is a coded message from the babysitter needing help with something. No kids? No cell phones.

6. They feel like a team.

Healthy couples are on the same page together in terms of both daily activities and common goals.

In a healthy couple, neither partner feels controlled by their mate. They work together to find a middle ground when they need to.

Couples who work as a team know the person they love has their best interests at heart, and vice versa. They may trade off duties such as picking up the kids from soccer, getting tasks done around the house, and generally meeting life challenges together.

If they have children, healthy couples support each other as a parental unit, presenting a united front to the kids.


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7. They speak each other's love language.

One of the easiest ways to deepen your connection with your partner is to find out which "love languages" each of you speak.

In his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary Chapman, Ph.D. explains that there are five languages through which each of us primarily prefers to both give and receive love: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service or devotion, and physical touch. If you speak different primary love languages, they way you naturally express love to your partner may not register for them as feeling loved, and the same would likely be true in the reverse.

Happy, successful couples learn the language their partner speaks and honors their needs accordingly.

8. They build a feeling of emotional safety and security in the relationship.

The happiest couples treat each other with mutual respect, dignity and trust. They face life as true partners, in it all together and for each other.

For any relationship to be emotionally safe and secure, there are certain things one should never say to their significant. There should be no threats to leave the marriage, no harsh words used to attack your partners character, no name-calling or profanity aimed at the other person, and no acts of betrayal, including infidelity or violence.

Healthy couples communicate with mutual respect for one another. If one partner hurts the other's feelings, the one who did so immediately apologizes upon being told so. And when a couple is not in full agreement, they must compromise.

Healthy couples know it's not about being right or wrong, but about respecting each other and seeking out win-win solutions in all situations.

It's also important to take note of some common pitfalls healthy couples are careful not to fall into.

Couples with relationships and marriages that last "happily ever after" DO NOT:

  • Wait for the other partner to change first.

  • Attribute a general negative intention to the partner. For example, assuming the mate deliberately did something wrong.

  • Fail to make time for date night.

  • Fail to value their relationship.

Relationships are like gardens.

If not watered and nourished, they will begin to grow weeds.

Perform the actions of healthy couples to pull the weeds, water the garden and allow it to flourish. A healthy emotional environment creates a greenhouse that amplifies the healthy behaviors listed above, allowing the relationship to grow ever more lush and beautiful over time.


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Susan Saint-Welch, LMFT, is a marriage and family psychotherapist who has been practicing in-person and online in California for over 20 years, helping radiant, single women get un-stuck and find the lasting love they deserve. She is passionate about teaching skills and concepts for healthier relationships, dating and self-esteem. Susan has been published on MSN.com as well. For more, follow her on her website.